American Studies

American Studies - BA (Hons)

UCAS code T702

2018

Discover America – its past, its present and what its future may hold. Study its history, examine its politics and discuss the influence of American culture. If the 20th century was ‘the American century’, what will America bring to the 21st?

2018

Overview

American Studies at Kent dates back to 1973. You are based in the Centre for American Studies and taught by internationally recognised academics, whose research interests combine to offer diverse programmes in American history, literature, politics and film.

American Studies is an interdisciplinary degree, which means that you learn by making connections between ideas and concepts across different disciplinary boundaries, such as history, politics, literature and the arts. This enriches your learning and gives you a wider perspective on your subject.

Our degree programme

In your first year, you take an introductory module and can then choose from a selection of modules on American History, literature and politics.

In your second year, you examine key themes in American culture and can then choose further modules from a wide selection available covering areas such as, environmental issues in the US, American cinema, 19th-century American literature, and the American Civil War.

In your final year, you complete an extended essay taking an interdisciplinary approach to your topic. Other modules can be chosen from a wide range in politics, (contemporary US government and US foreign policy); history, (the rise and fall of slavery, and the American revolution); literature (American crime fiction and Native American Literature) or Hispanic Studies (studying the work of Cuban writers and artists since the revolution).

A term abroad

In your final year, it is possible to spend a term studying at one of our partner institutions in the US. We have links with top universities in the US, Canada and Latin America.

Year abroad

We also offer four-year programmes where you spend a year between your second and final years at one of our partner universities in the US or Canada. For details, see American Studies (History) and American Studies (Literature). It is also possible to spend a year studying in Latin America on our American Studies (Latin America) option.


Independent rankings

American Studies at Kent was ranked 6th in The Complete University Guide 2017.

For graduate prospects, American Studies at Kent was ranked 2nd in The Complete University Guide 2017. American Studies students who graduated from Kent in 2015 were the most successful in the UK at finding work or further study opportunities (DLHE).

In the most recent research rankings, English at Kent was 10th in the UK for research intensity and 15th for research power; history at Kent was 8th in the UK for research intensity and in the top 20 for research power (REF 2014).

Teaching Excellence Framework

Based on the evidence available, the TEF Panel judged that the University of Kent delivers consistently outstanding teaching, learning and outcomes for its students. It is of the highest quality found in the UK.

Please see the University of Kent's Statement of Findings for more information.

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Course structure

The following modules are indicative of those offered on this programme. This listing is based on the current curriculum and may change year to year in response to new curriculum developments and innovation.  

On most programmes, you study a combination of compulsory and optional modules. You may also be able to take ‘wild’ modules from other programmes so you can customise your programme and explore other subjects that interest you.

Stage 1

Modules may include Credits

This module provides students with an understanding of the American experience in a critical and academic fashion. Emphasis throughout the module is interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary thought, which is central to American Studies as an academic discipline. A wide range of approaches are taken to further students understanding of American life through different theories, pathways and academic criticism. This module establishes a firm base from which American Studies students can proceed to Stage II modules, while also providing students from other degree programs with a good understanding of the United States and the American Studies discipline. The module also includes study sessions to further students' academic skill sets.

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This module emphasizes the links between literature, history, and culture. It introduces students to the formative events, debates and struggles of the twentieth century, and how these have been addressed by different modes of creative and critical writing. Topics such as Modernism, the Holocaust, the US culture industry, postcolonial studies and neoliberalism will be considered and discussed in relation to fictional and critical literature, films, photography, graphic novels, music, and other media. Weekly screenings will run alongside lectures and seminar discussions. Literary works across all genres will be read in relation to visual material – such as paintings, photography, feature and documentary films – and a range of selected critical reading. The majority of writing samples are drawn from English, American and more broadly Anglophone writing, though several instances of writing in other languages will also be included (all taught in translation).

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This module aims to emphasize connections between literature and culture in the USA, from early considerations of a distinct American literature to the present day. By way of six key themes or preoccupations, the module will introduce students to some of the major debates and antagonisms, and rhetorical and stylistic modes, that have formed and modified American literary and intellectual culture Questions of Belief, Gender, Race, Economy, Space, and Time will be approached through a range of textual forms set against their historical contexts and within the broader nexus of cultural production including the visual performing arts where appropriate. Students will be encouraged to examine the specific local, regional, and national frameworks within which these texts are produced, but also to look at the ways in which they resist and transcend national boundaries, in the development of an American register in world literatures for instance.

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This year-long course examines some of the most significant writing of the Romantic period (1780-1830) - a period in which the role and forms of literature were being redefined - alongside recent debates in critical theory. You will study a wide range of literary texts from the poetry of Blake, Wordsworth and Keats to the novels of Jane Austen and Mary Shelley, with reference to contemporary literary and political debates and against the backdrop of the period’s turbulent history. In parallel, this module explores fundamental critical questions about literature: Why read it? What is an author? What is the role of poetry in society? How is literature shaped by culture? What is ‘Art’? Continuities and disjunctions between Romantic writers’ answers to these questions and those provided by more recent literary theorists will be a central concern of the course.

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This course aims to draw on both the history and theory of art in order to present a wide range of contemporary forms of art and artistic practice, and to articulate some key distinctions useful for addressing the question of the place of art in culture. In particular, a discussion of ideas of the avant-garde, of modernity and postmodernism will be relevant here. The course will explore, through pursuing general themes and case studies of particularly controversial art objects, the different means by which our notions of art and of the artist are 'framed' today, and it will therefore both inform students' broader study of the history of art and complement their individual artistic practice.

