Centre for American Studies

Postgraduate study

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MA in American Studies

This Masters provides an opportunity for students to deconstruct the American experience at an advanced level and work with scholars from a range of different disciplines.  Building on the longstanding and successful undergraduate programme in American Studies at the University of Kent as well as a vibrant research community of Americanists working in History, English, Politics, Film, and Hispanic Studies, this Masters brings a fresh and dynamic approach to postgraduate study.  One of the few of its kind in the UK to offer a transnational perspective, the programme interrogates, challenges and moves beyond the Exceptionalist rhetoric and nation-state ideology of traditional American Studies to consider the USA (and its neighbours) in an insightful, challenging and relevant way.

Students will develop specialist knowledge and research skills in a range of disciplines as they navigate complex historical, cultural, geo-political, and environmental issues.  A Masters in American Studies offers the chance to study the United States in a fresh way, as well as consider the Americas more broadly.  This 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 as well as a solid foundation for graduate work at MPhil or PhD level.   

The masters programme

Our interdisciplinary Masters can be studied on a full or a part-time basis.  Students take 180 credits (over one or two years).  Applicants should possess an upper second class honours degrees (2.1) in a relevant humanities or social science subject.

All students take the core course ‘Transnational American Studies: Methods and Approaches’ (30 credits), 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 for this course includes an extended essay, seminar presentation and a critical review of an academic research paper.

Students select 90 credits from a range of optional modules, spread across at least two disciplines.  Optional modules vary year to year. Below is a selection of current modules on offer:

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.  Students will have the opportunity to present their ideas as part of workshop sessions on ‘researching’ American Studies’ in the core course, and will receive supervision from an academic specialist. 

Research environment

American Studies at Kent boasts a vibrant and active research community.  The Centre dates back to 1973 and, over the last thirty years, has developed a strong intellectual culture that focuses on interdisciplinary study.  Our scholars frequently cross ‘the pond’ to visit archives and institutions of research, while Kent’s Templeman Library contains research collections on slavery, Native Americans and the West, and photography/visual materials.  American Studies operates open lectures and workshops and students are encouraged to attend research seminars in their ‘major’ schools of study.

Interested in all study relating to the Americas, the Centre for American Studies maintains particular expertise in three areas:

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American Studies MA, MPhil, PhD (all by research)

The Centre for American Studies dates back to 1973 and over more than forty years we have developed a strong research culture that matches the commitment of Kent University to interdisciplinary study as well as the mandate of American Studies to explore the US experience in innovative, ground-breaking ways. Our team of scholars maintain close links with a number of US research institutions, and includes several alumni of the Fulbright programme. Kent University's Templeman Library features impressive collections on slavery, Native American culture, and photography/visual materials, as well as an extensive archive of historical newspapers. For postgraduate researchers, we offer the Christine and Ian Bolt Scholarship that covers the expenses of one year of research in the United States.

In recent years, members of the Centre for American Studies have received research funding from various bodies, including the Leverhulme Trust, the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Wellcome Foundation and the Fulbright Commission. Our students have been funded through the AHRC by CHASE (Consortium for the Humanities and Arts, South-East England), and by internal studentships such as the Vice-Chancellor’s scholarship scheme.

The Centre for American Studies is home to several journals, The European Journal of American Culture, edited by John Wills, and Transmotion, edited by David Stirrup.

The research of the Centre for American Studies falls into four overlapping clusters:

Space and Environment

This research cluster addresses questions of space and identity in the Americas by asking how particular environments, from parks and urban spaces to reservations, regions and states, shape cultures and are represented by them.

Examples of current and recent research projects in this cluster include John Wills’ work on environmental catastrophe in the United States, Karen Jones’s on the cultural history of hunting, and their collaborative work on the West. In 2016-17, the Centre hosted an honorary research fellow, Monica Manolescu, whose current research examines the mapping of urban space in post-war U.S. literature, art and culture.  Two Leverhulme-funded research networks also contribute to this area, led by Natalia Sobrevilla Perea on war and nation in South America and by David Stirrup on the Canada-US border.

