About American Studies
Begun in the 1930s with the mission to explore the meanings of American culture in terms of national myths and social relations, the field of American Studies has expanded its mission and field of inquiry to include many more issues, such as sexuality and indigeneity, and wider disciplinary reach, including material culture studies and urban studies, within a global context.
Strengths of Our Department
To begin with — well, we are a department! Our distinguished faculty are trained specifically in the discipline; most have earned their PhDs in American Studies; all have worked extensively in the field as scholars, teachers, curators, or creative artists. Our time and effort as teaching faculty are focused on American Studies students. At the same time we enjoy productive and cordial relations with our colleagues in other departments who teach and conduct research in related fields, and students may take carefully selected courses in those departments, as students in other departments do in American Studies.
We do not claim to study and teach everything in our huge field. The faculty is especially strong in several areas, including transnational American Studies, visual culture and material culture studies, African American literature, Southern history and culture, intellectual history, environmental history, museum studies, urban studies, and postwar American culture. These specialties do not exhaust the range of faculty competence, but they give an idea of the unique character of this interdisciplinary field as practiced at Saint Louis University.
The History of American Studies at SLU
American Studies emerged at SLU in 1963 as part of the History department. In 1969, Professor Elizabeth Kolmer established American Studies as a permanent doctoral program at Saint Louis University. In 1971, she launched the Master of Arts in American Studies, followed in 1975 by the undergraduate major. Finally, in 1995, Prof. Kolmer succeeded in transforming American Studies at Saint Louis University into a full-fledged department, with dedicated faculty and resources for research and graduate training. Today, faculty in the department are building upon the strong foundation of teaching and mentoring which allows for a range of initiatives in research, teaching, professional and community service.
Photo at right: Elizabeth Kolmer, ASC, Professor Emerita of American Studies