BA American Studies / Course details

Year of entry: 2022

Course description

Mariana Des Forges

"The opportunity to study abroad was really invaluable. For my job, I sometimes have to throw myself into situations that are unfamiliar to get the best out of a story, often in countries and places I've never been.

"This can be quite daunting, so without the experience of living and studying abroad in America, I think I would have found the nature of this job much more intimidating!"

Mariana Des Forges / Radio Producer/Documentary Maker & 2015 graduate

Our three-year BA American Studies course will give you a grounding in the history, culture, and literature of the US, from colonisation through to contemporary times. 

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 and political protest. 

You will master the approaches and tools found in several academic disciplines, including cultural theory, history, visual studies, literature, and politics. You will also learn how to analyse and discuss a wide variety of materials. 

Years 1 and 2 will give you a wide knowledge of US politics and history, and American literature and film, 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; 
  • climate change; 
  • urban politics; 
  • conspiracy theories; 
  • gender and sexuality; 
  • literature and film analysis.  

You will also have the option to study abroad for a period in Year 2. 

In Year 3, you will be able to choose from one of the richest selections of American Studies units in the country while completing a substantial piece of independent research.

Special features

Apply your subject-specific knowledge in a real-world context through a  placement year  in your third year of study, enabling you to enhance your employment prospects, clarify your career goals and build your external networks.

Teaching and learning

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

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

Seminars usually involve groups of around 10 to 15 students, enabling you to discuss in detail a body of reading, or to advance inquiry into a specific subject area. 

This will help you to hone your ability to express and defend your ideas.

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

On some units, students are also taught in regular tutorials, which may be used to discuss a draft of an essay or provide feedback on one 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

Receive an introduction to the field of American Studies, the development of American literature, and US history from the period of colonisation to the end of the Cold War.  

You will also examine more recent social, political, and cultural issues, and be able to take an optional course unit of your choice.

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

Receive an advanced training in interdisciplinary ways of working through a module on African-American history and culture, `From Jamestown to James Brown', and select from a range of units covering 20th century US history, literature, film and politics. You can also apply to spend some of your second year abroad in the US.

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
American Literature and Social Criticism, 1900-Present AMER20481 20 Optional
American Civil War AMER21001 20 Optional
Uncle Tom's Cabin as Global Media Event AMER22662 20 Optional

Course content for year 3

Complete a long essay or dissertation on a subject of your choice and under individual supervision.

You will also select five other course units from a range of specialised modules in American Studies.

Course units for year 3

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
Occupy Everything AMER30422 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
Beat Writing AMER30791 20 Optional
American Hauntings AMER30811 20 Optional
The Uncanny and the Undead: Gothic American Literature and Culture AMER33152 20 Optional

What our students say

Within the American Studies department you quickly establish and realise the dedication of your lecturers and teachers to their particular field of expertise. This creates an environment in which you feel very trusting and grateful to be studying under the guidance of those that carry great knowledge but are also passionate about their subject areas.

Isabel Pugh (History and American Studies, 2016)

My time at Manchester was invaluable for understanding the importance of working to deadlines, being organised, and learning how to prioritise my workload. Studying English and American Studies meant that I had experience in evaluating and responding to a text - a great starting point for learning how to edit.

Natasha Barsby (English Language and American Studies, 2012)

American Studies offered an opportunity to read literature and to do so alongside history, film, cultural studies, and art history. I was drawn to what I saw as the degree's diversity and its contemporary relevance.

Tom Cornelius (American Studies, 2015)

Deciding to join the American Studies programme at the University of Manchester in 2014 was one of the best decisions I have made. I spent three wonderful years on the course, including a semester abroad at North Carolina State University. I believe the skills I learnt on this course set me up brilliantly for the challenges and pressures I have faced as a young graduate trying to get my foot on the career ladder.

Stephanie Keyte (History and American Studies, 2017)

Facilities

Students in library
The University of Manchester Library is one of only five National Research Libraries.

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