BA single honours or in combination with another subject American Studies 2020/21

Year of entry

America is distinct among modern countries because of the stories it tells about itself; as the land of the free, and as a site of endless possibilities. A degree in American Studies asks you to uncover the stories that are not being told and to interrogate the world’s superpower using a variety of disciplinary approaches. This degree will equip you with the tools you need to make sense of the world and to learn from a decidedly decolonised curriculum that privileges the histories and cultures of marginalised and oppressed peoples. Our academics are leading researchers in American Cinema, History, Literature, and Politics and we bring our expert knowledge to bear in challenging and rewarding classes, on topics including the civil rights movement, contemporary presidential politics, and the literature of the Deep South.

You will explore areas including:

  • American film, journalism, literature, and music
  • histories of race, colonialism and oppression
  • the frontier at home and abroad in the context of politics and foreign relations
  • issues of ethnicity, gender, and class

This course is available with a Foundation Year.

American Studies is a fascinating subject because the United States is one of the most diverse places in the world, with a rich history, a vibrant political culture, world changing literature and film, and global influence. In this programme – which encompasses BA American Studies Single Honours and BA American Studies Combined Honours – you will learn about the history, culture, and politics of the United States. The degree is both multidisciplinary (drawing on more than one academic discipline to understand the US) and interdisciplinary (using these various disciplines together to enhance this understanding). The disciplines you will encounter are history (social, cultural, racial, and foreign policy), literature and cultural studies (including art history, cinema, and media studies), and politics. You will also take modules that are specifically designed to draw on all of these strands. This broad ranging degree is taught by a team of highly-qualified academics, working on the main campus at the heart of the historic city of Canterbury, where we provide high-quality teaching within a friendly and supportive learning environment.

The American Studies course operates in a small and friendly environment, and 93% of American Studies students are satisfied with the teaching on their course.

2018 National Student Survey.

American Studies students also have several opportunities to study in North America, which enables them to develop confidence, independence, and employability skills. You will have the opportunity to take part in an annual field trip to a major US city such as New York, or to apply to spend a semester or full year studying at a university in North America.

The student learning experience is at the very top of our list of priorities, but you should know that the American Studies team are not just teachers: we are also professional academics with an impressive track record of nationally and internationally acclaimed research publications on topics as varied President Barack Obama, gender and the civil rights movement, and the literature of the US South.  This research experience feeds directly into our teaching, especially in year three where modules are shaped according to the research specialism of the tutors running them. 

"American Studies has been the best course for me because you can choose the modules you want to take. American Studies allows you to join with people from other courses such as film, English literature, and history. It also gives you a chance to go to America, either on trips, for a semester, or even for a whole year. For those that enjoy History, politics, international relations, literature, and film, and are looking to gain a wide set of skills, I would highly recommend this course."

Emma Crowe, recent graduate

Students on this programme are also eligible to apply to study for a year in North America as part of their degree.

You can study French, German, Italian, Mandarin Chinese and Spanish as part of, or alongside, your course.

more info

The American Studies programme is designed to allow you as much diversity and flexibility as possible. As such, it follows a Strand structure through Levels 4, 5 and 6. You will choose between four disciplinary Strands – in film studies, history, literature, and politics – and a fifth interdisciplinary strand in American Studies, with a focus on skills and graduate attributes. Students will be able to choose from a selection of modules at Level 5 and from still more choices at Level 6 (although some modules may not run each year). You will be able to follow Strands (and groups of Strands) from beginning to end, or you can “mix-and-match” modules from across the Strands. The programme is designed on a pyramid structure, with Level 4 providing the foundation, or base, and Level 6 the specialisation, or peak. Level 5 is designed to “bridge the gap” by consolidating the knowledge gained at Level 4 and confirming that you have the required knowledge and skills before you specialise at Level 6. Subject to availability, you will also be able to take certain modules validated within the History, English Literature, and Film, Radio and Television Studies Programmes. This pyramid structure is designed to support students for success by offering an evolution of academic and graduate skills that progress as you do. The architecture of the programme is designed so that you can excel at each level of study and progress in measurable ways across each of the three levels. Single Honours students will take the core spine of American Studies modules as a matter of course and are able to develop individual learning priorities through their optional modules. Combined Honours students are given more flexibility in their choice of modules, in order to more easily develop a bespoke academic trajectory. Combined Honours students are encouraged to consult with their Personal Academic Tutors, and other members of the academic team, to ensure that they select a range of modules that lead to a coherent academic experience and ensure that students receive appropriate training. At every point, the programme team treats students as partners in learning, and we are committed to a learning experience that encourages personal, as well as academic, development.