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This course aims to draw on both the history and theory of art in order to present a wide range of contemporary forms of art and artistic practice, and to articulate some key distinctions useful for addressing the question of the place of art in culture. In particular, a discussion of ideas of the avant-garde, of modernity and postmodernism will be relevant here. The course will explore, through pursuing general themes and case studies of particularly controversial art objects, the different means by which our notions of art and of the artist are 'framed' today, and it will therefore both inform students' broader study of the history of art and complement their individual artistic practice.

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The module is intended as an introduction to the History of Art, as a body of visual artefacts and as an academic discipline. It is intended to be accessible to those with little or no previous experience, but also stimulating and informative to students with more background knowledge. The approach is chronological, focussing on a sequence of canonical works of art produced within the Western tradition. Such works provide a frame for introducing students to many of the basic analytical concepts and terms routinely deployed by art historians in describing, analysing and interpreting works of art: period, style, iconography, meaning, material/medium, technique, composition, creative process, representation, tradition, social function, patronage, genre etc.

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The module is intended as an introduction to the History of Art, as a body of visual artefacts and as an academic discipline. It is intended to be accessible to those with little or no previous experience, but also stimulating and informative to students with more background knowledge. The approach is chronological, focussing on a sequence of canonical works of art produced within the Western tradition. Such works provide a frame for introducing students to many of the basic analytical concepts and terms routinely deployed by art historians in describing, analysing and interpreting works of art: period, style, iconography, meaning, material/medium, technique, composition, creative process, representation, tradition, social function, patronage, genre etc.

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This course aims to provide students with an introduction to aesthetics and the philosophy of art. The first part of the course focuses on some of the major texts in the history of the philosophy of art in the western tradition (e.g., Plato's Republic, Aristotle’s Poetics, Hume’s Of the Standard of Taste and Kant’s Critique of Judgement). The second part of the course focuses on central contemporary debates in the philosophy of art (e.g., What is Art? Artistic and Aesthetic Evaluation and the problem of forgery, Intention and Interpretation, Ethical criticism of art, Art and Emotion, Art and Feminism.) The student will be encouraged to see connections between the two parts of the module and to understand how contemporary debates (both philosophical and those found in the public opinion and art criticism) can be traced back to or even helpfully illuminated by old and contemporary philosophical debates.

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This course aims to provide students with an introduction to aesthetics and the philosophy of art. The first part of the course focuses on some of the major texts in the history of the philosophy of art in the western tradition (e.g., Plato's Republic, Aristotle’s Poetics, Hume’s Of the Standard of Taste and Kant’s Critique of Judgement). The second part of the course focuses on central contemporary debates in the philosophy of art (e.g., What is Art? Artistic and Aesthetic Evaluation and the problem of forgery, Intention and Interpretation, Ethical criticism of art, Art and Emotion, Art and Feminism.) The student will be encouraged to see connections between the two parts of the module and to understand how contemporary debates (both philosophical and those found in the public opinion and art criticism) can be traced back to or even helpfully illuminated by old and contemporary philosophical debates.

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The module will focus primarily on the period from the 18th century onwards but will begin with an outline treatment of the British colonies in North America from initial European settlement. Interactions between Native American, African, African-American and European populations will be emphasised in the colonial period. Thereafter the module is pursued via the first anti-colonial revolution in modern history and the creation of a new nation and concludes with the reconstitution of the nation after a bloody civil war and on the eve of large-scale industrialisation.

Themes include the causes and consequences of the Revolution, the new political system, the development of mass democracy, economic development and territorial expansion into the West, reform movements, sectional conflict between North and South, slavery, the Civil War and the re-establishment of a national order during Reconstruction.

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The module will introduce the students to the history of the U.S during its dramatic rise to industrial and international power. Beginning with the transformation of the U.S into an urban industrial civilisation at the end of the 19th Century, it ends with a review of the American position at the beginning of the 21st century.

Themes include early 20th century reform, the rise to world power by 1918, prosperity and the Depression, the New Deal, war and Cold War, race relations, Vietnam, supposed decline and resurgence from Nixon to Reagan, the end of the Cold War, and the Clinton Administration.

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This module has two aims:

1) to contribute towards equipping the students with the necessary practical and intellectual skills for them to think and write as historians at an undergraduate level;

2) to encourage them to think reflectively and critically about the nature of the historical discipline, its epistemological claims, and why we, as historians, do what we do in the way we do it. This will be achieved through four blocks of seminars and lectures.

These will cover:

• The practice of history, introducing history at university level at both a practical and conceptual level.

• Historical methodology. This will cover the development of university history in the nineteenth century and how this differed from the study and writing of history that had gone before. It will also consider the impact of the Social Sciences on the historical profession during the twentieth century.

• The varieties of history. This will examine some of the major themes and approaches, such as Marxism or nationalism, in modern historical scholarship.

• Beyond history. The final block will consider the ‘linguistic turn’ and new ways of studying and writing history in the twenty-first century.

A fifth component, concentrated in the first three or four weeks of the module, will provide training in core, practical skills (library and bibliographic skills, IT skills and the use of MyFolio and PDP).

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The course introduces students to the language of film, from aspects of mise-en-scène (setting, performance, costumes, props, lighting, frame composition) to framing (camera movement, shot scale, lenses), sound (fidelity, volume, timbre) and editing (from requirements for spatial orientation through matches on action, eyeline matches and shot-reverse-shot structures to temporal manipulations through ellipsis and montage). The study of these elements enables students to understand the spatial and temporal construction of films, as well as the stylistic, expressive and/or dramatic functions of specific strategies.

