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American Studies MA

Course Description

The MA in American Studies at York St John University examines the concept of ‘Americanness’, through the use of the approach of ‘inter-disciplinarity’. It will demonstrate how a study of the United States requires a whole range of cultural and critical methodologies.

The United States remains the most powerful nation in the world, in terms of its economic, military and cultural influence. A glance around us will reveal the enduring appeal and enormous popularity of things American.

This degree will offer you an exciting as well as sophisticated programme which will encourage you to reflect critically upon the predominance of the United States over the last century or so in political, cultural, historical and literary terms and contexts. As a result, you will reflect on the unique status of American Studies as a truly inter-disciplinary subject area.

Course structure

This degree offers a tightly integrated programme with a selection of modules that will enrich your research methods and approaches in the American Studies subject-area. Whilst concentrating on the core aspects of American Studies you will be encouraged to pursue your research through avenues of related subjects (History, Literature and Film) forming a holistic, yet inter-disciplinary, approach. The modules offered emphasise a cross-fertilisation of subject areas, promoting an international perspective towards America, such as global concerns and transnational considerations, thus shifting from the original constructs of America, ‘American uniqueness’ and ‘exceptionalism’ (Brian Edwards, Globalising American Studies, 2010).

This programme is, therefore, well-suited to those students who prefer diversity to the narrower focus of a single-subject Master’s degree.

The suite of taught modules have been carefully constructed to take you on a series of journeys - from a discussion of American Studies itself as an approach, and then from the immediate localities, regions and borders of the United States, to the wider national and international settings. This will offer multi-perspective interpretations of the United States, internally, with its neighbours and with the rest of the world.

You will engage in an inter-connected sequence of debates which will lead you to a greater understanding of the complexity of the United States as a cultural construct as well as a geographical and political entity.


American Studies has a historical, literary, cultural and evidence-based approach which requires wide, critical reading and intelligent synthesis of ideas and information. It requires you to construct arguments in writing. You will receive critical and constructive comments on your progress as an integral part of teaching and learning, through individual meetings with tutors, feedback on written work or specific coursework tutorials.

We place importance on presentations so, as a transferable skill, you will present seminar papers extensively throughout the course of your modules. These will be used as a basis for feedback and will then feed into your written work. These exercises will develop your critical abilities as well as widen your familiarity with, and confidence in handling, a range of sources, preparing you for the modules’ summative assessment stage, and the final dissertation.

This programme places a strong emphasis on the development of independent research and writing. The programme’s assessment strategies are designed to develop independent research skills; the ability to structure and write a sophisticated critical essay and longer academic monographs, and the opportunity to pursue your own intellectual interests within each module’s thematic scope.


The programme will be taught in small seminar discussion groups. The small groups will encourage an intimate environment, where you will have plenty of opportunity to interact with your peers both orally and receptively. The tutors will establish the body of sources to be examined and will assign seminar papers to individuals or groups, but beyond these seminar papers you will be able to set the agenda on the basis of the material examined. We also place importance in presentations so, as a transferable skill, you will present seminar papers extensively throughout the course of your modules. These will be used as a basis for feedback and will then feed into your written work.

Visit the American Studies MA page on the York St John University website for more details!

Entry Requirements

Applicants should have a first degree in the subject or an equivalent area at 2:2 or above.International students will need to demonstrate that they have equivalent experience /qualifications as home students (ie the same entry criteria as above). If their first language is not English they must show evidence of English Language competence at IELTS level 6.0 (with no skill below 5.5) or equivalent.

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