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Undergraduate Course

American Studies and Film Studies BA (Hons)

Develop your understanding of American history and culture. Consider America's influence on the world and on the global film industry.

students and lecturer discuss American politics

Investigate American society through its history, literature, politics, popular culture, and especially it’s film. Study many different film genres through the lens of American culture and question how cinema reflects the social and political landscape of its time.

York campus

  • UCAS Code – TP7H
  • Duration – 3 years full time, 6 years part time
  • Start date – September 2022
  • School – School of Humanities

Minimum Entry Requirements

    104 UCAS Tariff points

    3 GCSEs at grade C/4 (or equivalent) including English Language.

Tuition Fees

    UK and EU 2021 entry £9,250 per year full time

    International 2021 entry £12,750 per year full time

Course overview

Immerse yourself in 2 complementary subjects that fascinate you with this Joint Honours degree. On this course you will explore the history and culture of the United States, consider the American experience, and investigate film on a global scale.

Explore American cinema across time and consider how it reflects political and social climates. You will examine major film movements including the New Hollywood period of the 70s and the independent cinema cycle of the 80s and 90s. You will consider the global cinematic influences that shape American cinema, and those that it influences.

You will have the opportunity to explore a range of genres, styles and periods of cinema, both from America and from around the world. This includes:

  • Gothic and horror
  • Animation
  • Documentary film
  • Science fiction
  • Independent film
  • Cult and extreme cinema.

On this degree you will learn the skills needed to investigate the techniques, styles and creative decisions behind film. Through varied modules which cross over different academic subjects, you will gain a broad understanding of American society, history and popular culture. We also consider film within it’s wider cultural context. This means exploring its relationship with:

  • Comic books
  • Video games
  • Television
  • Popular culture
  • The digital landscape.

You can choose to study abroad in your second year, experiencing America for yourself. You will gain valuable experience of living in another country, developing your independence and initiative.

Course structure

Year 1

Our academic year is split into 2 semesters. How many modules you take each semester will depend on whether you are st­udying full time or part time.

In your first year, if you are a full time student, you will study:

  • 3 compulsory modules in semester 1
  • 2 compulsory modules and 1 optional module in semester 2.

If you are a part time student, the modules above will be split over 2 years.

This is a joint honours degree which means you must study at least 1 module from each subject every semester.

You can find out which modules are available in each semester on the Course Specifications.

Optional modules will run if they receive enough interest. It is not guaranteed that all modules will run every year.

 

Modules

Credits: 20

Compulsory module

On this module we will introduce you to American Studies as an interdisciplinary academic subject. We will give you an overview of American literature and culture from the nineteenth century to the present day. You will investigate how American identity has been constructed in relation to the broad social, technological and economic changes which have taken place in this period. You will explore themes such as colonial politics, independence, the myth of the Frontier, issues of race and gender, consumerism and popular culture.

Credits: 20

Compulsory module

This module will help you to build the skills you need to succeed in higher education, and specifically for researching and analysing media. This includes skills in:

  • Researching
  • Referencing
  • Critical thinking
  • Academic writing
  • Presenting
  • Group work. 

We will make sure you are ready to take on the challenges of degree level study.

Credits: 20

Compulsory module

This module is your introduction to film history, theory and analysis as well as some of the technical and commercial aspects of film. You will explore these themes with a focus on key moments in the evolution of film, through the words of filmmakers past and present. We will also introduce you to some of the major approaches used to study and analyse film, such as:

  • Auteur theory
  • Genre
  • Subject positioning
  • Psychoanalysis
  • The gaze
  • Montage.

Credits: 20

Compulsory module

This module will give you a broad understanding of the history of the USA, from both a domestic and an international point of view. You will learn about America’s gradual emergence as a leading international power, economically, militarily and politically. We will explore historical developments in the American experience, including political, social and economic changes. You will consider the continuing tension between unity and diversity in American history, exploring topics such as the Civil War, industrialisation, consumer culture, foreign policy and immigration.

Credits: 20

Optional module

This module is your introduction to the use of film as a source of historical evidence for cultural, social and political change. American Studies is always interdisciplinary in its approach, and film is 1 of the many mediums we use to explore American history, identity and culture. You will learn the skills of cinematic analysis which will allow you to make the best use of this important medium, as well as discussing the importance of cinema within American society.

