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Former department of Graduate Studies

M.A. in American Studies

The program for the master of arts (M.A.) in American studies at Washington State University is designed to provide a broad background in American culture studies. Students studying for the M.A. will take 9 hours of core requirements, 12 hours of electives, and 9 hours of an area of specialization, which will provide them with a broad knowledge of US culture, current approaches to cultural analysis, and the foundational background for future scholarly and professional work.

The Graduate School requires that the M.A. program include a total of 30 credit hours beyond the B.A., including transfer, research, and thesis credits. The American studies program requires a minimum total of 30 graded credit hours in graduate courses. The distribution of required courses and all other requirements are indicated below.

A. Core Requirements

M.A. students in American studies will take the following 9 graded credit hours of core requirements in the first year of their graduate course work:

  • Am St 505: Proseminar in American Cultural Studies (3cr)
    Provides an introduction to critical theoretical engagement within an interdisciplinary field. Emphasizes the professionalization of students into the academy.
  • Am St 506: Frameworks in American Cultural Studies (3cr)
    Provides a critical framework for the varied intellectual, theoretical, and political genealogies within American cultural studies.
  • Am St 507: Contemporary Practices in American Cultural Studies (3cr)
    Provides overview of contemporary practices in American cultural studies. Identifies important concepts and major insights within the field.

B. Electives

M.A. students in American studies will also take 12 graded credit hours of interdisciplinary electives from the following set of courses:

  • Am St 520: Colonization, Globalization, and Decolonization (3cr)
    Topics in the history of Western colonization and resistance to it.
  • Am St 521: Critical Studies in Sexuality (3cr)
    Topics in queer theory and les/bi/gay/trans/queer studies.
  • Am St 522: Digital Cultures, Digital Divides (3cr)
    Critical social and cultural analysis of the impacts of various digital (sub) cultures and new media.
  • Am St 523: Environmental Justice Cultural Studies (3cr)
    Analysis of critical issues and social action at the intersection of race, class, gender, empire, and the environment.
  • Am St 524: Critical Studies in Popular Culture (3cr)
    Interdisciplinary approaches to historical and contemporary trends and issues in U.S. popular culture.
  • Am St 525: Social Movements in American Studies (3cr)
    Interdisciplinary analysis of historical and current social movements as a product of and contributor to U.S. culture.
  • Am St 526: Contemporary Theories of Race and Ethnicity (3cr)
    Major theoretical readings and key recent texts in United States and transnational ethnic studies scholarship.
  • Am St 527: Contemporary Feminist Theories and Practices (3cr)
    Major theoretical readings and key recent texts in United States and transnational feminist studies scholarship.
  • Am St 590: Seminar in American Studies (3cr) (R)
    May be repeated for credit; cumulative maximum 9 hours. Interdisciplinary topics in American culture arranged to match current student and faculty interests and expertise.
  • Am St 596: Special Topics in American Studies (3cr) (R)
    May be repeated for credit; cumulative maximum 9 hours. Interdisciplinary topics in American culture arranged to match current student and faculty interests and expertise.

C. Area of Specialization

Additional courses totaling 9 graded credit hours for M.A. students in American studies will be devoted to establishing an area of specialization, which is defined as an interdisciplinary field of expertise. A student’s special area will depend on the student’s academic interests and should strengthen and focus their research agenda for future scholarly or community work.

D. M.A. Thesis or Portfolio

M.A. students may choose either to write a master’s thesis or a portfolio.

D1. Thesis Option

Students taking the thesis option write a thesis (typically 75–125 pages) synthesizing material on an American studies topic they choose in consultation with their degree committee. (Examples of previous theses are available in the coordinator’s office.) Approval of the thesis occurs after a final oral exam conducted by the student’s degree committee and constitutes completion of the degree, presuming all course, exam, and language requirements have been met.

D2. Portfolio Option

Students who choose the portfolio instead of the thesis option must complete the following:

  1. One publishable paper based upon graduate research, preferably a paper that has been presented at a conference. A short cover letter for the paper should identify possible venues for publication as well as locate the paper in relationship to the student’s overall academic preparation for presenting such a paper. The paper may be a revised seminar paper from work in core classes, a paper concerning the student’s area of specialization courses, or a general seminar paper or academic writing project, which has been carefully revised for publication. It is expected that selection and preparation of the paper will be accomplished over time in consultation with members of the student’s degree committee.
  2. A position paper of 8–10 pages, written after completing the core courses required of master’s students. In the position paper, the student will focus on their area of specialization and clarify how their research complements or expands American cultural studies as a field.

E. Thesis or Portfolio Oral Exam

The final official portion of the M.A. degree is an oral examination on the thesis or the portfolio, administered by the student’s degree committee, and a representative of the Graduate Studies Committee of the University. The student is responsible for questions pertaining to their thesis or portfolio, and the surrounding historical and intellectual context relevant to their writing.