American Studies is an interdisciplinary study that draws on several academic fields that must be included in order to ensure that students can understand and analyze American cultural identities and the changing relationship between the United States and the rest of the world.
The MA degree is a two year program and consists of the following courses:
- Theory and Method in American Studies. (10 ECTS)
- Themes in American Culture (10 ECTS)
- Themes in American History and Society (10 ECTS)
- Topics in American Studies, a team-taught course divided into two elements (2 x 10 ECTS)
- Elective 1 (10 ECTS)
- Elective 2 (10 ECTS)
- Elective 3 (10 ECTS)
- Special elective 4 (10 ECTS)
- Thesis (30 ECTS)
The Obligatory Courses
The course Theory and Method in American Studies provides an introduction to the discipline, with a focus on the common theoretical terminology and characteristic issues in American Studies. Working with representative works it helps the student to gain an insight into which theories and methods have been successfully deployed to understand US culture and society. This course is offered every autumn.
The course on Themes in American Culture provides knowledge about and general competence in American literature and culture. In the first half of the semester students take part in ordinary classroom teaching and discussion, with a focus on broad questions. Then, in the second half of the semester, each student is given the opportunity to explore a more specialized area, with faculty supervision, which the becomes the subject of either a research paper or an oral examination.
The course "Themes in American History and Society" is organized in parallel with the course on American culture. In the first half of the semester, students here too take part in ordinary classroom teaching and discussion, with a focus on broad questions and themes over a large chronological time span. After a midterm examination based on this material, in the second half of the semester students in consultation with the teacher select a more specialized theme, which either becomes the subject for a research paper or an oral examination.
The course Topics in American Studies is a double course, taught together by two faculty, one each from history and literature. This gives students the opportunity to explore a field from both points of view. This interdisciplinarity is characteristic of American Studies as a whole.
Freedom To Choose
In addition to the obligatory coursework, to complete the degree students select four elective courses (3 are "kursusfag" and 1 is a "valgfag") during the second and third semesters. You may choose among an array of courses that focus on various aspects of American society that are offered at SDU from not only the Center for American Studies but also other MA programs. In this way, students can give a special dimension to their degree, developing the areas of which their strongest interests lie.
The course areas could include the following:
a) The American political system, including the presidency, the most important federal institutions, the electoral system, the welfare system, and the like.
b) Regional identities, including how various regions have emerged, notably the Northeast, the South, the Middle West, and the West, and how these differences are manifested in culture, politics and economic differences.
c) Ethnic and racial minorities and cultures, including immigration history, the debate over immigration restriction, religious differences, and the literary and cultural expressions of multiculturalism.
d) Foreign policy, including its historical development, institutional expresion, and foreign policy debates.
e) Economics, including the central economic institutions and organizations, industrial history, comparative corporate culture, the labor market, and the complex relations between technology and culture.
f) Popular culture, including media, film, literature, and material culture.
g) Social and cultural history.
Go Out in the World
Students can also go on an exchange program with a university abroad (either in the United States or Europe) in the third semester, and take as many as three of the four elective courses there. In addition, it is possible to substitute an elective course with an internship (or project oriented work) with an institution or corporation, either abroad or in Denmark. For example, American Studies students have used this option to work at the Danish UN mission in New York City, in the American Congress, in the news department of Danish National Television, and at the Danish Embassy in Washington, DC.
One completes an American Studies MA degree by writing a thesis of between 60 and 100 pages. (Normally, these are written in English). Students select their topics in conjunction with an advisor, who remains in contact with them throughout the entire thesis research and writing process.
More about the course of study
Students will have between 8 and 12 hours of teaching per week, in the form of lectures and discussions. There will also be some student presentations, as well as occasional group work.