American Studies

Saint Michael's American Studies

American Studies engages students in the interdisciplinary study of the cultures and politics of the United States and the Americas, past and present. Through its exploration of American traditions, institutions, geography, arts, and mass culture, the program exposes students to a diversity of American perspectives and identities. Central to our major is an investigation of the intersectionalities of ethnicity, gender, sexuality, class, religion, and citizenship in the examination of American experiences. In response to the discipline’s animating questions “What is ‘America’?” and “What does it mean to be an American?” we analyze the formation of local, indigenous, borderland, and diasporic communities within the context of powerful assertions of national identity.

The American Studies program is also distinct in our commitment to community-based learning and the public humanities, fostering critical analysis by engaging with local community partners in teaching, researching, and promoting active civic participation.

The interdisciplinary nature of our program encourages the kind of personal initiative and creative thinking that gives our majors an advantage later in life, and they pursue a rich variety of careers. An American Studies major is particularly appropriate for students planning careers in education, law, communications, government, social work, journalism, museum studies, and information science. Since its inception, American Studies has sought to combine critical thinking with social awareness. Our courses and programming relate theory and practice, research and public policy, and the academy and the community. We foster opportunities for research and advocacy, community and campus engagement, leadership development, service learning and internships.

Each American Studies major selects a concentration and takes 4 courses selected from the list of approved electives for that track.  Concentrations include:

Race & Ethnicity Studies

This concentration explores how race and ethnicity matter in our everyday lives and systematically shape our institutions and society. Courses examine topics such as diaspora, migration, sovereignty, mobilization, and the political economies of social inequality and racial formation. They also attend to how these categories intersect and overlap with other forms of difference (such as gender, nation, indigeneity, class, religion, ability, sexuality, etc.)

Childhood Studies

This concentration considers changing conceptions of childhood in American culture as well as the diversity of children’s lived experience. With particular attention to the various ways in which childhood has been aestheticized and politicized, courses examine the figure of the child within the contexts of gender, ethnicity, class, geography, education, material culture, religion, and/or law.

Expressive Cultures

This concentration focuses on creativity and aesthetic expression in everyday life, and on their transformative potential in culture and politics. Through the examination of folklore, music, dance, art, literature, foodways, architecture, and ceremony, students investigate the dynamics and significance of tradition and innovation. Courses explore the paths by which identity finds voice in performances, texts, and artifacts.

Civic Communities

This concentration asks: How do communities and individuals come to define themselves, and how do others define them? Courses may consider how organizations and institutions function socially and culturally, or the roles of social movements, economic structures, politics and government.

The Americas

This geographical concentration encourages students to think about "America" in relation to the many Americas of which our hemisphere is comprised. Some courses allow students to focus on different nations and regions. Others examine the connections between the United States and its neighbors, taking up topics such as border-crossing and transnationalism.

American Studies Major Requirements

American Studies Minor Requirements

Sample Four Year Plan for American Studies Majors*

First Year
Fall Spring
AM 101 Introduction to American Studies HI 103 U.S. History Since 1865
HI 101 U.S. History to 1865  American Studies topics course
First Year Seminar Liberal Studies course
Foreign Language I Foreign Language II
Fall Spring
EN 251 American Literature I EN 253 American Literature II
Liberal Studies courses Liberal Studies courses
Fall Spring
  American Studies elective American Studies elective
Junior Seminar Electives
Fall Spring
AM 380 American Publics American Studies elective 
American Studies elective American Studies elective
Electives Electives

American Studies electives include courses in English, History, Political Science, and other departments.  Your faculty advisor will work with you to develop a curriculum plan that matches your academic interests and career goals.

* For students who enroll in the fall of 2018.

Maura D'Amore, PhD

English Department Chair, Program Director for American Studies and Gender Studies, Professor of English and American Studies

Contact Professor D'Amore

Saint Edmund's Hall 331
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Ph.D., English (specialization: American Literature to 1900), with a five-course minor in American Studies, UNC-Chapel Hill
B.A., Classics and Literatures & Cultures, Brown University

Areas of Expertise:

literary geographies, print culture, gender studies, and American Studies.

Kristin Dykstra, PhD

Distinguished Scholar in Residence

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Klein Hall 112
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M.A., Ph.D. SUNY at Buffalo
B.A. Amherst College

Areas of Expertise:

Literatures and Cultures of the United States, US Latino/a Literatures, Transnational Exchange in the Americas, Cuban literature, Literary Translation, and American Studies

Courses I Teach:

  • Foundations of US Latino/a Literatures and Cultures
  • Introduction to Cuban Literatures and Cultures
  • Spanish 101
  • First Year Seminar (as Place and Placelessness)
  • Politics and Literature (as Transnational Literatures in the Americas)
  • Honors Colloquium

Nathaniel Lewis, PhD

Professor of English

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Saint Edmund's Hall 342
Box 282
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Ph.D. Harvard University
M.A. University of North Carolina
B.A. Yale University

I teach courses on literary theory, environmental writing, and multiethnic literatures. I have written on western American literature, literary aesthetics, and nature writing.

Robert Niemi, PhD

Professor of English

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Saint Edmund's Hall 345
Box 394
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M.A., Ph.D., University of Massachusetts at Amherst
M.S. Columbia University
B.A. University of Massachusetts at Amherst

Areas of Expertise:

American Studies; American literature and cultural history; film studies; critical theory; popular culture studies

Courses I Teach:

  • Advanced film courses
  • American literature surveys
  • Critical Theory
  • Genres: Film

Susan Ouellette, PhD

Professor of History
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Durick Library 304
Box 136
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B.A. SUNY Plattsburgh
M.A., Ph.D. University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Areas of Expertise:

Early America, including the first settlement up to the American Revolution period; Native Americans; Immigration history, especially the experience of Francophones in the Northeast; Textiles history; Women’s history; diaries and memoirs.

