M.A. PROGRAM IN AMERICAN STUDIES

Resources

Collected here you’ll find links to resources both at Columbia and in the wider world of American Studies. We’ve also included some guides and handouts generated through the program that students have found helpful over the years in approaching their research and their careers.

How to Think About an Interdisciplinary Study

The freedom to design your own curriculum is the primary reason people are attracted to American and Ethnic Studies. However, students can also end up feeling lost in the dizzying variety of Columbia’s course offerings. Though this problem is the starting point of conversations with advisors and faculty, and each student has their own particular trajectory to shape, the risks of interdisciplinary study do have a formal shape and history. See this brief handout on interdisciplinary work from the director for some orientation.

How to Think About Applying for PhD Programs

A number of MA graduates go on to PhDs in a range of fields, including American Studies, Media Studies, English, History, and Political Science. In the recent past, students have received fellowships to study at Brown University, Yale University, University of Virginia, Fordham University, the University of Colorado. Admission to PhD programs is a complex proposition, and often requires careful consideration both of one’s own aptitudes and the shape of the departments which make up the field one would like to study.

The CSER faculty has put together a handout for approaching PhD admissions for MA students which provides suggests for how to approach the PhD admissions process. Students should consult their advisors about further graduate study at intervals throughout their matriculation at Columbia.

​Managing the freedom of interdisciplinary study depends on having a strong self-conception of your research direction and a sophisticated historical sense of what kind of interdisciplinary work has proceeded you. In the toggles below you will find a list of links relevant to American Studies that will help orient you within the history and institutional life of the field. Note that this list is heavily inflected by literary and historical research, which by no means represents the current limits of American Studies.

Library Research Guide

The Columbia Librarian for American History and Literature, John Tofanelli, has put together a comprehensive guide to online databases relevant to the study of American history and literature. Please do click through to see which of the resources he has collected there are most relevant to your research. It is also a regularly updating resource, since the new databases appear all the time, so go back again every so often!

Professional Associations

For those just starting out in the field, one way to get a quick sense of what’s happening is to take a look at the books that have won the yearly awards given out by these associations.

American Studies Association
American Literature Association
Organization of American Historians

Journals

There are many other journals publishing work in American Studies (often listed on the above associations’ websites), but these are crucial. These are often behind restricted paywalls, but accessible through university libraries.

American Quarterly
Journal of American Studies
American Literary History
American Literature
Journal of American History
J19

Research Databases and Libraries

Some of these are websites of physical libraries, others exist only online but with institutional support. Even the physical ones have useful online content. This selection skews early in American history—for the time being, digital archives from the period before copyright are the richest.

Schomburg Digital African American Women of the Nineteenth Century
Library of Congress American Memory
Documenting the American South
American Verse Project
Making of America
American Antiquarian Society
McNeil Center for Early American Studies
Huntington Library
Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture
Massachusetts Historical Society
Library Company of Philadelphia
Early Americas Digital Archive
Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History

Reading Lists

American Studies has become an extremely diverse field in terms of core competency. This aspect of the field sometimes makes it difficult for its practitioners to agree upon a shared knowledge set. There are numerous attempts to codify the field through reading lists of core primary and secondary texts on university department websites across the internet. Here are a few with which students should familiarize themselves.

Columbia English
UCLA African American Literature
University of Virginia
California State Fullerton
Matthew Pratt Guterl’s Homepage
Max Cavitch’s Homepage

Calls for Papers

A call for papers (or CFP) is an advertisement for submissions to panel discussion, a journal, or an anthology. Sometimes these circulate among specialized groups via e-mail, but they often also appear in regularly updated lists online. Here are links to a few of the most comprehensive such databases.

Penn English CFP List
The CFP List
Organization of American Historians
H-Net

External Fellowships

Students are encouraged to pursue funding from sources outside the university. The below is a partial list of places one might look for economic support for study in the MA program. Many of the above-listed organizations offer fellowships to graduate student researchers interested in their specific areas of concern.

Dolores Zohrab Liebmann Fund
Davis-Putter Scholarship Fund
The Bibliographic Society of America
American Antiquarian Society
Kate Neal Kinley Memorial Fellowship

CSER continues to be Columbia's main interdisciplinary space for the study of ethnicity and race and their implications for thinking about culture, power, hierarchy, social identities, and political communities. The Center also offers a wide range of public programming, including Artist at the Center, Indigenous Forum, and Latino Public Speaker Series and the Transnational Asian/American Speaker Series. CSER's most recent spaces include the Media and Idea Lab and Gallery at the Center, a space dedicated to curating artistic and thematic exhibits around the Center’s key areas of interest.
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