American Studies

You will explore U.S. civilization and culture across disciplines, in particular history and literature. You may find yourself looking at the U.S. in a way you hadn’t imagined, for instance from the perspective of art history, theatre, government or Africana studies.

Eliza Kenney ’15
At Hamilton, Eliza Kenney '15, shown here in a class, rekindled her passion for dance and discovered American studies.

A student’s freedom to create: American studies and dance

By the time Eliza Kenney ’15 arrived at Hamilton College, she figured she was done with dance, burned out by competition and stress. She’d started dancing at age 8 and was tired of what she describes as “the high pressure to be perfect.” Soon, however, she missed it; spring of her first year at Hamilton she signed up for intermediate ballet. As she rekindled her passion for dance, she discovered a new passion ­– American studies. She majored in both. If she’d gone to a dance school, rather than the liberal arts route, Kenney says, she’d never have gained the perspective American studies has given her.

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“American studies is an interdisciplinary field, which appealed to me because I could take it in essentially any direction I wanted. The American studies program at Hamilton gives me the freedom to make choices and create, just as the dance program does,” she says. Keeney is considering pursuing a career in dance therapy.

Jack McManus '13 landed a job as arts editor at a Vermont newspaper.
Jack McManus '13 landed a job as arts editor at a Vermont newspaper.

A graduate’s progess: a job as an editor

Jack McManus ’13 was determined to be a music journalist but pretty much selected his courses at Hamilton College for the love of them. He majored in American studies and minored in medieval and Renaissance studies. Not long after he graduated, he became arts editor of the Bennington Banner newspaper in Vermont.

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“I may not have learned the specifics of the industry, but I did develop an amazingly useful understanding of American culture and identity in the American studies program,” he says. “By far the most useful thing I learned at Hamilton was actually how to learn efficiently – classes on things like Latino-American history and Canadian literature – showed me how to take on an unfamiliar subject and become an authority on it as fast as possible.”

McManus says his experiences at The Spectator student newspaper and WHCL, the student radio station,  taught him to work collaboratively to produce a product he could be proud of.

“My highest ambition has always been to establish myself as a music journalist, and the opportunities I had at Hamilton have already been enormously helpful in my pursuit,” he says.