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The module studies the emergence and consolidation of the studio system in Hollywood, between the coming of sound in 1929 until the collapse of the studios in 1960.. Studied topics will include the rise of the star system; the emergence of genres; self-regulation and censorship; developments in technology; and changes in audience. Examination will be made of the development of the 'classic Hollywood cinema' style of film against the backdrop of varying contexts of production, distribution, exhibition and regulation. A focus on genres (such as the gangster film, western and musical) in their various phases of development and permutation will be a lens for student understanding of the importance of standardization. Studio development and collapse are also seen in broader historical and political contexts, enabling students to appreciate the forces that motivated film production, distribution and exhibition during the period.

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This module approaches the "big questions" that have surrounded film and the moving image and puts them into historical context. Although specific topics will vary, representative topics may address competing definitions of film and its constitutive elements, the effects that cinema has on spectators, the social, cultural and political implications that moving images reproduce, and the status of the medium between art and entertainment. Students will debate seminal writings on the nature of film and bring their arguments to bear on exemplary film productions.

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This course examines film history and historiography through a series of case studies. In carrying out this investigation students will be invited to work with secondary and primary sources held in the library and will be encouraged to evaluate the aesthetic, technological, economic, social and political histories presented in this module. Students will understand the role and value of the contextual study of film and will be given the opportunity to research and write on selected aspects of film historiography. The choice of case studies will depend upon the expertise of the module convenor and is not restricted to a particular national cinema or period; case studies may include, for instance, the history of film by means of the study of a particular theme and cultural context in the history of film.

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This module examines the origins and development of the major popular musical styles that have emerged in the twentieth century, with a focus on the synthesis of African and European musical elements on the American continent. The module will explore the full complexities of the idea of the popular and the shifting and contested meanings of genre and style. Links between oral traditions of music making, musical literacy, technology and changes in popular musical styles will be made.

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This module introduces first year undergraduate students to some of the key historical events of modern history, and related debates and questions that have occupied the discipline of International Relations (IR). The focus is on communicating a few key themes, ideas, issues and principles that recur throughout the history of the last hundred years, and that cut across various theoretical approaches and different schools of thought. These key ideas include: war, conflict, violence and terror; international reformism; the nature of international order under conditions of anarchy; the balance of power; the influence of ideology on international affairs and on theorising; the tension between order and justice in the international sphere; and the nature of imperialism and its effects. Exploration of these themes, ideas, and issues emerges through analysis of the World Wars, the Cold War, decolonisation and the emergence of the US as the world's sole superpower in the post-Cold War era. The course places an emphasis on historical events between the global North and South, as these events often led to dramatic shifts and changes in international relations and foreign policy. Students will be encouraged to identify significant continuities and changes in international politics across the period studied.

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The module introduces students to the empirical study of the key structures, institutions and processes in political life. It does so through the lens of the comparative method, in which political systems are compared and contrasted to test hypotheses about the factors producing similarities and differences across countries and over time. The module first introduces the comparative method, and then discusses the different ways in which political systems can be organized and classified. It focuses on the three key powers in all political systems – executive, legislative and judicial – the ‘intermediate’ actors that link people to their governments, namely political parties, interest groups and the media, and how citizens behave politically in relations to such institutions and actors. Throughout the module, students are encouraged to identify the factors and the processes leading to different political outcomes across states and over time and to use both qualitative and quantitative data to support their arguments.

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You have the opportunity to select wild modules in this stage

Stage 2

Modules may include Credits

This module will focus upon the historical and cultural reputations of a number of important figures and concepts in American Studies, from Columbian encounter to the twenty-first century. As well as locating these figures (or alternative subjects such as places or ideas) in the context of their own times, the module will also assess the subsequent significance and meaning attached to their lives through the differing interpretations of scholars, writers, artists, filmmakers and the public. The module's focus is on the construction of reputations, using individual subjects as a prism for isolating distinctive moments in the evolution of American identities and discourses. It will deploy a variety of documentary sources, visual representations (including artwork and film), and electronic resources to convey a sense of past individual, national and cultural identities. It will expose tensions between regional, national, and transnational understandings of reputation, and the subjects match up with themes explored in EN303.

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When the Long Island-born poet Walt Whitman proclaimed in 1855 that the “United States” were history’s “greatest poem” he made an important connection between national political culture and literary expression. In some ways this was no exaggeration. As a new experiment in politics and culture, the United States had to be literally written into existence. Beginning with Thomas Jefferson’s dramatic Declaration of Independence in 1776, followed by the drafting of the Constitution after the Revolutionary War with Britain, the project of shaping the new United States in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was essentially a literary one.

In this module we will explore how American writers in this period tried in numerous, diverse ways to locate an original literary voice through which to express their newfound independence. At the same time, the module includes the work of writers who had legitimate grievances against the developing character of a new nation that still saw fit to cling to such “Old World” traditions as racialized slavery, class conflict and gender inequality.

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This module aims to introduce students to a wide range of contemporary literature written in English, where 'contemporary' is taken to refer to twenty-first century work. It will equip students with critical ideas and theoretical concepts that will help them to understand the literature of their own time. Students will consider examples of a range of genres: poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction and the essay. They will also be selectively introduced to key ideas in contemporary theory and philosophy. Over the course of the module, students will be encouraged to read texts in a number of contexts. They will consider writers’ responses to, for instance, questions of migration, environmental change, and financial crisis. They will also consider a range of aesthetic developments and departures, for example: new conceptualism and the claim to unoriginality; archival poetics; the turn to creative non-fiction; the re-emergence of the political essay. The module will not focus on a given national context. Instead it will set contemporary writing against the background of identifiably international issues and concerns. In so doing it will draw attention to non-national publishing strategies and audiences. Overall, the module will aim to show how writers are responding to the present period, how their work illuminates and reflects current cultural concerns. The weekly topics will often alternate between thematic and formal concerns.

