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Dissertations and Capstones

Both undergraduate and graduate students in Saint Louis University's Department of American Studies will complete a culminating project at the end of their programs.

Senior Capstone Projects

Each American Studies major completes a capstone project during the final spring semester of study. Students develop these projects in the Senior Seminar class, working closely with the seminar's faculty leader and participating peers. Generally, the capstone project takes the form of a 30–40 page research essay, though students are also free to propose projects in mediums such as creative writing, video and film, audio production, museum exhibitions, performance, photography, painting, sculpture, or web design.

Doctoral Dissertations

Dissertation Proposal and Dissertation Proposal Defense

Students in the Ph.D. program must submit a dissertation proposal by the end of the second semester following the successful completion of their comprehensive exams, using the template provided by the department. After the three-person committee has accepted the final version of the proposal, the student schedules a one-hour oral defense of the proposal before the student's committee and additional faculty. Proposal defenses are typically scheduled for one to two days per semester, and are open to the public. Upon successful completion of the proposal defense, the dissertation proposal is put on file with the department.

Dissertation and Dissertation Defense

Students write their dissertations working closely with their committee. When the student and committee agree that the dissertation is satisfactory, the student schedules a one-hour public defense of the dissertation. Students must submit the final version of the dissertation to their committee at least two weeks before their defense date. In order to obtain a degree in the Spring semester, dissertations should be submitted by February. For Fall semester, dissertations should be submitted by October.

Registration during the Dissertation

A student researching and writing her or his dissertation registers for ASTD 6990: Dissertation Research, using the section number of his or her committee chair. The course is graded as IP (In Progress) or U (Unsatisfactory) until the semester within which the student graduates, when the grade will be S (Satisfactory). Course requirements include meeting with the dissertation advisor at least once during the semester; arranging to do so is the student's responsibility. The Office of Graduate Education requires that students take at least 12 credits of Dissertation Research during their course of study. Since tuition must be paid for these credits, it is recommended that funded students enroll in their 12 credits of Dissertation Research during the years when they have funding. After these 12 credits are accrued, students may continue to enroll for ASTD 6990 for 0 credits, unless they have received an extension of time to degree.

Dissertation Titles, 1965-present 

 In Progress

Alan Blair

"Super Sonics: Audio Technologies and American Culture in a New Millennium"
Adviser: Emily Lutenski

Kate Boudreau

"You're Too Smart for That! Federal Education Legislation and the Changing Image of the Public High School Teacher in American Culture and Society, 1944–2001"
Adviser: Benjamin Looker 

Adam W. Kloppe

"Orientalism in U.S. Children's Culture, 1898–1989"
Adviser: Emily Lutenski

Mark A. Koschmann

"Religion in the Midst of Change and Urban Upheaval on Chicago's Near West Side, 1945–1970"
Adviser: Heidi Ardizzone

Susan Lee

"Nationalizing the Frontier: The American Western's Impact on Twentieth-Century Gauchesque Literature and Film"
Adviser: Emily Lutenski

Eva Navarijo

"Building (Bay) Bridges: A History of Pan-ethnic Student Activism and the Third World Liberation Front in the California Bay Area, 1968–1999"
Adviser: Emily Lutenski

Nicholas Porter

"The Significance and Symbolism of Wrestling in and across the American Cultural Landscape, 1877–1920"
Adviser: Matthew J. Mancini

Anna E. Schmidt

"American Poetry as a Transcultural Spiritual Practice, 1960–Present"
Adviser: Emily Lutenski

Karen Smyth

"The Errand of Angels: Feminism, Gender, and Sexuality in the Mormon Church, 1978–2014"
Adviser: Kate Moran

Cathryn Stout

"A Mighty Hard Row: Racism and Resistance in the Postwar British Caribbean and U.S. South"
Adviser: Matthew J. Mancini


Sabrina Davis

"Adapting Identity: Jewish American Narratives from the Page to the Screen"
Adviser: Heidi Ardizzone

Trevin J. Jones

"African American Prison Writers: Masculinity, Identity, and Spirituality"
Adviser: Matthew J. Mancini

Melissa Ford

"A Bible in One Hand, a Brick in the Other: African American Working Women and Midwestern Black Radicalism during the Great Depression, 1929–1935"
Adviser: Heidi Ardizzone

Lou W. Robinson

"White Women, Race, and Rape: Narratives of Mob Violence in the Midwest, 1880–1930"
Adviser: Heidi Ardizzone