Migration, Borders and the Transnational

The Centre has become a major interdisciplinary hub for transnational American Studies, with many of our scholars examining the movement, circulation and exchange of people, objects and cultural practices across borders.

Recent and forthcoming research monographs in this cluster include Ben Marsh’s Unravelling Dreams: Silkworms and the Atlantic World (Cambridge University Press, 2017), and Will Norman’s Transatlantic Aliens: Modernism, Exile and Culture in Mid-century America (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016).  David Stirrup’s Leverhulme-funded research network on “Culture and the Canada-US Border” has also made an important contribution to this work. Patricia Novillo-Corvalan’s research on the transnational reception of James Joyce and Jorge Luis Borges, Martin Hammer’s on the transatlantic art world after 1960 and Andrew Wroe’s on the politics of immigration further strengthen this area.

Race, Gender, Indigeneity

The Centre for American Studies has long been known for its scholarship on race and ethnicity in the Americas, a tradition currently evident in Stella Bolaki’s co-edited volume on the black feminist Audre Lorde, Audre Lorde’s Transnational Legacies, and in Natalia Sobrevilla Perea’s recent work on racial and ethnic identities in twentieth-century South America. The Centre carries strong interests in questions of indigeneity, and is host to the journal Transmotion, which is dedicated to the study of Native and First Nations writing. It is also dedicated to exploring the cultural formation and politics of gender and sexuality, for example in Tamar Jeffers Macdonald’s work on Doris Day as cultural icon, and Sean Grattan’s scholarship on queer theory.

Cultural Forms, Cultural Politics

This cluster represents the wide variety of work in the centre that is focused on questions of cultural forms, aesthetic and politics in North and South America, from literature and film to music and video games. Indicative recent publications in this area include Michael Collins’ 2016 book The Drama of the American Short Story 1800-1865 (Michigan University Press, 2016) and Peter Stanfield’s The Cool and the Crazy: Pop Fifties Cinema (Rutgers University Press, 2015). Ben Curry’s current research on the blues artist Robert Johnson, and Will Rowlandson’s work on literature and film related to the Cuban revolution add to our strengths in this cluster. John Wills’ scholarship on video games and leadership of the Games Studies Network also complements this area.

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Centre facilities

American Studies benefits from excellent library resources, and is especially strong in US literature and history. Specialist collections include slavery and anti-slavery, a large collection of works on photography and contemporary visual communications, and a slide library with well over 100,000 classified slides. The Library also houses the British Cartoon Archive. Kent is within easy reach of London and its major library resources.

Postgraduate students have access to the resources provided by the main parent departments: the School of English and the School of History. Both departments run regular research seminars for discussing postgraduate work in progress and other topics. There is also a postgraduate office dedicated to American Studies Postgraduates.

There are University Wide Training Programmes for all Postgraduates, for further information please go to following link:http://www.kent.ac.uk/graduateschool/skills

Entry requirements

A first or second class honours degree in an appropriate subject (for example, American Studies, History or English degrees with US study component).

Advice on writing research proposals

The first task in writing a research proposal for a PhD or MA-R project in American Studies is to consult the staff pages and locate a potential supervisor. In the Centre for American Studies, research students have their applications considered by the staff in one or more of the constituent Schools (English, History, Film, Latin American Studies, Politics). We recommend taking a look at the focus of each School as well as the Centre as a whole and showing, in your proposal, how your work will link with the Centre and with particular members of the Faculty. The best American Studies proposals position the proposed research project within the interdisciplinary framework of the Centre for American Studies.

Your research proposal is the main item we use to determine your suitability for joining us. If you write a strong and persuasive research proposal it will make it easier for us to see to where your interests lie and help indicate the individuals within the Research Centre who would make the best supervisory team for you.

Proposals should be no more than 500 words. They should demonstrate how your research seeks to intervene in an ongoing debate in American Studies or one of the disciplinary areas that comprise it. Even though a research proposal is the first attempt to outline an area of inquiry, the best proposals demonstrate some prior research into the topic – this may include the identification of possible archives and resources, a sense of weakness or oversight in recent approaches to the topic that your project might seek to remedy, or how a new methodology might cast new light on an older debate.

