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Major Issues in American History and Culture (required)


Admission requirements

Relevant bachelor’s degree.


This interdisciplinary course offers an introduction to major issues in, and influential scholarly debates about, American history and culture in the past few decades. We’ll read a number of both classic and recently-published works on topics such as the American Revolution, American foreign policy, slavery, and immigration that will familiarize students with theories and debates about, for example, American exceptionalism and constructions of race, class and gender. In addition to providing an overview of American history, the course enables students to critically read and discuss important books in depth, and to examine the methodological, theoretical, and ideological approaches of leading scholars in American Studies. The course, which is required for all students in North American Studies, aims to introduce and contextualize a number of themes and topics that will be discussed in more detail and depth in the more specialized elective courses in the program.

Course objectives

The course aims to make students familiar with a number of major issues and concepts in American history and culture and the scholarly debates about these topics. Students learn to recognize different theoretical, methodological, and ideological approaches to the study of American history, literature, and culture and develop their analytical, critical, and presentation skills.


See timetable

Mode of instruction

Literature Seminar

Assessment method

Presentation + participation in class discussion (30%), 2 book reviews (1000 words; 20%) and historiographical essay (3500 words; 50%).


Blackboard will be used for information about individual authors, reviews of books, and background information on topics of discussion.

Reading list

  • Stanley Elkins, Slavery (1959)

  • Jane Tompkins, Sensational Designs (1985)

  • Bell Hooks, Yearning (1990)

  • Gordon Wood, The Radicalism of the American Revolution (1993)

  • Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire (2000)

  • David Roediger, Working toward Whiteness (2005)

  • George McKenna, The Puritan Origins of American Patriotism (2007)

  • Eva Illouz, Cold Intimacies: The Making of Emotional Capitalism (2007)


Via uSis.

Registration Studeren à la carte

More information in Dutch can be found here
Information in English can be obtained via email.


Email: Dr. E.F. van de Bilt