Maurice Tracy

"Seeing Unseeable Things: Blackness, Queerness, and Homonormativity in U.S. Popular Culture, 1989–2016"
Adviser: Emily Lutenski


Brandy C. Boyd

"'Keep Your Chin Up and Your Skirt Down': Female Country Artists' Struggles for Respectability within the Nashville Music Industry, 1952–Present"
Adviser: Benjamin Looker

Nicole Haggard

"Race, Sex, and Hollywood: The Illicit Representation of the Black Man–White Woman Pair in American Cinema"
Adviser: Heidi Ardizzone

Laura A. Shields

"Fighting for Animal Rights: A U.S. History, 1900–1996"
Adviser: Cindy Ott

Corinne Mary Wohlford

"Putting Government in Its Place: Cultural Racism, Sentiment, and Neoliberalism in Contemporary U.S. Responses to Natural Disasters Abroad"
Adviser: Heidi Ardizzone


Brian W. Greening

"Representing New Orleans: Race, Space, and the Spectacle of Progress in the Crescent City since 1965"
Adviser: Benjamin Looker

Rebecca Preiss Odom

"Negotiating Hyphenated Identities: Transnational Identity Formation of the German-American Residents of St. Charles, Missouri, during World War I"
Adviser: Matthew J. Mancini


Alexander Bayard Clark, III

"Forgotten Eyewitnesses: English Women Travel Writers and the Economic Development of America's Antebellum West"
Adviser: Matthew J. Mancini

Jaclyn H. Kirouac-Fram

"'Yellow Rolling Cell Blocks': The Urban Bus and Race in the United States"
Adviser: Benjamin Looker


Robert L. Hawkins, IV

"Natural Born Ease Man?: Work, Masculinity, and the Itinerant Black Musician"
Adviser: Jonathan C. Smith
Winner of the 2011 ASA Ralph Henry Gabriel Dissertation Prize

Joshua M. Roiland

"Engaging the Public: Toward a Political Theory of Literary Journalism"
Adviser: Jonathan C. Smith

Jody L. Sowell

"Divided Discourse: The Kerner Report & Stories of Separate and Unequal"
Adviser: Jonathan C. Smith

Jamie Schmidt Wagman

"Our Pill, Ourselves: American Anxieties Surrounding Oral Contraception, 1956–2000"
Adviser: Matthew J. Mancini


Robert Pittman

"The St. Louis Movement in Education: Public Education Reform in the Gilded Age"
Adviser: Matthew J. Mancini

David J. Suwalsky

"'North of Yankee Country': Antebellus Kansas and the Missourians of the Platte Purchase County"
Adviser: Matthew J. Mancini

Gregory F. Taylor

"Picturing the Enemy: The Use of Visual Metaphors in Photography of the Japanese American Immigrant"
Adviser: Wynne W. Moskop


Richard D. Marshall

"'The Grapes of Wrath': John Steinbeck's Cognitive Landscapes as Commentary on 1930s Industrialization"
Adviser: Cindy Ott


Henry T. Brownlee

"Keeping Their Memory Green: The Pleasant Green Baptist Church in St. Louis, 1866–1950"
Adviser: Jonathan C. Smith

Angela K. Dietz

"Spectacles of Labor: Visualizing a Nation at Work, 1850–1920"
Adviser: Jonathan C. Smith

Robin A. Hanson

"The National Cemetery: Race and Sectional Reconciliation in a Contested Landscape"
Adviser: Matthew J. Mancini

Patricia Checkett Rooney

"Re-presenting WWII, Reviving Neo-classicism, Reaffirming Super Power in a Post–9/11 Era: The Anomalous 2004 American National World War II Memorial"
Adviser: Matthew J. Mancini

Elizabeth Schroeder

"The Chicago Black Renaissance: Exercises in Aesthetic Ideology and Cultural Geography in Bronzeville, 1932–1945"
Adviser: Jonathan C. Smith

Alicja K. Syska

"Eastern Europe in the Making of American National Identity"
Adviser: Matthew J. Mancini


Kimberly M. Curtis

"Black Consciousness is the Cornerstone of Liberation: The Black Arts Movement in African American Literature and Visual Culture, 1966–1976"
Adviser: Shawn Michelle Smith

Sharon E. Grimes

"Women in the Studios of Men: Gender, Architectural Practice, and the Careers of Sophia Hayden Bennett and Marion Mahony Griffin, 1870–1960"
Adviser: Joseph Heathcott

John Hensley

"Dreadful People: Historical Representations of Ozark Folks"
Adviser: Matthew J. Mancini

