Our multidisciplinary course enables you to assess American contributions to our understanding of political, historical, social and cultural perspectives of the world. You combine studies of the US with a number of options in film studies offered by our Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies, Department of History, and School of Philosophy and Art History.
Crucially, you also spend either a term or a full academic year studying in the United States, so you can explore and become immersed in American culture.
The degree is built to be extremely flexible and student-led, and as you progress through the course you can choose from an enormous range of options from across the humanities and social sciences including:
- Contemporary social issues, such as the struggles for racial justice
- The legacies of slavery and the civil rights movement
- Environmental protection of the ‘wilderness’ of the Far West
- Native American histories and rights
Based within our Interdisciplinary Studies Centre (ISC), American studies offers a truly multidisciplinary approach, giving you knowledge of the many ways to understand key areas of the American experience. You draw on multiple perspectives in order to reach a deeper understanding of the world we inhabit, opening up exciting possibilities to discover the American continent. The cities, vast open plains, mountains and deserts shape diverse and intriguing ways of life.
By encouraging you to think and operate across traditional boundaries, our course has produced confident, assertive and intelligent graduates who have become successful in many professional fields.
We also nurture the creative talent for tomorrow, developing filmmakers, scholars, and thinkers with a dynamic worldview:
- Gain hands-on experience of camera work, sound recording, editing, lighting, and scriptwriting
- Explore the formal aesthetics of film composition and structure in relation to different contexts of production and reception
- Discover the history and social significance of film as a global medium
- Understand the links between critical analysis and creative practice
- Produce both group films and personal projects
We are ranked Top 20 for Dance, Drama and Cinematics in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2021.
Your education extends beyond the university campus. We support you in expanding your education through offering the opportunity to spend a year or a term studying abroad at one of our partner universities. The four-year version of our degree allows you to spend the third year abroad or employed on a placement abroad, while otherwise remaining identical to the three-year course.
Studying abroad allows you to experience other cultures and languages, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are mature, adaptable, and organised.
If you spend a full year abroad you’ll only pay 15% of your usual tuition fee to Essex for that year. You won’t pay any tuition fees to your host university
Our expert staff
We are a team of internationally recognised writers and lecturers with expertise across the arts, humanities and social sciences. As well as being one of the UK’s leading universities for social science and the highest ranking institution for political science, Essex academics are world leaders in human rights and pioneers in the literature and arts of the Americas.
Our American studies staff teach in departments across the university, and specialise in a wide range of topics including American history, law, literature, film, politics, and sociology.
Current research is exploring American politics and the electorate, cinematic images of the American Pacific, politics and land rights of the native Innu of Labrador in Canada, civil rights and African American history, and American crime fiction.
The Centre for Film and Screen Media at Essex is part of a unique literary conservatoire that offers talented students the support and confidence to respond both critically and artistically to the study of film. This distinctive environment is possible because we are a community of award-winning film-makers, scholars, and media specialists; our staff over the years have included Oscar winners and BAFTA winners.
Our academic staff specialise in a range of areas including filmmaking, film theory, Soviet cinema, US cinema, films of the Asia and Pacific regions, modernism and the avant-garde, adaptation, silent cinema, screenwriting and production.
- Our Essex Collection of Art from Latin America (ESCALA) is the largest of its kind in Europe
- View classic films at weekly film screenings in our dedicated 120-seat film theatre, equipped with digital HD projection facilities and surround sound
- Join student film societies and the Centre for Film and Screen Media, which screen and discuss both recent blockbusters and less mainstream arthouse films
- Hear writers talk about their craft and learn from leading specialists at weekly research seminars
- Join Rebel Media and take advantage of the SU’s professional standard media suite and broadcasting facilities
- Attend an exciting programme of events
As a graduate in American Studies, you’ll have gained a wide-ranging knowledge of many aspects of American life. You’ll acquire essential critical abilities as well as excellent communication skills.
This is excellent preparation for careers in media, education, politics, the Civil Service, international organisations such as UN and NATO or non-governmental organisations, and many other fields. Our recent graduates have gone on to work in various desirable roles including:
- Account executive for Bluesky PR
- Business provision manager for BT
- Events co-ordinator for Age UK
We also work with the university’s Student Development Team to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements, and voluntary opportunities.
Why we’re great
- You can study abroad at a wide range of excellent partner universities across the US.
- Top 10 for overall student satisfaction for American Studies in the National Student Survey 2021.
- Our academic’s combined interest in American studies means our interests span American politics, African American history, American crime fiction and much more.
We offer a flexible course structure with a mixture of core/compulsory modules, and optional modules chosen from lists.
Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field. The course content is therefore reviewed on an annual basis to ensure our courses remain up-to-date so modules listed are subject to change.
Teaching and learning disclaimer
Following the impact of the pandemic, we made changes to our teaching and assessment to ensure our current students could continue with their studies uninterrupted and safely. These changes included courses being taught through blended delivery, normally including some face-to-face teaching, online provision, or a combination of both across the year.
The teaching and assessment methods listed show what is currently approved for 2022 entry; changes may be necessary if, by the beginning of this course, we need to adapt the way we’re delivering them due to the external environment, and to allow you to continue to receive the best education possible safely and seamlessly.
On a placement year you gain relevant work experience within an external business or organisation, giving you a competitive edge in the graduate job market and providing you with key contacts within the industry. The rest of your course remains identical to the three-year degree.
On your year abroad, you have the opportunity to experience other cultures and languages, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are mature, adaptable, and organised. The rest of your course remains identical to the three-year degree.
- Taught through lectures plus classes of about twenty students
- You take a one-hour lecture and a one-hour class for each of your modules every week
- Spend either a term or a full year experiencing the American education system
- Hands-on experience of camerawork and film production
- Explore film theory through use of film and literature
- Assessed through a combination of written coursework and end-of-year examinations
- Film coursework includes essays, exhibition reviews and virtual portfolios, coursework reports, individual and group presentations, book reviews, viva voce examinations, and an independent research project (a dissertation)