Courses I Teach:

  • The Age of American Revolution, 1763-1815
  • American Society and Culture to 1865
  • History of the American Family
  • Native Peoples of North America
  • The Roots of American Society, 1607-1763
  • Senior Seminar
  • Topics in Women's History and the History of Gender
  • United States History to 1865
  • Women in American Society

My Saint Michael's:

I value the opportunity to work closely with students in the classroom as well as in internship and independent scholarship.

One of the unique opportunities that students at Saint Michael's have is the ability to use the physical world they see around them to study history; I like to incorporate local places, documents, structures, and people to bring class work to life. For instance, a short trip down into Winooski can give students a rare view of early industrial sites; a look at the Mill museum is a chance to imagine life in the beginning of the industrial age.

Raymond Patterson, PhD

Religious Studies Department Chair, Associate Professor of Religious Studies

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Saint Edmund's Hall 225
Box 201
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Ph.D. The Catholic University of America
M.A. Yale Divinity School
B.A. Dartmouth College;

Courses I Teach:

  • American Catholicism
  • American Protestantism
  • Celtic Christianity
  • Saints and Holiness
  • Sacraments, Worship, and Ritual
  • Religion and Film
  • Varieties of Christianity

My Saint Michael's:

Saint Michael’s graduates look at their time in Vermont as a special time in their lives -- many spend the rest of their lives trying to find ways to get back here!  I like the size of the community, which has allowed me to develop strong working relationships with students, staff and other faculty.

Lorrie Smith, PhD

Professor of English and American Studies
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Saint Edmund's Hall 337
Box 167
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M.A., Ph.D. Brown University
B.A. University of Massachusetts-Boston

Areas of Expertise:

African American literature, especially poetry

Courses I Teach:

  • African American Literature
  • American Literature I and II
  • First-Year Seminar on Race and Culture
  • Genres: Poetry; Senior Seminar on various topics (latest: Literature and the Blues)
  • The Middle Passage (Transatlantic Slave Trade in History, Memory, and Imagination)

My Saint Michael's:

My classes offer the opportunity to engage students in discussions of race, racism, African American literature and history. I have worked hard to develop strategies for safely approaching what can often be loaded material that challenges students' comfort zones. I often incorporate experiences that combine classroom study with activities in the community. This includes overnight field trips to Charlestown, Massachusetts with my First-Year Seminar course and a three-week service-learning program in Ghana with students from my Middle Passage class. Through these cross-cultural encounters, students have a chance to examine and enlarge their own perspectives. I am also a faculty member in the college’s American Studies program.

There is a real commitment here to teach the whole student. I enjoy having a chance to shape hungry young minds and develop personal relationships with students. Saint Michael's students have open minds and good hearts. They are very empathetic, kind, and friendly, and many are interested in finding ways to connect what they learn in classes to the larger world. They also have a strong desire to contribute to the community through service. My favorite class to teach is African-American Literature and The Middle Passage, because it's a chance to introduce our students to a tradition they know little about, and to push their comfort zones.

Joan Wry, PhD

Honors Program Director/Professor of English

Contact Professor Wry

Saint Edmund's Hall 340
Box 186
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B.A. Saint Michael's College
M.A. University of Virginia
Ph.D. McGill University

Areas of Expertise:

Nineteenth Century American Literature; Antebellum women’s writing; Vermont Writers


Courses I Teach:

First-Year Seminar: Snow: the Art and Science of Alpine Crystals

Literary Studies: Vermont Writers

American Literature I

American Nature Writing

American Renaissance

Major American Writers

Senior Seminar: The Sublime




Peer-reviewed articles and book chapters on Shakespeare, Shelley, Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Margaret Fuller, and Lydia Sigourney



My Saint Michael's:


I love having the opportunity to introduce new students to the wonder of Vermont—both in my First-Year Seminar on Snow and in my Literary Studies course on Vermont Writers.  This is a special setting for the liberal arts experience, and the sense of place in the valley between the Green Mountains and the glittering expanse of Lake Champlain has a powerful and inevitable draw for the students who study here. I served for eight years as the Associate Dean of the College at Saint Michael’s from 2005 to 2013, and working closely with students on improving their academic performance was one of the most rewarding roles I’ve had in my professional life.  Academic success can be encouraged and celebrated on many levels, and I am once again looking forward to the opportunity to work closely with students as a guide and mentor—this time as the Director of the Honors Program. 


You will work closely with an American Studies adviser to develop a program that is both interdisciplinary and that pursues significant themes or questions in depth. 

Our program's interdisciplinary approach is ideal for a future career in middle or high school education. As such, American Studies is an excellent choice of major if you are thinking about also pursuing a complementary degree in Elementary or Secondary Education.

Our study abroad program at Saint Michael’s also allows you to do a semester at another American college or university to explore a special interest in a topic or geographical area.

Not only will an American Studies major give you an in-depth knowledge of your country and culture, it will provide you with the skills necessary to excel in a variety of professions or to pursue an advanced degree at a graduate institution. Our majors have gone on to varied, successful careers as lawyers, museum directors, sales reps, bankers, EMTs, teachers, librarians, public historians, university administrators, government officials, and more.

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