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This course will introduce students to the field of postcolonial literature, focusing on the period from the late nineteenth century to the present day. The module will be divided into three consecutive areas: empire and colonisation (three weeks); liberation movements and the processes of decolonisation (either three or four weeks); and migration and diaspora (either three or four weeks). Centred primarily on canonical British colonial texts, the first part of the course may also involve comparison with other less familiar texts and contexts, such as those of Zionist nationalism and settler colonialism, or more popular twentieth-century imperial fantasy and adventure genres. The texts in the second part of the module will be drawn primarily from Africa, the Carribean, the Middle East, and South Asia. The intention is to allow students to bring these disparate regions and texts into a productive dialogue with each other by reflecting on their shared history of decolonisation and their common engagement with colonial and liberation discourses. The course further aims to sketch a narrative of empire and decolonisation that is in part relevant to contemporary postcolonial Britain, to which the final section on migration and diaspora then returns. Some brief extracts from theoretical material on colonial discourse analysis, decolonisation, postcoloniality and migration will be considered alongside a single primary text each week. Students will be introduced to key ideas from the work of (among others) Edward Said, Frantz Fanon, Homi Bhabha, Stuart Hall and Gayatri Spivak. Together with a broad primary textual arc stretching from the British empire to postcolonial Britain, the course will thus give students a cohesive intellectual narrative with which to explore changing conceptions of culture, history, and postcolonial identity across the modern world.

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This course introduces students to the fiction (novels, novellas, and short stories) of some of the most influential twentieth- and twenty-first- century Latin American writers. The module ranges from Borges to the extraordinary literary phenomenon or explosion of the 'Boom generation', the post-Boom novel, and the recently acclaimed Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño (all studied in English translation). The course offers students the unique opportunity to study a fascinating corpus of literature celebrated for its creative innovation, fictional games, puzzles, labyrinths, fabulous and supernatural events, multiple storytellers, and magical realist writing. The course also addresses questions of gender, class, and social, cultural, and technological changes, as well as representations of identity, subjectivity, time, space, and landscape.

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This module is a study of twentieth-century American literature and culture organized conceptually around the idea of modernity. Students will explore the interconnections between modernity in the United States and the literary and philosophical ideas that shaped it (and were shaped by it) from the start of the century to its close. At the core of the module will be a necessary focus on two versions of American modernity, broadly represented by New York and Los Angeles respectively. Novels, works of art and critical texts will be read alongside one another to explore how these major regional hubs of aesthetic and cultural output developed competing conceptions of "modernity", “American culture” and the place of “the urban” in twentieth-century life, with important effects on contemporary perceptions of the USA. Moving beyond a sense of “modernism” as simply an aesthetic challenge to nineteenth-century modes of romanticism and realism, to consider the embeddedness of “modernist” literature within the particularities of its cultural and historical moment, students will be asked to develop a more nuanced approach to critical reading that pays close attention to the role of differing conceptions of modernity in the USA. The rise of mass culture, the L.A. film industry, the importance of Harlem to the history of race, the role of the intellectual, the urban challenges of the automobile, the birth of the modern American magazine, and questions of conservation and “creative destruction” in cities will all be considered through readings of key novels and critical texts from what Time Magazine editor Henry Luce famously called “The American Century”.

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The curriculum works systematically through the exploration and settlement of different regions, with weekly material covering particular migratory pathways, including Chesapeake planters, New England puritans, pirates and settlers in the Caribbean, and other seminal cultural zones including attention to the Middle Colonies and the Lower South. Introductory coverage will explore the "prehistory" of British colonialism through an examination of the plantation of Ulster, and other aspects of migration and imperialism will be treated through engagement with the Scottish experiment at Darien and English attempts to gain footholds in West Africa. The curriculum will concentrate on particular themes to help sustain integrity across this diffuse oceanic domain: encounters with indigenous peoples, Atlantic imperialism, settlement demographics, and cultural folkways. The final weeks of the course will treat points of convergence and integration, including the growth of cities, religious movements, political commonalities, and the eighteenth-century wars for empire in the Atlantic, culminating in the Peace of Paris of 1763.

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Week 1: introduction

Weeks 2-6 (including Study Week) German Wars of Unification, 1864-1870

Weeks 7-12 American Civil War

Both sets of conflicts will be examined through a series of themes: political management of war in the second half of the nineteenth century; the nature of generalship and command; the issues of logistics, communications and military medicine; the experiences of front-line troops; the management and attitudes of home fronts

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This course will examine this key era of US history by examining the key political and social events, developments in the history of ideas and historiographical controversies from the victory over Mexico to the final withdrawal of US troops from the South. It will focus on the changes that occurred and the changing interpretations of them. Students will be able to see the interplay of forces and ideas that led to a conflict that few, if any, wanted and lasted for longer than anyone expected. Historical and fictional depictions in art and film will be evaluated for the ways they shape perspectives. The key historical topics include the rise of slavery as a public issue in the late 1840s, the attempts to find compromise within the Constitutional framework, the activities of the extremists, the changing nature and goals of the war, the effects the war had on both sides, the plans for the post-war period, the changing elite and popular attitudes, the nature of the final, pragmatic arrangements that the country accepted. Students will be able to pursue topics of their choice alongside and as part of these themes.

