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The graduate program in American Studies provides rigorous yet flexible training in a range of theoretical perspectives and research methodologies building on the interdisciplinary history of our scholarly pursuit. We prepare and encourage students to explore the complex, variable, and contested nature of what it means to be American. We recognize that this requires examining many kinds of evidence derived from multiple sources and genres (archival materials, oral history, literature, popular culture, music, art, food, bodily movement and adornment, landscape, architecture, belief), accessed via multiple methodologies (historical, literary, ethnographic, and digital) and analyzed via theoretical perspectives that attend to esthetics and politics; race, gender, and sexuality; region and transnational connection. The program prepares both those who aim to teach at the college and university levels in American Studies and related fields (including Southern Studies, American Indian Studies, literature, history, art history, cultural studies, folklore, and the social sciences) and those who aim to pursue careers in museums, historical sites, archives, libraries, or publishing or to apply American Studies perspectives in other professional settings.

All American Studies Ph.D. students two required courses that provide grounding in the history, theory, and methodologies of American Studies. Students choose additional coursework in accordance with their specific interests, and each student develops three individual areas of specialization, drawing on the strengths of the department and of cognate departments at UNC-CH, including art, cultural studies, literary studies, intellectual history, religious studies, Southern Studies, American Indian and Indigenous Studies, Folklore, African-American Studies, and Digital American Studies. Students take comprehensive examinations in two areas of specialization. A professional portfolio in the other area of specialization—a syllabus, design for a museum exhibit or digital humanities project, or a policy white paper—constitutes the third exam.

AMST 700 with Prof. Tim Marr, Spring 2015.
AMST 702 with Professor Tim Marr, Spring 2015.


We admit candidates for study toward the Ph.D. only. Students who enter with a B.A. complete a research project and earn an M.A. as part of their progress toward the Ph.D. Students who enter with an M.A. in American Studies or a closely related field may apply to transfer up to 9 hours of approved graduate credit toward the doctoral degree. In addition to coursework, requirements for the Ph.D. include competency in one language other than English or demonstrated proficiency in an applicable skill, two written and oral qualifying examinations, a dissertation prospectus, and the dissertation.


Please see our Ph.D. Timeline and Requirements document for more details.