Across all years you can choose to specialise in several particular strands or‘mix and match’ between them. Part-time students have additional flexibility regarding when to take which modules over the course of their six-year degree. Combined Honours students have a greater degree of choice that Single Honours students and can chart a particular intellectual trajectory based on their interests and their other course of study. we are very mindful of the need to enhance your employability prospects and, to this end, we seek from the very outset of your time with us to teach you the kinds of skills that will be valued by potential employers. These include the ability to make sound evidence-based judgements, think critically, use a range of sources effectively, communicate clearly and coherently, work independently and as part of a team, manage diverse workloads and meet deadlines, and to use technology for communication and presentation purposes. Alongside attention to these vital transferable skills, we have ensured that graduate attributes training is embedded at every level of learning, especially in the core spine of American Studies modules.

The American Studies team are all professional academics with research publications on topics as varied as Native American history, the CIA, President Barack Obama, early American newspaper culture, and contemporary literature.

Core Modules

Year 1

All modules in Year 1 are Core for Single Honours students, and Optional for Combined Honours Students. This ensures you have a grounding in each of the disciplines and ways of thinking that, together, make American Studies. All modules are 20 credits unless otherwise noted.

Divided by A Common Language: Culture, Power, and Society in the UK and the USA

The module aims to prepare undergraduate students for global citizenship by immersing them in a pointedly transnational learning environment. American Studies students will learn alongside visiting North American students on the British Studies Semester Programme. The module encourages students to recognise and understand the similarities and differences in the social and cultural structures of Britain and the USA. As the first in a core series of modules to focus on the idea of colonialism, students will build core knowledge of the role of empire in the shaping of the modern world. America, as site of colonialism and as a colonial/neo-colonial entity in its own right, will be compared and contrasted to the history of British imperialism, in its historical, cultural, and political expressions.

The module gives students an overview of the methodologies and intellectual frameworks of each of American Studies’ cognate disciplines. As a result, students will get to know the core members of the American Studies team, both personally and intellectually, and will become part of a programme-wide academic community. The module will include timetabled Personal Academic Tutoring sessions for American Studies students in order to offer to offer academic and pastoral support in the context of the learning environment. The module will equip students with graduate attributes in clarity of expression, organisation, and teamwork and there will be a focus on building and recognising employable skills.

Self-Evident Truths: American Histories from Colonisation to the Present             

This module provides an introduction to the histories of North America from English colonisation to present. The module takes a thematic and chronological approach, and examines topics such as Colonisation, Enslavement, War, Expansionism, Exceptionalism and Global Power.  The module will give students a broad survey of North American history, which will provide the foundation necessary for learning development and informed specialism at Level 5 and 6.  The module introduces students to a variety of interdisciplinary methods used by historians and supports the development of analytical skills important to the discipline of history.

The Invention of America: Texts and Contexts from 1607 to the Present

The module provides students with an introduction to American literature, developing their responses to written and visual narratives of the “New World” and of the United States of America, from the initial, colonial rhetoric of discovery and the Puritan call for the foundation of a “City upon a Hill” to the establishment of national cultural traditions in the 19th century and beyond. Students will be guided to develop the skills of literary criticism and will be assessed on these skills alongside their development of graduate attributes such as clarity of expression and organisation. Students are encouraged to trace continuities and identify discontinuities in the treatment of foundational myths, the definition of quintessentially “American” concepts, and the acknowledgement of the violent underside of the national narrative of democracy and progress. The module introduces students to canonical texts in American literature, while also showing the limits of such ‘mainstream’ thinking. The module thus privileges the writing of native peoples, African Americans and other ‘minority’ cultures relate to their own environments and ‘American’ identities.

Malcolm and Martin: An American Dream or a Racial Nightmare?

This module has three core aims, firstly the module will examine the socio-political and historical mythology embedded within mainstream versions of the American Dream. Secondly, the module will explore and interrogate the ideological foundations of the American Dream via the philosophical lens of, Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King. Thirdly, the module will outline the hegemonic and ethnic basis of the American Dream, and its origins within the elite Euro-American context. The module will indicate that American political culture and the narrow and ethnocentric interpretations of American history do not accord with the realities of American history, as experienced, defined and articulated by Malcolm X and Dr. King. Overall the module highlights the clash of ideas regarding the character of American political culture and US history, it will indicate that the status of African American’s has and continues to define our understanding of American power. The modules interdisciplinary approach draws on Politics, theories of race and US History. In short, students will receive a holistic analysis of US society, whilst viewing America from the perspective of a marginalised population.  

