This interdisciplinary Master’s programme provides an opportunity for you to deconstruct the American experience at an advanced level.
It interrogates, challenges and moves beyond the Exceptionalist rhetoric and nation-states ideology of traditional American Studies to consider the USA, and its neighbours, in an insightful, challenging and relevant way.
You develop specialist knowledge and research skills in a range of disciplines by navigating complex historical, cultural, geo-political and environmental issues. A sophisticated awareness of the reach (and the limitations) of US hegemony, as well as issues of cultural collision, media penetration, region and identity, give our graduates an intellectual grounding well-suited to many careers, in addition to a solid foundation for graduate work at MPhil or PhD level.
About the Centre for American Studies
American Studies at Kent dates back to 1973 and, over the last few decades, has developed a strong research culture; this matches the commitment of the University to interdisciplinary study as well as the mandate of American Studies to explore the American experience in ground-breaking ways.
Our team of scholars maintains close links with a number of North and South American research institutions and archives, and the University’s Templeman Library houses impressive collections on slavery, Native American culture, and photography/visual materials.
We treat the American experience in a critical and reflective manner, and offer an extremely good base for postgraduate study. While able to supervise a wide range of American topics, the Centre currently operates three specialist research clusters of particular interest to candidates:
- The American West
- The Study of US Environmental Issues
- The Study of Race, Ethnicity and Borders.
You take a compulsory 30 credit module ‘Transnational American Studies: Research and Approaches’. This is a year-long module designed to introduce key modes of analysis in transnational and interdisciplinary study as well as consider different methodologies, themes and intellectual debates. Assessment includes an extended essay, seminar presentation and a critical review of an academic research paper.
You also select 90 credits from a range of optional modules, spread across at least two disciplines. Optional modules vary year to year and below is a selection of recent modules on offer:
- American Cold War Propaganda
- Geiger Counter at Ground Zero: Explorations of Nuclear America
- From Wounded Knee to the Little Bighorn Casino: The Vietnam War in American History
- American Narrative in the Age of Postmodernism
- American Modernism
- Boundary Busting and Border Crossing
- Myth, Image, Fashion and Propaganda in the Cuban Revolutionary Era
- History and Memory
- American Foreign Policy
The remaining 60 credits are made up with a Dissertation. Written over the summer term, this 12,000 word extended study allows students to work on their own research project based on primary research. You have the opportunity to present your ideas as part of workshop sessions on researching American Studies in the core course and receive supervision from an academic specialist.
The following modules are indicative of those offered on this programme. This list is based on the current curriculum and may change year to year in response to new curriculum developments and innovation. Most programmes will require you to study a combination of compulsory and optional modules. You may also have the option to take modules from other programmes so that you may customise your programme and explore other subject areas that interest you.
Assessment for this course includes an extended essay, seminar presentation and a critical review of an academic research paper.
This programme aims to:
- provide you with a thorough grounding in the techniques and approaches necessary for advanced research in American Studies.
- promote interdisciplinarity as a conceptual mode of theory and analysis (encourage you to ‘operate across disciplines, learning how to integrate a variety of approaches in formulating and solving problems, and using diverse materials and information sources.’
- encourage critical reflection and engagement with public debates relating to aspects of American society.
- consolidate the strengths of our long-running undergraduate programmes whilst interrogating, challenging, and moving outside the exceptionalist rhetoric and nation-state ideology of conventional American Studies (develop a ‘synthesising impulse…which can work across, as well as interrogate traditional discipline boundaries in innovative ways’.
- promote a curriculum supported by scholarship, staff development and a research culture that provides breadth and depth of intellectual inquiry and debate.
- assist you to develop cognitive and transferable skills relevant to their vocational and personal development.
Staff interests broadly fit within the parameters of American literature, American history, American film and American politics, although we actively welcome interdisciplinary projects that investigate several areas of study. Current strengths in American Studies at Kent are: Native American literature and culture; African-American history; slavery and the Atlantic world; the American West; US environmental issues; US visual culture; Disney and recreation; American realist fiction; modern American poetry; US immigration politics; American science fiction; Hollywood; US foreign policy.
The American West
Kent is the only UK institution to operate a research cluster on the American West, with five members of the Centre specialising in trans-Mississippi studies. The research cluster engages in pioneering work on Native American literature, Western films and video games, female frontiering and several other elements of the Western experience.
The Study of US Environmental Issues
US environmental history is a relatively new field of study, but of increasing importance. Our two environmental specialists work on wildlife management, animal studies, nuclear protest and concepts of ecological doomsday.
The Study of Race, Ethnicity and Borders
The Centre has a long history of studying race and ethnicity. Currently, six members of the team cover a range of topics that include African-American political, cultural and social history, Native American literature, Latin American relations and immigration writing and politics.