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About Our Program

Our program emphasizes intersectionality as a mode of scholarship, mode of teaching, and mode of being. We value creative, ethically-centered, and community-focused work. 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, and belief), accessed via multiple methodologies (historical, literary, ethnographic, and digital) and analyzed via theoretical perspectives that attend to race, gender, and sexuality; aesthetics and politics; 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 American Indian Studies, literature, history, art history, cultural studies, and folklore) and those who aim to pursue careers in museums, historical sites, archives, libraries, publishing, or to apply American Studies perspectives in other professional settings.

All American Studies Ph.D. students take three required courses that provide grounding in the history, theory, and methodologies of American Studies. Students choose additional coursework inside and outside the department in accordance with their specific interests, and each student develops individual areas of specialization, drawing on the strengths of the department and peer departments at UNC-CH, including art, cultural studies, literary studies, intellectual history, religious studies, American Indian and Indigenous Studies, folklore, African American Studies, and more. Students take comprehensive examinations in two areas of specialization.

Students may complete a master’s degree on their way to their doctoral degree. 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 proficiency in one language other than English or a new skill, written and oral qualifying examinations, a dissertation prospectus, and the dissertation.

The M.A. program enables students both to gain a broad appreciation of the discipline of Folklore (including the complex history of the study of traditional or vernacular culture in a self-consciously modern and global world) and to develop expertise in a particular area of interest. Graduates of our program take jobs in the public sector, bring their folklorist’s eye to work in other professional fields as diverse as museum curatorship and medicine, and go on to further graduate work in Anthropology, Communication Studies, Film Studies, and Information and Library Science as well as in Folklore.

Core courses taught by the Folklore faculty offer students a perspective on the breadth of genres and issues addressed by our discipline. The three additional courses allow students to explore interdisciplinary connections and historical contexts for their thesis topics. These additional courses may be taught by Folklore faculty or may come from a variety of associated graduate programs, including Anthropology, Communications Studies, English and Comparative Literature, History, and Music. Students may also arrange to take courses at Duke University, including courses in the Department of Cultural Anthropology, ethnomusicology courses in the Department of Music, and courses offered by the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. Please see our MA Timeline and Requirements and Critical Literature Review documents for details.

We appreciate your interest in our Ph.D. Program in American Studies and M.A. Program in Folklore. We look forward to receiving your application. You submit your application electronically via the UNC Graduate School website. You are welcome to contact the Director of Graduate Studies or to email individual faculty members with whom you are interested in working. The DGS will be happy to answer your questions, help you learn more about specific aspects of our program in order to judge if our program is a good fit for you, and help you arrange a visit to Chapel Hill. We are always delighted to have prospective students sit in on classes and talk with individual faculty members and current students. The Ph.D. program in American Studies and the M.A. program in Folklore does not require GRE scores. Take a look at our application guide to learn more here.

Learn more about our Ph.D. timeline and requirements Click Here.
Learn more about our Folklore M.A. timeline and requirements Click Here.
Click Here to see UNC’s Graduate School Handbook.

We offer several fellowships that provide single-year awards to students pursuing particular areas of study.