American Cinema Since 1950

The module aims to develop the student’s understanding of genre, as a critical concept, as part of Hollywood industrial practice and as a critical tool for examining audience expectations and pleasure. The module also aims to examine the history of the decline in Hollywood studio production in the 1950s and the reconfiguration of the industry in the New Hollywood. Finally, the module aims to examine Hollywood’s relationship to notions of American national identity and introduce the students to the major, social, political, institutional and aesthetic features of American cinema in the 1950s and 1980s and to highlight the connections between these periods.

The Cold War and the Making of the Contemporary World

The aims of this module are to equip students with a knowledge and understanding of the origins, course and consequences of the Cold War, which dominated (and distorted) the international landscape from the end of the Second World War through to 1989-1991. The module also aims to address the Cold War’s legacy and how this continues to shape the world of today in important ways whether in regard to ongoing tensions between Russia and the West, turmoil and violence in the Middle East, international terrorism, and the nuclear ambitions of North Korea and Iran.

Year 2

Building and Dismantling the American Empire

The aims of the module are to build on students’ understanding of themselves as global citizens introduced in the Level 4 module ‘Divided by a Common Language.’ This module takes an interdisciplinary and broadly historical approach to understanding ideas of the United States as, first, the site of European imperialism and then as an empire in its own right. Students may explore issues pertaining to the ‘discovery’ of North America and the colonisation of Indigenous territories; the history of America’s changing role in global politics; America’s cultural imperialism – either in the form of ‘Coca-Colonisation’ or in the ubiquity of American cultural texts in the modern world; progressive global movements centred in the United States, including Pan-Africanism and the world-wide Movement for Black Lives; or other relevant topics that position the United States within a broader narrative of global conflict and cooperation. The module will be led by one or more members of the core American Studies team. It will also feature guest lectures by industry professionals and specialists from other programmes in the University who can speak to the specific employable and transferable skills that students are developing. Specifically, these sessions will focus on the capacity of American Studies graduates to excel in an increasingly global workforce.

Extended Essay

This module will enable you to develop skills for independent learning and individual research so that you can undertake a substantial piece of written work on a subject related to one of your other year two modules. You will be able to select your own topic in consultation with tutors, and to work closely with a supervisor expert in that area. This module therefore provides an essential foundation for the dissertation in year three. This module is core for single honours students, but optional for combined honours students.

Year 3

African American Studies in the 21st Century

This module will allow all American Studies students to meet together to apply their knowledge of American Studies both to contemporary debates about race in America and to address the employability agenda as they reach the culmination of their studies. Students are given the opportunity to contribute to cutting edge research in African American studies from one or more members of the core American Studies team with a specialism in African American studies. This module is the culmination of the American Studies core strand and asks students to reflect on their own agency in constructing a decolonised curriculum. Students are encouraged to think intersectionally, about the experiences of contemporary African Americans in the context of, among other issues, the movement for black lives, the #MeToo movement, and the political resistance to the Trump administration.  

Dissertation (40 credit module for SH, Optional 20 Module for CH)

As the culmination of your degree, the dissertation will enable you to build upon skills gained in the extended essay and will equip you with the practical skills and research methodology to undertake research on a topic of your choice in American Studies. Although the dissertation by nature is centred on independent learning, you will work with a supervisor with the expertise to guide you through your project. 

Likely Optional Modules

We continually review and where appropriate, revise the range of modules on offer to reflect changes in the subject and ensure the best student experience. We will inform applicants of any changes to the course structure before enrolment.

We are proud to offer an exciting range of optional modules each year, all of which are related to, and informed by, the research that we are doing. The nature and content of these modules will vary, as we seek to provide you with modules that are in line with our current research interests, and fresh with the most up-to-date thinking on a particular topic. As we value the student perspective, we also update our modules based on the feedback students give us, as we try to ensure that you will have a great learning experience no matter which of our modules you choose.

Year 2

Race and Racism: Conquest, Colonisation and Categorisation in America

This history-focussed module explores the long history of race and categorisation in the US.

American Independent Cinema (Via Film, Radio, and Television)

Students will explore the work of major independent filmmakers of the last few decades .

Mad, Sad, and Bad: Women in American Literature (Via English)

Explore the various ways in which American women have been imagined – and have defined themselves – in American literature from the 19th to the 21st centuries.

Race and Politics in Modern America

Explore the myriad ways in which American racial identity intersects with American political culture

Atlantic Americas: Commerce, Domination, and Resistance in the Atlantic World, 1500-1800

Students get to grips with colonial North America, and its relationship to the ‘Old World’ across the Atlantic.

