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BA American Studies / Course details

Year of entry: 2021

Course description

Our four-year single honours American Studies degree will give you a grounding in the history, culture and literature of the US, from colonisation through to contemporary times.

The course includes a full year in North America as a part of your degree programme. 

At Manchester, we train our students to be attentive to the counter-currents of US history and literature, and our course places a particular emphasis on the themes of race, capitalism, sexuality, the cultures of labour, political protest and the environment.

You will master the approaches and tools found in several academic disciplines, including cultural theory, history, visual studies, literature and politics. You will learn how to analyse and interpret a wide range of texts and materials, including historical documents, films, manuscript collections, literary works, visual and marketing campaigns, and musical works.

Years 1 and 2 will give you a wide knowledge of US political, legal, and administrative infrastructure, and will familiarise you with concepts such as:

  • mass incarceration
  • inequality
  • racial stratification
  • poverty
  • the logics of policing
  • the changing nature of work and leisure
  • radical organising
  • military power
  • cultural imperialism
  • environmental policies
  • urban politics.

Upon returning to Manchester from your year abroad, you will be able to choose from an extensive range of advanced modules, while also completing a substantial piece of independent research.

Aims

We aim to:

  • provide a systematic introduction to key aspects of American literature, history, politics, and film, exploiting their interdependence and distinctiveness within the discipline of American Studies;
  • encourage independent study, curiosity and a commitment to scholarly methods and techniques;
  • help you develop powers of critical thinking and analysis, the ability to apply these to primary and secondary texts, and advanced written and communication skills;
  • support you fully to study in the US or Canada for a full academic year at one of our North American partner universities.

Special features

Study abroad

You will study at a university in the US or Canada in Year 3. A list of exchange partners, and further information on the scheme is available on the American Studies Study Abroad page, as well as via the University's Study Abroad scheme.

Teaching and learning

In Year 1 and 2, you will learn through a combination of lectures, seminars, and small-group tutorials.

Lectures are used to sketch an outline of the major themes and questions, and often to examine the wider significance certain topics have had in society or among scholars.

Seminars usually involve groups of around 12 students, enabling you to discuss a particular text in detail, or to debate a specific subject or question.

To benefit from lectures and seminars you will spend a good amount of time preparing through reading, taking notes, and drafting and writing essays. 

On some units, students are also taught in regular tutorials, which are small tutor-led sessions, and are used to discuss a draft of an essay, or provide feedback on work already submitted.

Several final-year course units are also taught through a weekly workshop model, in which students work collaboratively with each other on a research project, assignment, or presentation.

Your degree is completed by your final-year dissertation, which is undertaken under the supervision of a specialist, and will allow you to carry out independent research and produce an extended piece of writing.

Coursework and assessment

Our assessment methods for this course are designed to improve your ability to work and think independently, to express your ideas with clarity, and to allow you to produce imaginative and incisive interpretations of the subject.

We are keen for our students to learn to write for different audiences. To do this you will produce varied written work, including essays, journals, gobbet responses and your final-year dissertation.

Most units are assessed through a combination of an essays and final examinations. American Studies modules also allow you to undertake more creative forms of assessment, such as producing visual essays, films, historical map-making and short radio-style oral essays. All modules encourage you to work collaboratively with other students.

Course content for year 1

In Year 1, you will receive a solid grounding in core topics to prepare you for the free choices you will make in your second and final years, while also receiving training in interdisciplinary ways of working.

Course units for year 1

The course unit details given below are subject to change, and are the latest example of the curriculum available on this course of study.

TitleCodeCredit ratingMandatory/optional
From Reconstruction to Reagan: American History, 1877-1988 AMER10002 20 Mandatory
Introduction to American Literature to 1900 AMER10021 20 Mandatory
American History to 1877: Columbus to Civil War AMER10211 20 Mandatory
Twentieth Century American Literature AMER10312 20 Mandatory
Introduction to American Studies AMER10501 20 Mandatory

Course content for year 2

In Year 2, you will be able to choose units in the fields of American literature, film studies and history. This year expands further into interdisciplinary ways of working.

Course units for year 2

The course unit details given below are subject to change, and are the latest example of the curriculum available on this course of study.

TitleCodeCredit ratingMandatory/optional
From Jamestown to James Brown: African-American History and Culture AMER20141 20 Mandatory
American Cultural Studies AMER20331 20 Mandatory
American Film Studies AMER20072 20 Optional
Work and Play in the USA, 1880-2010 AMER20112 20 Optional
Women in US Literature & History AMER20382 20 Optional
Southern Crossings: Race, Gender and Sexuality AMER20412 20 Optional
American Literature and Social Criticism, 1900-Present AMER20481 20 Optional
American Civil War AMER21001 20 Optional

Course content for year 3

In your final year you will produce an extended piece of research on a topic of your choosing, alongside five other upper-level modules.

Course content for year 4

The final year requires you to write a long essay on a topic of your choice in one of a range of areas. This will complement the remaining course units that you will choose from the range available.

Course units for year 4

The course unit details given below are subject to change, and are the latest example of the curriculum available on this course of study.

TitleCodeCredit ratingMandatory/optional
Long Essay AMER30002 20 Mandatory
Conspiracy Theories in American Culture AMER30381 20 Optional
Harlem and the State of Urban America AMER30511 20 Optional
The Visual Culture of US Empire AMER30522 20 Optional
Climate Change & Culture Wars AMER30572 20 Optional
Progressivism in the United States AMER30581 20 Optional
Beat Writing AMER30792 20 Optional
American Hauntings AMER30811 20 Optional

Facilities

The University of Manchester has one of the strongest collections of archival, printed, and digitised materials relating to the Americas anywhere in the UK. Some of these materials, such as those relating to the transatlantic abolitionist movement, civil rights and race relations and 19th century American popular culture are housed at the University's John Rylands Library, the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Centre, and the University Special Collections Library.

The University Library, which has benefited from Manchester's long history of scholarship in this field, has one of the largest collections of electronic databases relating to the US, providing access to important newspapers, literary works and movements, entertainment and popular culture journals, as well as unique materials relating to US politics, civil rights and black power groups, and the cultural industries.

Further details on these resources can be found on the subject's Facilities page.

Disability support

Practical support and advice for current students and applicants is available from the Disability Advisory and Support Service. Email: dass@manchester.ac.uk