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This module will explore the American West, looking at the social and economic dynamics underlying Western history, together with processes of environmental transformation. The unit spans a chronological period from 1803 – the Louisiana Purchase - to 1893 – the date of the Chicago Exposition and Turner’s famed ‘Frontier thesis’. Commencing with a look at constructions of the West in history, literature and film, the module will move on to critically analyse key issues and moments in Western History including the Lewis and Clark expedition, the Gold Rush, and the Indian Wars. Outline themes include the construction of regional identities, protracted conflicts for resources, environmental changes, and the continuing importance of the West as a symbolic landscape. A key aim of the course lies in facilitating critical discussion on the process of nineteenth-century westward expansion, addressing issues of colonial conquest, environmental despoliation, economic change, and social cohesion. Through lectures and seminars, we will explore the major themes of Western history in this period and examine relevant historiographical debates. Portrayals of the West in art, literature, and film will be used extensively to illustrate the diversity of Western culture and situate the importance of myth in shaping popular and historical discourse.

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Condemned by the international community for refusing to sign the Kyoto Accords, rendered powerless by electricity blackouts, and stricken by the Hurricane Katrina disaster, the United States of America is today embroiled in a narrative of environmental controversy and catastrophe. This module explores to what extent the USA has been ‘inviting doomsday’ throughout the modern (twentieth-century) period. Commencing with an introductory session on writing and researching American environmental history, the module is then split into four sections: Science and Recreation, Doomsday Scenarios, Environmental Protest, and Consuming Nature. Over the twelve weeks we will consider a range of environmental issues that include wildlife management in national parks, pesticide spraying on prairie farms, nuclear testing in Nevada, and Mickey Mouse rides in Disneyland. By the end of the module, we will have constructed a comprehensive map of the United States based around themes of ecological transformation, assimilation and decay.

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PO617 offers a comprehensive introduction to the politics and national government of the United States. It introduces students to the ‘foundations’ of the US political system, examining the history of the republic, its economy and society, the values and beliefs American people subscribe to, and the basic structure of the political system. We will also examine those ‘intermediate’ institutions (interest groups, parties, elections and the media) that link people to their government, and the three key institutions of the federal government: the Congress, Presidency and Supreme Court. Lastly, we focus on the policymaking process in the US. We will look at economic policy, civil rights and liberties and foreign policy, ask how and why policy is made as it is, and examine the extent to which the policy solutions produced by the political system are optimal.

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You have the opportunity to select wild modules in this stage

Stage 3

Modules may include Credits

This module is aimed at all students who have, throughout their first two or three years at Kent, developed academic interests in specific areas or case studies, that may, or may not, have been covered by the range of module options offered by the Centre. In the final year some of you have had the benefit of a semester/year's education in the United States or Canada. You will now be in a position to weave together the different disciplines that make up American Studies. The project must be clearly distinct from work submitted for previous modules. Students will be expected to demonstrate a wide-ranging knowledge of the chosen topic and to situate their own argument in relation to relevant critical debates.

The Extended Essay module is a 'self-study’ research-based module in which all students work independently on a research question based on primary source materials and under the supervision of a staff member in the Centre for American Studies. It is conceived as a specialist and in-depth piece of documentary work, which will culminate in a scholarly dissertation and is not tethered to a taught module.

Students will be expected to identify a cogent research question and assemble relevant materials for consultation, interrogate a range of sources and produce an extended piece of work (7,000 words of text, excluding footnotes, bibliography and appendices) that is grounded in interpretative analysis and based on primary research. Furthermore, the emphasis is on a multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary approach. You should bring together at least 2 different methodologies which focus on your chosen topic.

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Much recent academic and popular commentary has focused on citizens’ supposed mistrust of government, especially in the United States of America. The central aim of the Politics of Trust is to uncover the reasons for Americans’ malaise. However, students will also examine other western democracies where trust has fallen to see if these countries’ experiences can inform our understanding of the US case specifically and the politics of trust more generally. The course begins with a history of trust in America, with an overview of the putative reasons for declining trust in the post-World War II period, with an examination of the experiences of other western democracies. The second part turns to the specific explanations for declining trust as posited by academics and political commentators. Explanations include the crisis of government performance, spin, the internecine warfare between Republicans and Democrats, the changing nature of the modern labour market, declining social capital, and the media.

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This module offers a comprehensive study of US foreign policy since 1945. Ranging from ‘containment’, ‘democratic enlargement’, and ‘the war on terror’ the module introduces students to the concept of ‘grand strategy’ and the need to understand the broader intellectual platform and foundations of the way in which the United States engages with the world. A number of case studies are used to explore this such as the work of George Kennan, the Vietnam War, and the move towards ‘smart power’ under presidents Bush and Obama. In addition to this the course also explores questions on the social construction of state identity in the American national consciousness and how both the media and political elites help to shape public opinion and attitudes that relate to America’s ‘friends’, ‘allies’, and ‘enemies’. The course also explores the concept of ‘soft power’ as a method of extending American influence and power in the world and questions the idea of American decline.

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Condemned by the international community for refusing to sign the Kyoto Accords, rendered powerless by electricity blackouts, and stricken by the Hurricane Katrina disaster, the United States of America is today embroiled in a narrative of environmental controversy and catastrophe. This module explores to what extent the USA has been ‘inviting doomsday’ throughout the modern (twentieth-century) period. Commencing with an introductory session on writing and researching American environmental history, the module is then split into four sections: Science and Recreation, Doomsday Scenarios, Environmental Protest, and Consuming Nature. Over the twelve weeks we will consider a range of environmental issues that include wildlife management in national parks, pesticide spraying on prairie farms, nuclear testing in Nevada, and Mickey Mouse rides in Disneyland. By the end of the module, we will have constructed a comprehensive map of the United States based around themes of ecological transformation, assimilation and decay.

