American Studies at Harvard offers a unique opportunity to explore the breadth and depth of the University’s offerings in all topics American, including the place of the United States in the wider hemisphere and world. The program's oversight committee consists of members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, including African and African American studies, comparative literature, economics, English, government, history, history of art and architecture, history and literature, history of science, music, romance languages and literatures, sociology, visual and environmental studies, and women, gender and sexuality studies. The program also is advised by faculty from Harvard's Divinity School, the Graduate School of Education, Harvard Kennedy School, and the Law School.
What is American Studies? This is a question that our students ask, and answer anew, every day. We do not promote any particular definition of the field; indeed, the decentralized nature of our program inherently fosters new topics of study and catalyzes new interdisciplinary methods. We are structured as a program (not a department), which means that rather than maintain our own resident faculty, we support our students as they work with affiliated faculty mentors across the divisions and departments of the University. Our students are free to take courses and pursue dissertation projects with virtually any combination of mentors on campus, creating new constellations of expertise, and new approaches to scholarship, as they do so. Students gather as a full intellectual community in the American Studies Colloquium (two core courses, one taken in each of the first two years in the program), in multiple academic program events, and in innumerable informal settings.
Given our large and diverse affiliated faculty, we are able to support an uncommonly broad array of projects. We have distinctive strengths in such areas as the study of early America, African and African American studies, Latino/a studies, gender studies, visual and material culture, food studies, environmental history, literary history, music history, religious studies, and the history of capitalism. The program has a strong record of admitting and supporting students from diverse backgrounds, and our placement record is equally strong, with many tenure-track positions among the varied professional trajectories.
Although we are the oldest American studies program in the country, our true character is defined not by fixed tradition but by the continually evolving work of our students and faculty.
We welcome applications from students with a wide variety of backgrounds and interests. When applying, you must include a writing sample. Examples include a term paper, senior thesis, master’s essay, or a collection containing several examples of written work. The writing sample document may be of any length; there is no page limit.