Below is a list of five points that should help you shape your proposal. You might consider the following points as 100 word paragraphs to help you structure the proposal, although they do no necessary have to come in this order.

  • Your proposal should describe briefly how the idea for your project is situates itself in relation to previous research and theory. The proposal should outline a specific programme of research/plan that addresses open research questions based on the research and theory you cite. Ideally in your research proposal you should come to a clear thesis statement or hypothesis.
  • Consider how your research might address particular issues that could be formulated as questions.
  • You should explain how you intend to investigate the research questions, and indicate where possible what methodologies you will be using. If travel will be required, say where? This section should identify resources and archives.
  • Please include information on some specific texts, authors or theorists that you intend to analyse or invoke in your study. This is very important as it helps “ground” the proposal and focus your area of research. Proposals that outline vague areas of inquiry without specifying texts are seldom successful.
  • One final piece of advice: A research proposal is a little like a job interview. It is not just about demonstrating what you know but convincing the Centre for American Studies that they can trust you to complete the project successfully within the time frame. Consequently, please be attentive to questions of syntax and grammar. It really does make a difference!

Best of luck!

Centre for American Studies


Admissions enquiries:

T: 01227 827272 
E: recruitment@kent.ac.uk

Centre enquiries:

Claire Taylor,
Centre for American Studies
Rutherford College
University of Kent
Kent, CT2 7NX

T: +44 (0)1227 823140

E: C.L.Taylor@kent.ac.uk

W: www.kent.ac.uk/amst/

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Funding Opportunities 2019-20

The following information relates to postgraduate funding opportunities within the Centre for American Studies for 2019/20 at both Doctoral and at MA level. Please note that the deadlines vary for the different awards.

CHASE PhD Scholarships

The University of Kent is proud to be part of the Consortium for the Humanities and the Arts South-East England (CHASE) which was awarded a £17million Doctoral Training Partnership by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) in October 2013. Our partners include The Courtauld Institute of Art, Goldsmiths, the Open University, and the Universities of East Anglia, Essex, and Sussex. CHASE is one of only 11 UK AHRC-funded Doctoral Training Partnerships and the partners have committed an additional £10million in studentship funding which allow CHASE to support over 375 PhD students in the arts and humanities across the partner institutions over five years. CHASE will offer students a wide range of exciting opportunities to gain professional experience, work across institutions and disciplines, and acquire advanced research skills. Further information is available at: www.chase.ac.uk

New students wishing to be considered for these scholarships must apply for a PhD place at the University of Kent by 11th January 2019 at the latest. Applicants are advised to discuss their research project with academic members of staff in the relevant schools as soon as possible. Any current PhD students wishing to be considered for AHRC funding should contact their School Director of Graduate Studies (with responsibility for research programmes) to advise them of this as soon as possible or by 11th January 2019 at the very latest.

Process and Timetable

Stage 1: All applications for PhD study received by relevant schools by 11th January 2019 will be considered for AHRC funding. Candidates shortlisted for the CHASE competition by academic schools will be invited to complete a CHASE application form by 28th January 2019 and interviews are expected to take place 6th, 7th or 8th February 2019. Candidates will be informed of the outcome as soon as possible following the interviews. Candidates successful at school-level interviews will have their applications submitted to the Kent CHASE Studentship Selection Panel.

Stage 2: The Kent CHASE Studentship Selection Panel will take place towards the end of February 2019 to decide which applications will be submitted to the consortium stage of the competition.

Stage 3: The final Kent shortlist of applications will go forward to the consortium stage of the competition at the beginning of March. Applications will be considered by CHASE selection panels comprising academic colleagues representing all seven CHASE member institutions. All candidates will be informed by the end of April 2019 about the outcome of their applications.

