MA History / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
American Studies: Theories, Methods, Practice

Course unit fact file
Unit code AMER60091
Credit rating 30
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by English and American Studies
Available as a free choice unit? No


This team-taught methods course unit introduces students to the interdisciplinary study of American history and culture, training them to become scholars in the field of American studies. We will investigate key texts and approaches in American studies, as well as contemporary intellectual debates in areas such as social and cultural history, literary history, cultural criticism, critical race studies, empire studies, and gender and sexuality studies. The course unit includes a session at the John Rylands Library to allow students to explore its extensive archival and print collections. Students will also learn textual analysis skills. This module provides a solid grounding in key debates in American Studies to students coming from other disciplines, at the same time as extending the existing knowledge of students already familiar with American Studies. It provides a foundation for the advanced research skills needed  for the MA dissertation in American Studies and related disciplines.


Students taking this course unit must also take Space, Place and Text OR The Times of Literature


  • introduce students to some of the most significant theories and methodologies for advanced study and research in American culture, society, and history
  • allow students to further their understanding of the theories and methodologies through specific case studies
  • prepare students to make an original scholarly contribution to the field of American Studies.
  • develop the oral and written presentation of ideas at an advanced level
  • develop research skills appropriate for the preparation of an MA dissertation in American Studies

Teaching and learning methods


Knowledge and understanding

  • demonstrate an advanced understanding of American studies research methods
  • demonstrate deep knowledge of a particular historical period or cultural phenomenon connected with (though not necessarily confined to) US history and/or culture.
  • demonstrate fluency with recent scholarly arguments and key debates in the field of American Studies

Intellectual skills

  • locate, and perform original analysis of, primary source material (eg textual, archival, etc.)
  • situate original research within contemporary critical, theoretical, and/or historiographic debates.
  • develop interdisciplinary arguments about the United States
  • weigh up competing interpretations and arguments

Practical skills

  • identify and perform different genres of writing about history and culture
  • translate scholarly insights into language that appeals to a wider audience
  • develop a clear, coherent academic writing style
  • concisely summarise complex arguments

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • lead effective discussions, asking questions that generate thought and debate
  • constructively criticize each other’s work
  • develop confidence in written communication, by researching and constructing strong and well-founded arguments
  • carry out independent research

Assessment methods

Essay 100%


Feedback methods

Formative Feedback on discussion questions and 10-minute presentation on essay topic

Summative feedback on research essay


Recommended reading

Lauren Berlant, Cruel Optimism (2011)

Hazel Carby, Reconstructing Womanhood: The Emergence of the African American Woman Novelist (1987)

George Chauncey, Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World 1890-1940 (1994)

Adria Imada, Aloha America: Hula Circuits Through US Empire (2012)

Eric Lott, Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class (1993)

Curtis Marez, Farm Worker Futurism: Speculative Technologies of Resistance (2016)

Melani McAlister, Epic Encounters: Culture, Media, and US Interests in the Middle East (2001)

Denise Meringolo, Museums, Monuments, and National Parks: Toward a New Genealogy of Public History (2012)

Bethany Moreton, To Serve God and Wal-Mart: The Making of Christian Free Enterprise (2009)

Mae Ngai, Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America (2005)

Michel Rolph Trouillot, Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995)

Maria Josefina Saldaña-Portillo, Indian Given: Racial Geographies across Mexico and the United States (2016)

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 33
Independent study hours
Independent study 267

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Molly Geidel Unit coordinator

Return to course details