University of Sydney Handbooks - 2018 Archive

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American Studies

About the major

American Studies is a unique multi- and interdisciplinary field that examines the history, culture, society, laws, foreign policy and politics of the US. Units examine the US's evolution and why it is a dominant cultural and political force in the 21st century. From the study of America’s government to its popular culture, you will be challenged to think creatively about the construction and meaning of American identity and power while developing analytic and research skills that span the humanities and social sciences.

An American Studies major will give you broad, multi-faceted knowledge of this complex, diverse and dynamic nation and its relationship with the broader world. You will analyse the US using a variety of different approaches. In addition to core American Studies units, you can take cross-listed units of study from the departments of English, Film Studies, History, Gender and Cultural Studies, Government, and Music, and from the United States Studies Centre. With such diversity of approaches, an American Studies major is a unique opportunity to learn a variety of disciplinary approaches and methodologies.

Undertaking a major in American Studies will give you access to the widest range of units of study focused on the US and to the largest concentration of academics working on the US, of any university in Australia.

Requirements for completion

A major in American Studies requires 48 credit points from the Unit of Study table including:

(i) 12 credit points of 1000-level units
(ii) 6 credit points of 2000-level core units
(iii) 6 credit points of 2000-level selective units
(iv) 6 credit points of 3000-level core units
(v) 12 credit points of 3000-level selective units
(vi) 3000-level Interdisciplinary Project unit

A minor in American Studies requires 36 credit points from the Unit of Study table including:

(i) 12 credit points of 1000-level units
(ii) 6 credit points of 2000-level core units
(iii) 6 credit points of 2000-level selective units
(iv) 6 credit points 3000-level core units
(v) 6 credit Points 3000-level selective units

First year

Students can complete the units AMST1001 Global America and USSC1201 America and Australia: The Issues Compared.

Taught in Semester 1, America and Australia: The Issues Compared, serves as one of the core introductory units for the major in American Studies. While Global America approaches American Studies from the humanities, this unit introduces students to the political and social scientific side of American Studies. It will give students the basic analytical tools they need, particularly the comparative method, for understanding and evaluating key features of American social and political life. Students wishing to complete the Major are required to complete Global America, which examines why and how American politics, culture, economics, and ideas have such a significant impact around the world. Exploring the tension between global and insular America by focusing primarily on the 21st century, we take a multidisciplinary approach to understanding the nature of global America.

Second Year

Students majoring in American Studies must complete the core second year unit AMST2701 American Dreams. From a multidisciplinary standpoint, this unit introduces students to the contradictory richness of "Americanness" and prepares them for the major in American Studies. Divided into five historically grounded modules - race, religion, gender, politics and region - the unit will approach each from a variety of methodological angles. it will open lines of interrelation between historical, political, and imaginary forms in the construction and ongoing redefinition of the United States.

Students must complete an additional 6 credit points of 2000 level selective units. They will have a choice of selective units including Sex, Race and Rock, Stand Up America, American Comedy and Humour, US Politics: Presidential Elections and Laws and Americanism and Anti-Americanism. These units encompass a comprehensive study of the US, with options for how students want to shape their study depending on how they choose to focus their Major.

Third Year

The final year gives students the opportunity to form a capstone to their major. Students must complete 6 credit points from the core unit AMST3601 American Perspectives, which will discuss key texts from politics, history, English, film studies, and music to critically examine the United States from multiple angles, including race and racism, gender, political culture, regionalism, and religion. Students will have the chance to develop a substantial primary source–driven research project.

Students must complete also 12 Credit points of 3000 level selective units.


If you commenced your degree prior to 2018, admission to honours requires a major in American Studies with an average of 70% or above.

If you commenced your degree in 2018, admission to honours is via the Bachelor of Advanced Studies and requires the completion of a major in American Studies with an average of 70% or above. You will need to ensure you have completed all other requirements of the Bachelor of Advanced Studies, including Open Learning Environment (OLE) units and a second major, prior to commencing honours.

Upon completing a Bachelor’s degree, students can pursue a year-long research program that involves the production of an 18,000-20,000 word thesis. This can be a capstone to your pursuit of American Studies at the undergraduate level, giving you an edge on other graduates with your level of expertise in a specific area of enquiry. In addition, this also acts a significant independent project to prepare graduates for the workforce, as the autonomous pursuit of information and personal setting of targets and goals makes the transition to project-based work easier. Honours in the first or second class is also a great pathway into PhD research.

Our previous honours students have researched such diverse subjects as the Women’s National Basketball Association, political memes, Hollywood bromances, race and fashion, religion and US foreign policy, and American exceptionalism.

As part of the course, students will attend two seminars, one based in American Studies, and another based in one of the following areas (depending on their area of research):

  • English
  • Film Studies
  • Government and International Relations
  • History
Contact/further information

Further information can be found at the United States Studies Centre website:

The American Studies Coordinator is Associate Professor Brendon O’Connor

Phone: 02 9036 9206

The Honours Coordinator is Dr Aaron Nygeres
Phone: 02 8627 0170

The Academic and Student Support Officer is Jessica Regan
Phone: 02 9351 7249

Pathways through the major
Year One 1000 Level Units of Study
Sem 1 1 x 1000-level Unit
USSC1201 America and Australia: the issues compared
Sem 2 1 x 1000-level Unit
AMST1001 Global America
Year Two 2000 Level Units of Study
Sem 1 1 x Senior core 2000-level unit
AMST2701 American Dreams
Sem 2 1 x Senior 2000-level
Any AMST or USSC 2000 level unit


Year Three

3000 Level Units of Study

Sem 1 Any AMST or USSC 3000-level unit Any AMST or USSC 3000-level unit
Sem 2 Senior core 3000-level unit
AMST3601 American Perspectives
FASS3999 Interdisciplinary Project unit
Learning Outcomes
  1. Demonstrate a broad knowledge of the history, culture, society, and politics of the United States.
  2. Demonstrate an understanding of various disciplinary approaches to understanding the United States such as those of history, political science, literary studies, cinema and media studies, cultural studies, and international relations.
  3. Demonstrate an ability to approach written, oral, visual, material, and digital texts and contextualise such texts in secondary literature
  4. Identify an analytic problem in the study of the United States and devise a research strategy that employs the methodologies of multiple disciplines.
  5. Construct an evidence-based argument in written, oral, visual, or digital form.
  6. Apply knowledge of American Studies to issues encountered in an interdisciplinary context.