I’ve already built up a collection of blog posts, but I’ve not taken the time to really say what I’ve been studying this year. So, for anyone interested in American Studies, here’s a quick overview of what I’ve studied in Year 1.
- Early US History (the settlement of this new land, the Revolution and the Civil War)
- Latin American Studies (the settlement of South America and specific political changes in four South American countires over the last 100 years)
- Economics and Society in Latin America (basic economic principles and how these are illustrated by examples in South America)
- Study Skills (about how to write essays and use the Library facilities)
- Society and Culture in the Americas (what is culture? is it important? and what are the features of culture in North and South America)
- North American Studies (US history from the Civil War until the present – including topics such as the Great Depression and the New Deal,the suburban ideology of the 1950s, the Civil Rights Movement, and Vietnam)
- Politics of the Americas (the political systems of North and South America, how different systems work, the merits of different political styles and how/why they developed)
- US Film History (from the beginning of film making in the US in the late 1800s, to the development of Hollywood, the improving technologies of movie-making and the controversies of this new medium).
Please rember that things change, so you might not study all of these units – but I hope this gives a flavour of what American Studies is all about. To sum the course up in one sentence, I’d say American Studies takes a pan-American approach to the historical, cultural, political and economic features of this region of the world. See here for all the latest info on this course.
Most of my lectures and seminars are in Park Building, which has a great character and feel about it (seriously, I think the building is important). The course is examined mainly by essays – I’ve written about the Stono slave rebellion, the American Revolution, early American cinema, and the effectiveness of reforms by President Cardenas in 1930s Mexico. That’s to name but a few, with more essays close on the horizon. This is definitely the style of assessment I prefer.
As well as lectures we have had weekly seminars (discussion groups) for most units. The lecturer would set us a piece of reading or research to do, and then we would come in to discuss our different views, which often helped to challenge my preconceptions. The discussion is led by the students, and this was a new style of learning I really liked. It made me realise how subjective history and politics can be, as different people brought different views to the table.
I’ve also found out what aspects of the course interest me more. I found the diverse politics of South America more interesting than the conservative two-party system of the US. I also preferred studying the more modern US history, such as how the USA emerged a global power after WWII, rather than the earlier stuff about the Puritans and the Revolution.
And there’s still two more years to go!