Course overview

Our MA in American Studies is an interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary course, which allows you to focus on the study of:

  • history, literature, politics, film, TV and the wider culture of the United States
  • literature, culture and society of Canada

Some of the core issues you will look at include:

  • to what extent will the US be forced to renegotiate political, financial and cultural relationships long characterised by dominance?
  • how do we make sense of the Trump era?
  • how should the Obama Presidency be understood within the history of race relations and the struggle for civil rights?
  • how will cultural responses to changing political, media, and built environments work within and against established forms and traditions?

You will be involved in intellectual exchange among a group with shared interests, but with a broad range of backgrounds and perspectives.

For more details about our teaching, research and what it's like to study with us, see the Department of American and Canadian Studies website.

Why choose this course?

Thriving community

The department has a thriving postgraduate programme, and a teaching and research culture of the highest quality

Network of experience

This MA draws on a network of expert and experienced academics from disciplines across the university

World-leading research

96% of our research activity was assessed as ‘world-leading’ and ‘internationally excellent’

Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021

Course content

The course is made up of 180 credits; 100 of which are core modules, and 80 optional.

You will also develop your research management and personal development skills vital to postgraduate work.

Core modules - You will take the core module, 'Approaches to American Studies' (20 credits) and choose from one of two 20-credit faculty-wide core modules. Over the summer period, the compulsory dissertation (60 credits) provides the capstone of the degree and involves in-depth research supervised by a specialist tutor.

Optional modules - You will select four 20-credit modules from a range of options offered by the department. If agreed with the course director, you may also choose from relevant modules from related areas within the university.

Part-time students complete the same components, but spread over two years.


Approaches to American Studies

This module offers an overview and analysis of the various approaches to American Studies. It requires students to develop a reflexive understanding of the development of American Studies as a field of enquiry.

Literary (textual) criticism, visual culture, and cultural/intellectual/political history - along with interdisciplinary work – will be discussed in a seminar setting.

Moving chronologically across more than 200 years of American culture, each week a different departmental expert in a particular American Studies discipline will assign and discuss some examples of her/his published work (an article or book chapter), discussing not only the content, but also how the work fits within the field of American Studies, and the process of writing and researching in this area. These readings will accompany a key article that defined or changed that particular area of American Studies.

Students will be encouraged to recognise particular methodologies and approaches, with a view to testing out and developing their own preferred intellectual approaches along the way, in a coursework essay and in the dissertation proposal. The focus will be on issues, figures, events and texts (visual as well as written) that have been “stopping places” in the development of American Studies: points where disciplines have come together or have been added to the founding literature/history axis.

This module is worth 20 credits.


Dissertation in American Studies

This module consists of the selection, research and writing up of a topic in the field of American and Canadian Studies, chosen after consultation with the Course Director and other appropriate staff members.

This is a compulsory core module worth 60 credits.

The above is a sample of the typical modules we offer but is not intended to be construed and/or relied upon as a definitive list of the modules that will be available in any given year. Modules (including methods of assessment) may change or be updated, or modules may be cancelled, over the duration of the course due to a number of reasons such as curriculum developments or staffing changes. Please refer to the module catalogue for information on available modules. This content was last updated on Tuesday 18 July 2023.

Students must take one or two from:

American Madness: Mental Illness in History and Culture

Experiences of and ideas about madness, insanity, and mental illness have varied and changed radically within American history and culture. This module will survey and analyse these changes from the mid-19thcentury to the present. We will consider how and why medical authority, gender, and class have all impacted the way in which mental illness is understood, and consider the significance of changing approaches to treatment. Sources used on this interdisciplinary module range from medical accounts and psychiatric theory to memoir, fiction and film. The aim is to place representations of mental illness in their historical context, and to ask what they reveal about related ideas about identity, conformity, social care and responsibility.

US Foreign Policy

This module examines the making of US foreign policy in the post-Cold War period, from the end of the Cold War to the present.

It examines the grand historical narratives of American international relations and considers in depth the drivers behind the foreign policies pursued by Presidents:

  • George H. W. Bush
  • Bill Clinton
  • George W. Bush
  • Barack Obama
  • Donald Trump

It considers whether the post-1989 period has constituted a break from previous traditions in US foreign policy or whether there has been an essential continuity through the war on terror and beyond. It does this through an examination of the impact of economics, geopolitics, ideology and security issues on post-1989 strategy in different regions of the world, as well as the impact of a new international environment marked by the demise of bipolarity and the rise of globalisation.

