American Studies has long been a home for adventurous students seeking to understand the culture and politics of the United States. This welcoming spirit has found appeal around the world, but at the heart of the field is an identity crisis. Nearly every effort to articulate an American Studies methodology has been rejected for fear of losing intellectual flexibility and freedom. But what if these fears are misplaced? Providing a fresh look at American Studies in practice, this book contends that a shared set of “rules” can offer a springboard to creativity. American Studies: A User’s Guide offers readers a critical introduction to the history and methods of the field as well as useful strategies for interpretation, curation, analysis, and theory.
Introduction: The Object of American Studies
PART ONE: HISTORIES
1 • History and Historiography
2 • Four American Studies Mixtapes
3 • An Institutional History of American Studies (Or, What’s the Matter with Mixtapes?)
PART TWO METHODS
4 • Methods and Methodology
5 • Texts: An Interpretive Toolkit
6 • Archives: A Curatorial Toolkit
7 • Genres and Formations: An Analytical Toolkit
8 • Power: A Th eoretical Toolkit
PART THREE FROM JOTTING IT DOWN TO WRITING IT UP
9 • A Few Thoughts on Ideas and Arguments
10 • Dispenser: A Case Study
Philip J. Deloria is Professor of History at Harvard University. He is a former president of the American Studies Association.
Alexander I. Olson is Assistant Professor in the Mahurin Honors College at Western Kentucky University.
"This book fills a long-felt need for a single work that can be used as a touchstone and launching pad for students of American studies at all levels. Deloria and Olson do a superb job of conveying the pleasure and the stakes of working in this field as well as the craft skills required to do it well."—Carlo Rotella, Boston College
"A very smart and playful hybrid of a book that captures the challenges and rewards of work in American Studies."—Ann Fabian, Rutgers University
"This book crackles with insight, wit, conceptual range, and analytical precision. The historical and methodological knowledge packed into this volume will benefit a vast array of students, scholars, and instructors. Students will learn what American studies is and how to model and perform its methods in their own research."—Ramzi Fawaz, University of Wisconsin-Madison