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This module explores the American West in the twentieth century, looking at social, political, economic and environmental dynamics. It plots the continuing evolution of the trans-Mississippi region in its 'developed' state (post the closure of the Frontier) as a geographical and an imagined space. A core aim lies in illuminating the West as a contested place party to many visions through discussion of such topics as Las Vegas and urban Cold War culture, the West, the militia movement, Western environmentalism and Red Power. Emphasis is placed on exploring the constructed mythology of the West via various modern mediums including Wild West shows, Disneyland and the cowboy brand in politics. Over the course of the module, we will engage with the Hollywood Western as an evolving product, situated in its twentieth-century context, as well as revisionist

scholarship on the region based around ideas of continuity versus change, ecological transformation and variegated Western identity.

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This course will examine this key era of US history by examining the key political and social events, developments in the history of ideas and historiographical controversies from the victory over Mexico to the final withdrawal of US troops from the South. It will focus on the changes that occurred and the changing interpretations of them. Students will be able to see the interplay of forces and ideas that led to a conflict that few, if any, wanted and lasted for longer than anyone expected. Historical and fictional depictions in art and film will be evaluated for the ways they shape perspectives. The key historical topics include the rise of slavery as a public issue in the late 1840s, the attempts to find compromise within the Constitutional framework, the activities of the extremists, the changing nature and goals of the war, the effects the war had on both sides, the plans for the post-war period, the changing elite and popular attitudes, the nature of the final, pragmatic arrangements that the country accepted. Students will be able to pursue topics of their choice alongside and as part of these themes.

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This module will be based around study of the German Wars of Unification (1864-1870) and the American Civil War. Both sets of conflicts will be examined through a series of themes: political management of war in the second half of the nineteenth century; the nature of generalship and command; the issues of logistics, communications and military medicine; the experiences of front-line troops; and the management and attitudes of home fronts.

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This special subject addresses the loyalists during the American Revolutionary era, who for a host of reasons remained wedded to king and empire, and sought to resist the tide of movement towards US independence using any means at their disposal – ideological, economic, spiritual, physical, and emotional. The loyalists, identified with the interests of the British Crown, were among the great losers during the Revolutionary War and at independence. Estimates of between 60,000-80,000 departed the U.S. at the end of the war, repatriating in clusters throughout the British Empire. Celebrated and long-studied in Canada, the American loyalists, have been vulnerable to "the condescension of posterity": for many decades vilified in nationalistic American narratives of the Founding Era, and absentmindedly overlooked in British imperial histories that looked to the Second Empire. They were a diverse lot, mobilised by diverse interests – including within their number thousands of Indians and slaves as well as wealthy whites, Anglicans, women, soldiers, ethnic minorities, and others who had benefited from royal patronage or who disparaged the Patriot movement. The subject's topicality resonates far beyond the academy, as shown by recent developments (e.g. Scottish and Quebecois referenda, Brexit and changing sentiments on Europe, and globally prominent issues of migration and refugee integration). We treat the culture of royalism and loyalty on the eve of the Revolution, the experiences and arguments of loyalists during the Revolution (including their military history and the battles for hearts and minds), the diasporic communities of loyalists who moved to the British Isles, Sierra Leone, Nova Scotia and elsewhere, and try also to contextualise perhaps as many as half a million loyalists who remained in or returned to the U.S. after the American Revolution, who faced the prospect of an awkward reintegration.

Besides working chronologically through these themes and issues, students taking this special subject will also develop skills, work in, and be assessed in palaeography and primary source analysis (consulting the Loyalist Claims), and digital humanities (pursuing the digital mapping of loyalists).

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This module will investigate "the Gothic" as a significant and recurring cycle within Hollywood film with recognisable tropes and themes, and a dominant tone and style. Beginning with the 1940s cycle of “Women's Gothic” which emerged at the same time as Film Noir, and visually and thematically overlapped with it, the module will explore the particularly filmic ways that such texts manage to evoke the menacing atmosphere and the tone of sexualised danger and suspense achieved by the Gothic’s source novels and short stories. Continuing from the original cycle of films, the module will examine later Hollywood films that have employed the themes and imagery of the Gothic to tap into similar complex anxieties and desires, before inspecting films from other cinemas (for example, those of Europe or Asia) which also make use of the dominant Gothic tropes.

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The module examines some key texts in the theory and literary presentation of utopia. In the first part of the module we will examine classic early utopian texts (Plato, More) and will set these in the context of the modern theory of historical progress (Hegel) the failure of that progress to materialise (Agamben) and the nature of hope for the future (Bloch). In the second part of the module, we will examine modern classics which look at the failure of the communist utopia (Zamyatin, Huxley, Orwell) and at later texts which revived the genre of utopia (LeGuin, Atwood).

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If the Bildungsroman has been criticised for being outmoded and conservative, how do contemporary writers interrogate and expand its scope and importance? Are coming-of-age narratives merely private stories or can they be read in ways which highlight their social functions, and what kind of theoretical, aesthetic and cultural perspectives can we apply to scrutinise these functions? This module will bring together a range of texts and films from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries that can be read within and against the literary tradition of the Bildungsroman or the coming-of-age narrative. Drawing on material from the US, the Caribbean, Asia and Europe, we will spend time analysing the representation of the coming-of-age experience in terms of content and form and assess the ideological functions of the Bildungsroman in a cross-cultural context. Particular attention will be given to questions of racial and ethnic identity, migration, colonialism, memory, trauma, belonging and sexuality. We will also explore the connection of the Bildungsroman with genres such as autobiography, family memoir, young adult fiction, graphic novel, and film. Writers studied in this module include Richard Wright, Jamaica Kincaid, Sandra Cisneros, Sherman Alexie, Jhumpa Lahiri, Marjane Satrapi, and we will watch films including My Beautiful Laundrette and Bend it Like Beckham.

