About the Major

American studies combines the methods and perspectives of several disciplines, in particular history and literature, to examine the nation and its cultural heritage. In this way, the program represents the most enduring liberal arts principles. Yet at Hamilton, American studies is highly innovative. Its interdisciplinary approach fosters creativity and originality, encouraging students to work closely with professors to develop and pursue individual plans of study.

Students Will Learn To:

  • Apply different approaches to the academic studies of the Americas
  • Appraise diverse sets of evidence including both primary and secondary sources
  • Communicate clearly, coherently, and effectively

A Sampling of Courses


Roots Music to Country Music: The Making of an American Sound

Study of country music from its roots in cowboy songs, fiddle tunes, blues, bluegrass, and gospel hymns to current artists like The [Dixie] Chicks, Taylor Swift, and Brad Paisley. Artists include the Carter Family, Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Lynyrd Skynyrd, & Garth Brooks. Study of the musical elements, social class, gender roles, and cultural contexts of styles such as Western Swing, Honky-Tonk, Rockabilly, the Nashville Sound, Southern Rock, and Alt-country. Includes films such as Coal Miner's DaughterNashville, and O Brother, Where Art Thou? 

Explore these select courses:

In order to develop a broad understanding of the religious lives of Native Americans, we explore diverse practices and worldviews. We begin with an examination of how Native American worldviews are unique and differ from modern-Western worldviews. With this grounding, we delve into explorations of the multifaceted history of Native American traditions including the Ghost Dance, the Sun Dance, religious freedom issues pertaining to the use of peyote, struggles over sacred places, and complex native engagements with Christianity.

We are bombarded with images, in myriad forms, on a daily basis. How do we interpret and analyze them? What is the relationship between an online advertisement for a movie and the movie itself, between a television program and a video game? An overview of contemporary media theory as it relates to visual culture in the 21st century. Readings will include seminal works in psychoanalytic theory, cultural studies, semiotics, postmodern theory, new media studies and visual studies.

The writing of the men and women inside the American prison system constitutes a kind of shadow canon to that of better-known literary artists. We will read broadly in 20th- and 21st-century American prison writing, asking questions about the generic coherence, social and moral import of incarcerated people’s non-fiction, fiction and poetry. Authors will include Jack London, George Jackson, Assata Shakur, and citizens serving time today. 

Historical debates over the metaphysics and ethics of personhood with an examination of some early American texts by Bradstreet and Lincoln, and Emerson and Thoreau’s Transcendentalism. Emphasis on classical Pragmatist metaphysics and epistemology through the work of Peirce, James and Dewey, with attention to their neo-Pragmatist legacies in contemporary American philosophy.

Meet Our Faculty

Seth Schermerhorn

Director, Associate Professor of American Studies


anthropology of religion; global Christianities; religion in America; Native American religious traditions; traditional ecological knowledge; pilgrimage; personhood and place

Lydia Hamessley

Eugene M. Tobin Distinguished Professor of Music


Dolly Parton; American folk and traditional musics; banjo, music and film; medieval and renaissance music; music and gender

Doran Larson

Edward North Chair of Greek and Greek Literature and Professor of Literature and Creative Writing


20th-century American literature; the history of the Anglo-American novel; fiction writing; nonfiction writing and prison writing of the U.S., South Africa, and Ireland

Celeste Day Moore

Associate Professor of History


African-American history; diasporic and transnational history; race and empire in 20th-century U.S. and France

Nigel Westmaas

Chair, Professor of Africana Studies


history, sociology, and Africana studies

Careers After Hamilton

Hamilton graduates who concentrated in American studies are pursuing careers in a variety of fields, including:

  • Sales Planning Manager, Time Inc.
  • Business Analyst, Northern Trust Bank
  • Staff Writer, South Philly Review
  • Senior Associate Director of Content, University of Chicago
  • Marketing Manager, Terra Resort Group
  • Assistant Professor, New York University
  • Architectural Historian, New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission

Explore Hamilton Stories

 Seth Schermerhorn

Schermerhorn Publishes Special Issue in Material Religions

Associate Professor of Religious Studies and American Studies Program Director Seth Schermerhorn recently published a special issue on "Movement and Indigenous Religions" in Material Religion: The Journal of Objects, Art, and Belief.

Allie Goodman ’15

A Lifetime of Curiosity and Learning — Law School Included

A volunteer job with the Parole Preparation Project was a pivotal moment for Allie Goodman '15, who now attends Berkley Law.

Anna O'Keefe ’18

The Name of the Game? Increasing Access to Higher Ed

True, Anna O’Keefe ’18 does not play squash. Still, she graduated straight into a perfect-fit job at CitySquash, a nonprofit that helps prepare economically disadvantaged students to dominate the T (it’s a squash thing) and, more critically, for college.


Department Name

American Studies Program

Contact Name

Seth Schermerhorn, Program Director

Office Location
198 College Hill Road
Clinton, NY 13323

Help us provide an accessible education, offer innovative resources and programs, and foster intellectual exploration.

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