Applied Humanities: Employability in Practice (Via School of Humanities)

Take a practical, hands-on module that locates you in the workforce and gives you the skills you’ll need to thrive after University.

Humanities in the Digital World

Investigate the shifting treatment of the Humanities in the digital age, and see how online tools can supplement traditional research methods.

American Girlhood: Life and Representation 

This modules uncovers the social, political and cultural relations that shape girls’ lives and experiences in historical perspective.

Style and Substance: Movements in American Literature

Delve deep into the stylistic conventions in American Literature from slave narratives, through the Beat Generation, to contemporary fiction.

Isolation to Domination: The United States of America, 1914-1945 (Via History)

This module lets students discover the development of the US into a modern global superpower.

War and Revolution in Vietnam, 1930-1975 (Via History)

Investigate the long history of conflict in Vietnam in a global and political context

Year 3

Writing the Colour Line: American Literature from Plessy to Ferguson

This module puts  protest and struggle against segregation at the centre of the development of the African American literary tradition

Politics, Identity, and US Foreign Policy

The module will provide cutting edge insight into the complex but fundamental interplay between American politics and the politics of identity pertaining to US foreign policy.

Truth, Justice, and the American Way: A Superhero History (Via History)

Discover the development of the superhero from the 1930s to contemporary cinema and read comics narratives alongside the narrative of American history.

The Modern Black Freedom Movement

The module examines the enduring social construction of race and racism in the United States, and its impacts on modern African American experience and freedom struggles.

Civil Rights Fiction

Discover how black and white novelists honed their craft in service of the black freedom struggle of the 1950s and 1960s.

The Cinematic City (Via Film, Radio, and Television)

Take an in-depth look at filmic representations of major cities from across American cinema.

Contemporary Ethnic American Literature (Via English)

Conduct intensive readings of literature by a diverse range of contemporary writers.

The Bomb: War, Peace, and Society in the Nuclear Age  (Via History)

Explore modern world history through the lens of the threat of nuclear warfare.

The Global Sixties (Via History)

Explore the turbulent decade of the 1960s from a variety of perspectives, paying particular attention to transnational crosscurrents.

Please note that module titles and availability may be subject to change.


Employers are looking for a variety of skills and attributes from graduates such as versatility, critical thinking and the ability to work independently and as part of a team. All of these are developed in our American Studies course. Recent graduates have gone on to further study, and employment in social work, the media, tourism, management, and teaching, but there are few limits to what you can do with an American Studies degree. If you are considering a career in primary or secondary teaching you may wish to combine American Studies with a subject taught in schools such as History or English. We also offer tailor-made workshops on employability and graduate skills as part of your degree.


Tuition Fees for 2020/21 have not yet been finalised. Course webpages will be updated with Tuition Fee information once these have been agreed.

Additional course costs

Although we aim to minimise any additional costs to students over and above the course tuition fee, there will be some additional costs which students are expected to meet.

Costs applicable to all students

Text books Own purchase text books
Travel to other sites Where travel to other sites is required, this will be payable by the student
Library Fees and Fines Where students fail to return loaned items within the required time they will be responsible for the cost of any Library Fees and Fines applicable
Printing & Photocopying The cost of printing and photocopying undertaken by students to support their individual learning are payable by the student
Graduation ceremonies It is free for the student to attend the ceremony itself. Guest tickets and robe hire / photography are additional costs payable by the student

Course specific costs

Travel and Accommodation costs for Study Year in North America Accommodation costs vary depending on the partner institution. Students must be able to demonstrate that they are able to support themselves financially in order to be eligible for a student visa. For further details of partner institution locations and approximate costs download this document.

General principle policy

The University’s general principles policy for additional course fees are set out here

CategoryIncluded in the tuition feeAdditional cost to student
Field trips (including trips abroad and trips to museums, theatres, workshops etc) No, if the trip contributes to the course as an optional module. Yes if the trip is optional.
Travel and accommodation costs for placements  No

Travel and accommodation costs for professional placements within the Education and Health & Wellbeing Faculties.

Travel and accommodation costs for other work placements. 
Text books No Own purchase text books.
DBS / Health checks No Yes
Professional Body registration No Yes
Travel to other sites (e.g. travel to swimming pool for lessons) No Yes
Clothing / Kit Yes, where the clothing / kit is essential for Health & Safety reasons. Yes, where the clothing is kept by the student and not essential for health and safety reasons.
Learning materials Essential learning materials (excluding text books) in connection with the course. Additional materials beyond the standard provision essential for the course or where the costs are determined by the student’s area of interest and the outputs are retained by the student.
Library fees and fines No Yes
Printing and photocopying No Yes
Social events No, unless the event forms an essential part of the course. Yes, unless the event forms an essential part of the course.
Graduation ceremonies It is free for the student to attend the ceremony itself. Guest tickets and robe hire/ photography are additional costs payable by the student.