This is an optional module worth 20 credits.


North American Film Adaptations

This module examines North American short stories and novels and their film adaptations.

We'll look at the contexts in which both the literary and the cinematic texts are produced as well as to the analysis of the texts themselves.

In particular, the module takes an interest in literary texts whose film adaptations have been produced in different national contexts to the source material.

This is an optional module worth 20 credits.


And both of:

American Magazine Culture: Journalism, Advertising and Fiction from Independence to the Internet Age

The magazine has been one of the most accessible and influential cultural forms in America since the mid-18th century. From the wide-ranging political and literary magazines of this founding period through the emergence of specialised and mass-market periodicals in the 19th century to the counter-cultural and consumerist magazines of the 20th century, this distinctive mode of publication has reflected the tensions and ideals of a rapidly developing society. Using a broad range of representative magazines from different eras, this module will encourage students to get to grips with how American culture has shaped, and been shaped by, the periodical, and it will also introduce them to some of the unique literary and institutional qualities of the magazine. Primary sources covered on this module are likely to include The Dial (est. 1840), Harper's (est. 1850), The New Yorker (est. 1925), Life (est. 1936) and Rolling Stone (est. 1967). Looked at in the context of their times, such sources show us how Americans have long engaged with and debated their own identity through the prism of print, as well as the ways in which this self-definition has changed across time. Moreover, alongside the magazine's regular testing of new political and cultural concepts we will be able to see how the periodical form itself embraced other emerging media, including illustration, photography, and popular music. The main content-spine through each week will be a focus on changes in the nature of American journalism, the rise of modern advertising, and the development of the short story as a form, as well as the interactions between these three elements. In addition to the standard lecture/seminar set-up, the module will also incorporate a series of workshops focusing on hands-on study of hard copies of particular publications.

Ethnic and New Immigrant Writing

This course will consider the development of ‘ethnic’ and new immigrant literature in the United States from the early twentieth century to the present day. It will do so by positioning literary works within their wider historical, political and cultural context.

The course will examine the dominant ideas and concerns of a range of texts from life-writing and poetry to drama, short fiction and the novel by writers from a range of ethno-cultural backgrounds, including Irish, Jewish, Italian, Caribbean and Asian American.

Issues for discussion will include:

  • the claiming of the United States by new immigrant and ‘ethnic’ writers
  • race and ethnicity
  • gender, class and sexuality
  • labour and economic status
  • the uses and re-writing of American history and ‘master narratives’
  • the impact of US regionalism
  • the ways in which writers engage with the American canon
  • multiculturalism and the ‘culture wars’
  • the growth of ‘ethnic’ American writing and Ethnic Studies as academic fields.

The course will analyse works by such writers as:

  • Jacob Riis
  • Mario Puzo
  • Philip Roth
  • Jamaica Kincaid
  • Bharati Mukherjee
  • Sandra Cisneros.

This is an optional module worth 20 credits.


And one from:

Mastering the Arts

This module introduces you to the wide range of interdisciplinary research happening in the Faculty of Arts. We invite you to ‘think outside the box’ in relation to your own research, while learning key research techniques and methods. The module aims to:

  • introduce the ideas, practices, complexities, and opportunities of interdisciplinary research in the arts
  • enable you to practice critical self-reflexivity about the conventions and expectations of your own disciplines in relation to those of others
  • train you in core research skills necessary for graduate-level study
  • develop your confidence in communicating research findings to non-specialist audiences

You will build on your existing research skills gained from your university career to date. Furthermore, you will develop a more nuanced understanding of your own research practice, inspiring you to explore different approaches questions. In addition, you will develop an understanding of professional practice in areas such as:

  • academic publishing
  • knowledge exchange
  • dissertation planning and writing
  • professional communication

This module is worth 20 credits.

Arts in Society

This module helps postgraduate students recognise the range of careers and opportunities that an Arts and Humanities MA/MRes can provide.

It highlights the skills and abilities present within these programmes and provides examples of the successful application of these skills. Students will explore how subjects within the arts can be ‘applied disciplines’ that serve to be impactful in wider society through research and engagement.

Through ‘live brief’ assessments, students work in groups, utilising their Arts and Humanities skill sets, to present and produce a consultancy report for a range of organisations, including SMEs/Third-sector.