Diana F. Pascoe-Chavez

"Pragmatism and the Frontier Narrative in 'It Is': A Magazine for Abstract Art"
Adviser: Joseph Heathcott

Charles (Rob) Wilson

"The Disease of Fear and the Fear of Disease: Cholera and Yellow Fever in the Mississippi Valley"
Adviser: Candy Brown

Ying Ye

"Black Initiative in Black Education prior to and during the Civil War"
Adviser: Matthew J. Mancini


John I. Kille

"Re-mediating Racial History: Representations and Interpretations of the Amistad Incident (1839–1842) in the 20th Century Texts"
Adviser: Jonathan C. Smith

David R. McFarland

"Virtuous Yeoman or Ignorant Farmer? Rhetorical Ambivalence in the Illinois Agrarian Reform Movement 1840–1860"
Adviser: Matthew J. Mancini

Jennifer A. Price

"Middling Desires: P.T. Barnum and the Visual Culture of the American Middle Class, 1840–1865"
Adviser: Shawn Michelle Smith


Rhonda J. Armstrong

"Rural Women and Cultural Conflict in Contemporary American Literature"
Adviser: Shawn Michelle Smith

Valerie Padilla Carroll

"Re-presenting and Representing on Girl Power TV: Examining Portrayals of Resistance and Domination from Dark Angel, Charmed, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer"
Adviser: Kathryn Kuhn

Teresa B. Holden

"'Earnest Women Can Do Anything': The Public Career of Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin, 1842–1904"
Adviser: Wynne W. Moskop

Kristine R. Smith

"Following Buster Brown's Footsteps: Leading Families into the Middle-Class Consumer Society"
Adviser: Joseph Heathcott

Burton St. John III

"The Trail of Tension Between Public Relations and Journalism: The Unfinished Business About Using Propaganda to Move Crowds"
Adviser: Matthew J. Mancini 


Stephen A. Gibson

"How Green is Hollywood? Nature and Environmentalism in American Cinema, 1970–2002"
Adviser: Shirley M. Loui

Bryan M. Jack

"Bridging the Red Sea: The Saint Louis African-American Community and the Exodusters of 1879"
Adviser: Matthew J. Mancini

Eileen R. Solomon

"Kosher in the United States: An Examination of American-Jewish Adaptation"
Adviser: Elizabeth Kolmer 


John Glen

"'How Shall We Remember Them?': Pearl Harbor in Private, Public, and Historic Memory"
Adviser: Shirley M. Loui

Victoria York

"Defining Moments: Narratives of the 1834 Burning of Mount Benedict"
Adviser: Shirley M. Loui


Kent B. Bunting

"The Koan of Seiwa En: History and Meaning in the Japanese Garden at the Missouri Botanical Garden"
Adviser: Matthew J. Mancini

George R. Carson

"Teen Challenge and the Development of Social Concern Ministries in the Assemblies of God"
Adviser: Elizabeth Kolmer

Miriam E. Joseph

"Perceived Cultural Influences on Generativity Identified by Childless Women"
Adviser: James H. Korn

Robert M. Lee

"Henry Adams and the Construction of Intellectual Unity"
Adviser: Lawrence F. Barmann


James P. Dohle

"JROTC: A Study of Two St. Louis Schools"
Adviser: Wynne W. Moskop

Jane F. Ferry

"Flavors of Culture: A Semiotic Reading of Food in Film"
Adviser: Kathryn Kuhn

Christine F. Harper

"The Water Wizard: John F. Wixford and the Purification of the St. Louis Water Supply in 1904"
Adviser: Shirley M. Loui

Carole L. Knight

"Survival of the Forest: The Evolution of Forest Park as a Reflection of the Social and Cultural Dynamics of St. Louis"
Adviser: Shirley M. Loui

Mark H. Kruger

"The Influence of the 1960's Countercultural Values of Individualism, Anti-materialism, and Community on a Contemporary Intentional Community"
Adviser: Elizabeth Kolmer

Rodney G. Stephens

"Richard Harding Davis and American Culture"
Adviser: Elizabeth Kolmer


Mary D. Blixen

"David Rowland Francis: Missourian and Progressive Public Servant"
Adviser: Lawrence F. Barmann

Regina M. Faden

"The German St. Vincent Orphan Home: The Institution and its Role in the Immigrant German Catholic Community of St. Louis 1850–1900"
Adviser: Elizabeth Kolmer

Patricia L. Gregory

"Women's Experience of Reading in St. Louis Book Clubs"
Adviser: John J. Pauly

Loftin Woodiel

"William C. Quantrill: Deviant or Hero?"
Adviser: John J. Pauly


Kamau Kemayó

"An Afrocentric Critical Theory and Its Application to Three African American Novels"
Adviser: Elizabeth Kolmer

Maureen Murphy

"Daughters of Sam Spade: The American Private Eye"
Adviser: Kathryn Kuhn


Thomas C. Barnett

"A Utopian-Mythopoesis Reading of American Puritan Jeremiads: A Reclassification of Selected Seventeenth Century New England Pulpit Literature"
Adviser: Shirley M. Loui

Brian R. Hohlt

"‘Laws of the Lord': The Political World of Peter Cartwright, 1824–1848"
Adviser: Mark E. Neely, Jr.

Jane Marie Holwerda

"Family and Social Class in Selected Novels of Edith Wharton and Theodore Dreiser"
Adviser: Elizabeth Kolmer

Alice C. Warren

"The Junior College District of St. Louis–St. Louis County, Missouri under the Leadership of Joseph P. Cosand, 1962–1971: A Study of the Impact of the Post–World War II Milieu on Policies That Shaped the Institution"
Adviser: Lawrence F. Barmann

Valerie J. Yancey

"Attending the Dying: William James, a Resource for Medical Ethics at End-of-Life"
Adviser: Belden C. Lane 


Michael L. Banks

"George S. Kaufman: American Social Critic on Stage"
Adviser: Thomas R. Knipp

Dawn L. Elmore-McCrary

"Culture in the Basic Writing Classroom"
Adviser: Buford E. Farris, Jr.

F. Terry Norris

"The Illinois Country, Lost and Found: Assessment of the Archaeological Remains of French Settlements in the Central Mississippi River Valley, 1673–1763"
Adviser: Elizabeth Kolmer

Paul D. Nygard

"Man of Maine: A Life of Robert P. Tristram Coffin"
Adviser: Lawrence F. Barmann

Timothy D. Uhl

"The Naming of St. Louis Catholic Parishes"
Adviser: James T. Fisher

Matthew S. Warshauer

"Andrew Jackson and the Politics of Martial Law"
Adviser: Mark E. Neely, Jr.


Books Adapted from SLU American Studies Dissertations

Elizabeth Schroeder Schlabach (Ph.D. 2008), Along the Streets of Bronzeville: Black Chicago's Literary Landscape (Urbana-Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2013).

Burton St. John III (Ph.D. 2005), Press Professionalization and Propaganda: The Rise of Journalistic Double-mindedness, 1917–1941 (Amherst, NY: Cambria Press, 2010).

Bryan M. Jack (Ph.D. 2004), The St. Louis African American Community and the Exodusters (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2007).

Jane Ferry (Ph.D. 2001), Food in Film: A Culinary Performance of Communication (New York: Routledge, 2003).

Matthew Warshauer (Ph.D. 1997), Andrew Jackson and the Politics of Martial Law: Nationalism, Civil Liberties, and Partisanship (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2006).

Kamau Kemayó (Ph.D. 1999), Emerging Afrikan Survivals: An Afrocentric Critical Theory (New York: Routledge, 2003).

Michael J. Steiner (Ph.D. 1994), A Study of the Intellectual and Material Culture of Death in Nineteenth-Century America (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2003).

Jeannette Batz Cooperman (Ph.D. 1996), The Broom Closet: Secret Meanings of Domesticity in Postfeminist Novels by Louise Erdrich, Mary Gordon, Toni Morrison, Marge Piercy, Jane Smiley, and Amy Tan (New York: Peter Lang, 1999).

Kenneth C. Kaufman (Ph.D. 1996), Dred Scott's Advocate: A Biography of Roswell M. Field (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1996). Winner of the 1997 Missouri History Book Award.

Mary E. Young (Ph.D. 1990), Mules and Dragons: Popular Culture Images in the Selected Writings of African-American and Chinese-American Women Writers (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1993).

W. Arthur Mehrhoff (Ph.D. 1986), The Gateway Arch: Fact and Symbol (Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Press, 1992).

Milton S. Katz (Ph.D. 1973), Ban The Bomb: A History of SANE, the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy, 1957–1985 (New York: Greenwood Press, 1986).

Luther E. Smith, Jr. (Ph.D. 1979), Howard Thurman: The Mystic as Prophet (Washington, DC: University Press of America, 1981; repr. 2007).

Roger Whitlow (Ph.D. 1975), The Darker Vision: A Socio-critical History of 19th Century Fiction Written by Black Americans (New York: Gordon Press, 1977).