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This module will bring together works of poetry and fiction by a number of black writers in the USA and Canada in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. With a particular emphasis on migration, music, and urban space, we will explore the intellectual, political, and aesthetic imperatives that drive these writers to address questions of race, ethnicity, gender, belonging, representation, poverty, privilege, and trauma.

Beginning in Harlem in the 1920s, the moment when “the Negro was in vogue”, students will examine the ways in which black Americans and Canadians have sought to make their impact on the literary landscape, by turns exposing and employing the power structures of the dominant culture. This comparative look at US and Canadian literatures, however, also challenges students to scrutinize the construction of literary and other categories, and to consider the commonality and distinctive difference between black experience north and south of the 49th parallel.

Lectures/workshops will emphasise discussion of key moments and movements in African American / African Canadian arts; the significance of linguistic distinctiveness; the cultural self-categorisation of black, African American, Africadian and Halfrican identities; and the rise of African American literary theory.

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The module is structured around poetry and fiction produced in New York since the Second World War. The emphasis is on New York's experimental and avant-garde traditions, and one organising principle is the inter-connectedness of the arts in New York. The module introduces students to some of the main areas of culture in the city, from the New York school of poetry through Abstract Expressionism, early Punk and on to post-modern fiction. Writers to be studied will include John Cage, Barbara Guest, William Burroughs, John Ashbery, Patti Smith and Paul Auster.

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This module explores the history and practice of crime fiction in the United States from Edgar Allan Poe in the 1840s through to the present day. Crime fiction will be understood broadly to encompass a range of generic categories such as detective, hardboiled and police procedural novels and stories. Attention will also be paid to developments in cinema and television which parallel those in fiction, such as film noir and the contemporary cop

series. Strong emphasis will be placed on historically informed reading and students will be encouraged to relate the close analysis of texts to shifts in narrative form as well as the establishment and transgression of generic conventions.

The study of American crime fiction reaches directly into the heart of many of the key concerns of undergraduate English. Questions about the distinctions between high and low culture, the seductiveness of particular narrative forms, and dialectic relations between literary and social history will all be addressed. Students will have the opportunity to read crime fiction alongside elements of Marxist, narrative and genre theory. Eventually they will

be able to consider how crime fiction has evolved in its engagement with questions of race, gender and sexuality in the United States, from the construction of white masculinity in the hardboiled genre to the policing of black communities in the neoliberal city.

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This course explores the intersections between nation, narration and globalisation in the twentieth and twenty-first century novel. It will focus this exploration through textual representations of 'the stranger', a figure theorised since the beginning of the twentieth century as symptomatic of modernity in European cultures, and more recently by postcolonial critics as the paradigm through which the effects of globalisation are ‘encountered’ in contemporary ‘multicultural’ national and transnational spaces. Students will be encouraged to analyse the historical and conceptual relations between novel and nation and the particular ways in which the body of ‘the stranger’ has been reified through them. At the same time, they will be invited to consider ‘the stranger’ as a disorientating embodiment of distance and proximity, and to evaluate how this dynamic constructs and deconstructs the form and boundaries of the novel as a genre, and the surrounding familial, national and racial paradigms of belonging. Through discussions of the theoretical work of writers such as Georg Simmel, Freud, Fanon, Edward Said, Judith Butler, Zygmunt Bauman, and Homi Bhabha, students will be asked especially to consider the mutual effects of estrangement across gendered, racial, and colonial divides. The broad aims of the course are to problematise ‘the stranger’ as a literary means of orientating the individual and the nation; to situate the twentieth and twenty-first century novel as a symptomatic site for ‘strange encounters’; and to understand the extent to which it poses ‘strangeness’ and ‘homeliness’ as inseparable, necessary and possible acts of narration.

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You have the opportunity to select wild modules in this stage

Teaching and assessment

Stage 1 modules are usually taught by lectures and seminars. Stage 2/3 modules are taught either by lectures and seminars, or by seminars alone. You usually have around ten hours of contact with staff each week.

Depending on the modules you select, assessment varies from 100% coursework (extended essays or dissertation), to a combination of examination and coursework, usually in the ratio 50:50, 60:40 or 80:20.

Programme aims

Our aims are to provide students with:

  • an understanding of the culture and history of the United States
  • a multi- and interdisciplinary understanding of American culture and history
  • a flexible, structured degree, with the opportunity to study abroad
  • teaching informed by research and scholarship to inculcate specialised regional knowledge
  • key skills to develop the capacity to learn and be prepared for employment or further study
  • the knowledge to develop students' own interests and expertise in the humanities with the possibility of continuing their studies at postgraduate level
  • the ability to develop independent critical thinking and judgement
  • the skills to operate across various disciplines, to use a variety of approaches in formulating and solving problems using diverse materials and information sources.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

You gain knowledge and understanding of:

  • the culture of the US from colonial times to the 20th century
  • methodical research and study practices
  • the study of the subject in relation to other disciplines
  • the terminology used in the field of American Studies
  • the similarities and differences between areas, fostering cross-cultural and international perspectives
  • texts and other source materials, addressing questions of genre, content, perspective and purpose
  • the problems inherent in the cultural record, and the limits within which interpretation is possible.

Intellectual skills

You gain the following intellectual abilities:

  • the application of the skills needed for academic study and inquiry
  • to evaluate research findings
  • the ability to synthesise information from a number of sources to gain a coherent understanding of critical theory and general methodology
  • to discriminate between and select from relevant information sourced from a wide and large body of knowledge
  • to exercise problem-solving skills

Subject-specific skills

You gain specific skills in the following:

  • an enhanced ability to conduct the close critical analysis of documents of American culture, politics and society
  • an informed understanding of the variety of critical and theoretical approaches to the subject
  • the ability to articulate knowledge and understanding of texts, concepts and theories relating to American Studies
  • develop an appropriate scholarly practice in the presentation of formal written work
  • the ability to understand and combine a multidisciplinary academic subject, with its array of literature, history and other discourses
  • the ability to construct an independent, research-led argument

Transferable skills

You gain transferable skills in the following:

  • the ability to organise information clearly; respond to written sources and present information orally; adapt style for different audiences; use images as a communication tool
  • to assimilate and organise substantial quantities of complex information
  • IT, including producing written documents, conducting online research, communicating via email and processing information using databases
  • working with others, defining and reviewing the work of others; work co-operatively on group tasks and understand how groups function
  • develop learning skills, including autonomy, explore personal strengths and weaknesses; time management; review the working environment (especially the student-staff relationship).

Careers

Graduate destinations

Our graduates have gone on to work in Britain, Europe and the US in a range of areas including:

  • business and management
  • broadcasting and media
  • teaching.

Many also choose to undertake further professional training.

Help finding a job

The University’s friendly Careers and Employability Service offers advice on how to:

  • apply for jobs
  • write a good CV
  • perform well in interviews.

Career-enhancing skills

Many employers view a graduate with overseas study experience as more employable. Alongside specialist skills, you also develop the transferable skills graduate employers look for, including the ability to:

  • think critically 
  • communicate your ideas and opinions 
  • work independently and as part of a team.

You can also gain extra skills by signing up for one of our Kent Extra activities, such as learning a language or volunteering. 

Independent rankings

For graduate prospects, American Studies at Kent was ranked 2nd in The Complete University Guide 2017. American Studies students who graduated from Kent in 2015 were the most successful in the UK at finding work or further study opportunities (DLHE).

According to Which? University (2017), the average starting salary for graduates of this degree is £18,000.

Entry requirements

Home/EU students

The University will consider applications from students offering a wide range of qualifications. Typical requirements are listed below. Students offering alternative qualifications should contact us for further advice. 

It is not possible to offer places to all students who meet this typical offer/minimum requirement.

New GCSE grades

If you’ve taken exams under the new GCSE grading system, please see our conversion table to convert your GCSE grades.

Qualification Typical offer/minimum requirement
A level

ABB

Access to HE Diploma

The University will not necessarily make conditional offers to all Access candidates but will continue to assess them on an individual basis. 

If we make you an offer, you will need to obtain/pass the overall Access to Higher Education Diploma and may also be required to obtain a proportion of the total level 3 credits and/or credits in particular subjects at merit grade or above.

BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma (formerly BTEC National Diploma)

The University will consider applicants holding BTEC National Diploma and Extended National Diploma Qualifications (QCF; NQF; OCR) on a case-by-case basis. Please contact us for further advice on your individual circumstances.

International Baccalaureate

34 points overall or 16 points at HL

International students

The University welcomes applications from international students. Our international recruitment team can guide you on entry requirements. See our International Student website for further information about entry requirements for your country.

If you need to increase your level of qualification ready for undergraduate study, we offer a number of International Foundation Programmes.

Meet our staff in your country

For more advice about applying to Kent, you can meet our staff at a range of international events.

English Language Requirements

Please see our English language entry requirements web page.

Please note that if you are required to meet an English language condition, we offer a number of 'pre-sessional' courses in English for Academic Purposes. You attend these courses before starting your degree programme. 

General entry requirements

Please also see our general entry requirements.

Fees

The 2018/19 annual tuition fees for this programme are:

UK/EU Overseas
Full-time £9250 £15200

For students continuing on this programme, fees will increase year on year by no more than RPI + 3% in each academic year of study except where regulated.* 

Your fee status

The University will assess your fee status as part of the application process. If you are uncertain about your fee status you may wish to seek advice from UKCISA before applying.

General additional costs

Find out more about accommodation and living costs, plus general additional costs that you may pay when studying at Kent.

Funding

University funding

Kent offers generous financial support schemes to assist eligible undergraduate students during their studies. See our funding page for more details. 

Government funding

You may be eligible for government finance to help pay for the costs of studying. See the Government's student finance website.

Scholarships

General scholarships

Scholarships are available for excellence in academic performance, sport and music and are awarded on merit. For further information on the range of awards available and to make an application see our scholarships website.

The Kent Scholarship for Academic Excellence

At Kent we recognise, encourage and reward excellence. We have created the Kent Scholarship for Academic Excellence. 

For 2018/19 entry, the scholarship will be awarded to any applicant who achieves a minimum of AAA over three A levels, or the equivalent qualifications (including BTEC and IB) as specified on our scholarships pages

The scholarship is also extended to those who achieve AAB at A level (or specified equivalents) where one of the subjects is either Mathematics or a Modern Foreign Language. Please review the eligibility criteria.

The Key Information Set (KIS) data is compiled by UNISTATS and draws from a variety of sources which includes the National Student Survey and the Higher Education Statistical Agency. The data for assessment and contact hours is compiled from the most populous modules (to the total of 120 credits for an academic session) for this particular degree programme. 

Depending on module selection, there may be some variation between the KIS data and an individual's experience. For further information on how the KIS data is compiled please see the UNISTATS website.

If you have any queries about a particular programme, please contact information@kent.ac.uk.