The above is a sample of the typical modules we offer but is not intended to be construed and/or relied upon as a definitive list of the modules that will be available in any given year. Modules (including methods of assessment) may change or be updated, or modules may be cancelled, over the duration of the course due to a number of reasons such as curriculum developments or staffing changes. Please refer to the module catalogue for information on available modules. This content was last updated on Tuesday 18 July 2023.

Learning and assessment

How you will learn

  • Lectures
  • Seminars
  • Tutorials
  • Workshops
  • eLearning

Teaching and learning will be based both in the classroom or lecture hall and on the university’s VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) Moodle. Materials such as readings, lecture slides and videos, and stimulus material for seminar tasks will be available on Moodle, and there may also be activities such as quizzes and discussion forums.

How you will be assessed

  • Dissertation
  • Essay
  • Examinations
  • Presentation

Most modules will be assessed via coursework, which will in most cases involve an extended essay, but may also include presentations or videos, short answer questions or research proposals. Language modules will be assessed by examination.

Contact time and study hours

As well as scheduled teaching you’ll carry out extensive self-study such as reading set academic texts, preparation for seminar tasks, and writing assessments.

A typical 20-credit module involves 2 to 3 hours of workshops or lectures and/or seminars per week, and a further 15 hours of self-study time. Your lecturers will usually be permanent academic staff.

Class sizes vary depending on topic and type but we try to keep workshops and seminars to between 10 and 20 students. Lectures may be larger, but not typically more than 50 students.

Entry requirements

All candidates are considered on an individual basis and we accept a broad range of qualifications. The entrance requirements below apply to 2024 entry.

Undergraduate degree2:1 (or international equivalent)


Our step-by-step guide covers everything you need to know about applying.

How to apply


Qualification MA
Home / UK 9,250
International 22,600

Additional information for international students

If you are a student from the EU, EEA or Switzerland, you may be asked to complete a fee status questionnaire and your answers will be assessed using guidance issued by the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) .

These fees are for full-time study. If you are studying part-time, you will be charged a proportion of this fee each year (subject to inflation).

Additional costs

All students will need at least one device to approve security access requests via Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA). We also recommend students have a suitable laptop to work both on and off-campus. For more information, please check the equipment advice.


You'll be able to access most of the books you’ll need through our libraries, though you may wish to buy your own copies of core texts.



There are many ways to fund your postgraduate course, from scholarships to government loans.

We also offer a range of international masters scholarships for high-achieving international scholars who can put their Nottingham degree to great use in their careers.

Check our guide to find out more about funding your postgraduate degree.

Postgraduate funding


We offer individual careers support for all postgraduate students.

Expert staff can help you research career options and job vacancies, build your CV or résumé, develop your interview skills and meet employers.

Each year 1,100 employers advertise graduate jobs and internships through our online vacancy service. We host regular careers fairs, including specialist fairs for different sectors.

International students who complete an eligible degree programme in the UK on a student visa can apply to stay and work in the UK after their course under the Graduate immigration route. Eligible courses at the University of Nottingham include bachelors, masters and research degrees, and PGCE courses.

Graduate destinations

This course is an ideal step into a future research qualification, such as a PhD.

As you have the option of developing your interests at a more specialised level, you will even be able to tap into current debates surrounding America’s global position. As such, this MA offers excellent preparation for a career in teaching, journalism and the media, government service, diplomacy, and NGO's.

The interdisciplinary focus of the course will also equip you with the skills and flexibility to adapt to a range of other professions, such as management, business, public services and law.

You will also be ideally placed to pursue a career or further study in North America or Canada.

Career progression

78.4 % of postgraduates from the Faculty of Arts secured graduate level employment or further study within 15 months of graduation. The average annual salary was £23,045*

*HESA Graduate Outcomes 2020. The Graduate Outcomes % is derived using The Guardian University Guide methodology. The average annual salary is based on graduates working full-time within the UK.

Two masters graduates proudly holding their certificates
" Whether you’re into popular culture, social movements, political activism, or rights and social justice, all of those things are absolutely vital to American studies. I think with American studies, and learning these things, it’s about giving students the skills and knowledge to orient themselves in the world today. "
Stephanie Lewthwaite, Associate Professor in American History

Related courses

This content was last updated on Tuesday 18 July 2023. Every effort has been made to ensure that this information is accurate, but changes are likely to occur given the interval between the date of publishing and course start date. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply.