Department of American Studies Home
The American Studies Department at SLU offers programs of study leading to Bachelor of Arts (major and minor), Master of Arts, and Doctor of Philosophy degrees. Our programs balance rigorous training in the core theories and methods of American Studies with a flexible range of courses and experiences tailored to the individual student's interests.
What does American Studies entail? American Studies is the study of American society and cultures in all their diversity. What sets this field apart from other academic disciplines is its interdisciplinary approach to analyzing the past and the present, combining the study of history, literature, art and visual culture, and the material world. The discipline is premised on the idea that films, food, TV, buildings, works of art, fiction, poetry, objects, and the landscape are as essential for understanding the world around us as written historical texts. A degree in American Studies is foundational to a career in academia, museums and other cultural institutions, secondary education, communications, non-profit organizations, government, social work, and more. Our alumni include curators, lawyers, university faculty and administrators, playwrights, activists, poets, and journalists.
Begun in the 1930s with the mission to explore the meanings of American culture in terms of national myths and social relations, the field of American Studies has expanded its mission and field of inquiry to include many more issues, such as sexuality and indigeneity, and wider disciplinary reach, including material culture studies and urban studies, within a global context.
To begin with — well, we are a department! Our distinguished faculty are trained specifically in the discipline; most have earned their PhDs in American Studies; all have worked extensively in the field as scholars, teachers, curators, or creative artists. Our time and effort as teaching faculty are focused on American Studies students. At the same time we enjoy productive and cordial relations with our colleagues in other departments who teach and conduct research in related fields, and students may take carefully selected courses in those departments, as students in other departments do in American Studies.
We do not claim to study and teach everything in our huge field. The faculty is especially strong in several areas, including transnational American Studies, visual culture and material culture studies, African American literature, Southern history and culture, intellectual history, environmental history, museum studies, urban studies, and postwar American culture. These specialties do not exhaust the range of faculty competence, but they give an idea of the unique character of this interdisciplinary field as practiced at Saint Louis University.
American Studies emerged at SLU in 1963 as part of the History department. In 1969, Professor Elizabeth Kolmer established American Studies as a permanent doctoral program at Saint Louis University. In 1971, she launched the Master of Arts in American Studies, followed in 1975 by the undergraduate major. Finally, in 1995, Prof. Kolmer succeeded in transforming American Studies at Saint Louis University into a full-fledged department, with dedicated faculty and resources for research and graduate training. Today, faculty in the department are building upon the strong foundation of teaching and mentoring which allows for a range of initiatives in research, teaching, professional and community service.(Photo at right: Elizabeth Kolmer, ASC, Professor Emerita of American Studies)
The mission of the American Studies Department at Saint Louis University is to provide an interdisciplinary approach to the study and analysis of the cultures of the United States and their development over time. It seeks to produce leading-edge scholarly and artistic publications, exhibitions, and performances from its faculty and students. Our department trains students to apply humanities and social science methods to literary, historical, visual, digital, and material culture sources, while cultivating skills in critical thinking, clear writing, and persuasive speaking. Through internships and collaborations with a variety of community institutions, we encourage students to engage in the world around them and to reflect ethically on the problems and issues addressed in the classroom.