In a typical semester, you will be taking three modules.  You will be taught through a combination of lectures, seminars and practical workshops. You will typically have between 9 and 12 contact hours per week.

Seminars in smaller groups will enable you to discuss and develop your understanding of topics covered in lectures.  In addition, you will meet with your academic personal tutor.

Styles of teaching, and contact hours, depend on the option modules you select.

Independent learning

American Studies students are expected to undertake independent research and reading outside of their classroom time.  Through the library they will have access to all the relevant books for each module, as well as a wealth of digital resources.  Core learning resources will be made available through each module’s Virtual Learning Environment, or “Blackboard”.

Overall workload

Your overall workload typically consists of 9 to 12 contact hours during semester time. In addition you will undertake 15 to 18 hours of independent research alongside workshops and one to one supervision sessions. If you choose to undertake a field trip to the United States, average contact time rises considerably.

Academic input

The team consists of highly qualified academics. They have a range of expertise and experience.

All our team members hold doctoral and teaching qualifications. They are research-active. They have experience in delivering research-informed teaching. You can find out more about the current teaching on our Meet the Team webpage. You should note members of the teaching team might change. 

Postgraduate students sometimes assist in teaching and assessing some modules. However, the permanent programme team teach the vast majority of lectures and seminars.

Single Honours American Studies is assessed almost entirely by coursework. Different modules will have different types of coursework, depending on what best suits a particular topic or discipline, but most modules will be assessed by a combination of essays, presentations, and shorter portfolio assignments.

Study in North America

We encourage students to spend time abroad because we understand the importance of personal and academic growth during your university career. If you already know that you want to spend a year or a semester in the USA or Canada, you can apply through UCAS for that option. If you are unsure, you can apply in year 2 through our internal competition to study at one of our exchange partners in the USA or Canada as part of your degree. Please see this web page for further details.

Extended essay and dissertation

In second year, you will have the opportunity to produce an Extended Essay, a 5,000 word research project of your own devising that is linked to a module that you have studied. In third year, the dissertation gives you even more freedom, allowing you to work with your supervisor to create an original research question, for which you will produce a 10,000 word response.

Percentage of the course assessed by coursework

The American Studies course is almost entirely  assessed by coursework, with only one exam on a Year 1 core module. However, if you take a module outside of the American Studies course as part of your degree, you will be assessed in line with that course. This means you may have to take exams as well as to complete coursework assignments for any of these modules that you choose.


Tutors provide detailed, constructive feedback on all summative (formal) coursework assessments, indicating the strengths of the work and areas where improvement is possible. Students can also see their tutors for explanations of the feedback if they wish. The feedback provided by the teaching team has been highly praised by our external examiners. Formal assessments count towards your module mark. Feedback on exams is available upon request.

We will normally provide you with feedback within 15 working days of submission for coursework.

We encourage students to spend time abroad because we understand the importance of personal and academic growth during your university career. If you already know that you want to spend a year or a semester in the USA or Canada, you can apply through UCAS for that option. If you are unsure, you can apply in year 2 through our internal competition to study at one of our exchange partners in the USA or Canada as part of your degree. Please see this web page for further details.

BA (Hons) American Studies with Foundation Year

This course can also be studied over four years with an additional foundation year (Year 0) for those without the formal entry qualifications. The foundation year is designed to provide you with the grounding you need to progress on to the degree.

While the American Studies course does not in itself require anything in the way of specialist facilities, the Canterbury campus is modern and attractive. Classrooms are equipped with modern computing and AVA equipment, and there are computer suites and printers for students to use. The university library is well equipped with computer and printing facilities, and the electronic library catalogue provides easy access not only to hard copy books and articles materials kept in the library, but also to a rich array of electronic source materials.


Full-time study

Apply via UCAS

Part-time study

Apply directly to us


Full-time study

Need some help?


For advice on completing your application please contact the Course Enquiry Team:

Tel:+44 (0)1227 928000 (0)1227 928000


Contact our International Team

Fact file

UCAS course code

  • T700 American Studies
  • T703 American Studies (Semester in North America)
  • T792 American Studies (Year in North America)

UCAS institution code

  • C10


  • 3 years full-time

    3 years full-time including a semester in North America

    4 years full-time including a year in North America

    6 years part-time


  • September 2020

Entry requirements



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Last edited: 06/09/2019 11:08:00