The University of Kent Vice Chancellor Research Scholarship

More information

For further information please contact:

Claire Taylor
Centre for American Studies Rutherford College, University of Kent Canterbury
Kent, CT2 7NX

Email: C.L.Taylor@kent.ac.uk

Alternatively, you can find all information regarding postgraduate scholarships on the postgraduate scholarships and loans website

The University of Kent has established a scholarship fund of £1.5m to support research students.  This fund allows the University to provide support for more than 100 students in any one year. The deadline for these scholarships will be TBC, with interviews to be held in the second part of April. All unsuccessful CHASE applicants (see previous section) will be automatically considered.

Successful applicants to the Centre for American Studies (see below for deadlines) are automatically eligible for consideration for one of a number of Humanities Faculty scholarships, which will cover tuition fees at the Home/EU rate plus a maintenance grant.  The maintenance grant will vary in amount, but the maximum may be the equivalent of that offered by the Research Council.

American Studies will be awarding a Vice Chancellor Research Scholarship to a student embarking on a PhD in October 2019. To be considered for this scholarship, you must apply to the American Studies PhD programme via the University’s online application pages before 20th January 2019. All applications received before this date will automatically be considered for this scholarship.

Criteria and how to apply

Candidates must hold a good Honours degree (First or 2i) or a Master’s degree at merit or distinction in a relevant subject or equivalent.

The scholarship competition is open to all new postgraduate research applicants, applying for September 2018 entry.

Current Kent research students are not eligible for this scholarship. 

UK, EU and overseas fee paying students are invited to apply. Please note that overseas students must have the appropriate documentations to evidence eligibility to work in the UK.

To be eligible for the American StudiesVice Chancellor Research studentship, candidates must submit their application for a PhD with American Studies at the University of Kent by the specified deadline. This must be done online via the Postgraduate Admissions web form

The Christine and Ian Bolt Scholarship

The Christine and Ian Bolt Scholarship was set up in memory of Christine Bolt, Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Kent, and was generously funded by her late husband, Ian Bolt.

The scholarship of up to £10,000 (to include tuition fees) will be offered for one year in support of a sustained period of research while in the USA. During this year the student must be registered on a full-time postgraduate degree (preferably research) at the University of Kent. In exceptional circumstances, the scholarship holder may be invited to re-apply for a further one year's funding.

It is aimed at full-time postgraduate students whose area of research has an American element and/or where the centre of expertise or an important source of research material is located in the United States of America. It is designed to enable the successful candidate to spend a sustained period of time researching their thesis in the United States. Preference will be given to research students and to candidates who have not had the opportunity to live or study for an extended period of time in the USA.

Scholarship applications from students of history are preferred, but we welcome students of any humanities or social science subject as long as there is a demonstrable American element to their thesis and/or candidates need to access research materials in the United States.

Criteria and how to apply

Please go to the following link on details of how to apply http://www.kent.ac.uk/scholarships/postgraduate/christine_bolt.html

University of Kent Global Challenges Doctoral Centre (GCDC) PhD Scholarship

The University of Kent is delighted to invite applications for 8 GCDC doctoral scholarships, starting in the academic year 2019-2020 (from September 2019).

The scholarship competition is open to all new postgraduate research applicants, in any discipline.

For more details about applying for the scholarship please see the Scholarships website.

Deadline for applications 20th January 2019

Other funding opportunities

There are a variety of other funding opportunities linked with studying for a research degree in American Studies at Kent:

  1. An American Studies postgraduate studentship, granted through your dominant School of study at Kent - currently you apply to either History or English depending on your research project. The University of Kent has established a studentship fund of more £1.5M to support research students. This fund allows the University to provide support for more than 100 students in any one year.
  2. External funding, such as the AHRC or British Academy. Travel grants are also available through the British Association for American Studies (BAAS).
  3. Part-time teaching opportunities in American Studies, History or English - where available.
  4. International student funding - see the postgraduate webpage.
  5. Centre Scholarship available in American Studies - further details please click here


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Fax +44 1227 827060, Telephone +44 1227 823140

Centre for American Studies (Room N3 S1), Rutherford College, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NX.
Send us an email from our mail form

Last Updated: 12/12/2018