Credits: 20

Optional module

Drawing on relevant debates and scholarship, we will introduce you different films and their audiences, such as popular Hollywood film, independent film and world cinema. You will explore issues surrounding reception, taste and consumption, considering the social and cultural contexts in which film consumption takes place. You will also investigate different methods of studying audiences to consider how audiences engage with film.

Credits: 20

Optional module

On this module you will explore the idea of cult cinema in the context of its history, the film industry and contemporary culture. You will consider how historic examples of legislation around films have affected the status of cultism and cult cinema. This includes investigating how screen and entertainment developments have played a part in enhancing certain filmic cult movements. You will explore ideas about genre and authorship, subcultures and subversion.

Year 2

In your second year, if you are a full time student, you will study:

  • 2 compulsory modules and 1 optional module in semester 1
  • 3 optional modules in semester 2.

If you are a part time student, the modules above will be split over 2 years.

You can find out which modules are available in each semester on the Course Specifications.

You must choose at least 1 module from each subject every semester.

Optional modules will run if they receive enough interest. It is not guaranteed that all modules will run every year.

Modules

Credits: 20

Compulsory module

On this module you will consider the relationship between American literature and the physical and symbolic spaces of its settings. In American culture concepts of space and setting have a particular relevance that dates back to events such as the Declaration of Independence, the founding of civic spaces, and the Californian Gold Rush. You will be challenged to think creatively, critically, and innovatively about physical space and literature. We will explore the relationship between American socio-economic history and the development of a specifically American literary tradition.

Credits: 20

Optional module

This module is a great opportunity to improve your employability and start thinking about your career. You will consider how history, and the skills you have developed by studying it, relate to potential career paths. As part of this module you will participate in a 75 hour work placement. You will need to secure this placement yourself, but you can take advantage of the many connections we have established with heritage organisations in York and the wider region.

Credits: 20

Optional module

This module is an opportunity to engage with the more vocational elements of working with media and explore your entrepreneurial potential. You will work in groups to produce a creative portfolio and will eventually pitch your idea to a panel. This could be, for example, a magazine, a film festival, or an exhibition. You must take into account:

  • Marketing and advertising
  • Business cases
  • Product development
  • Effective communication of ideas.

Credits: 20

Optional module

On this module you will explore how America has imagined itself through film, identifying historical patterns, trends and continuities. We examine how American myths and ideologies have dominated attempts to define the national imagination – for example:

  • The mythology of the frontier
  • The myth of the open road in the countercultural 1960s
  • Regional identities of the south, California, the midwest or New York.

Credits: 20

Optional module

On this module we will explore the different ways books and films tell stories, and what happens to literature and literary characters when they are translated onto the screen. We will introduce you to the theory, methods and conventions behind the process of adaptation. In addition to examining specific examples of film adaptation, you can choose to experiment creatively on an adaptation project of your own, using what you have learnt.

Credits: 20

Optional module

On this module you will develop your research skills in preparation for the more extensive independent research project you will complete in your final year. You will focus on selected science fiction primary texts as well as related theoretical, philosophical, inter-textual and historical secondary material. You will also develop important academic skills through research. Our focus on science fiction includes major discussions within the genre, including:

  • Race
  • The environment
  • The relationship between human and machine
  • What it is to be human.

Credits: 20

Optional module

On this module you will focus on the experience of African Americans both as enslaved people and slavery and in the years following the abolition of slavery. You will learn about the origins, development and abolition of slavery in the USA, assessing the impact and nature of the American slave system. We will frame these discussions through the contemporary responses of both African Americans and white Americans concerning slavery, relationships between races after slavery ended, and the emergence of cultural expression among African Americans.

Credits: 20

Optional module

On this module we will consider the role of popular music as an essential and integral part of American culture and society. You will interrogate the social, cultural and economic context of popular music production, with reference to genres such as Jazz and Blues which emerged and developed in the USA. You will also consider how music can develop as a soundtrack to popular histories, and to construct and position cultural memory.

Credits: 20

Optional module

On this module we will consider the significance of various European cinemas and explore the histories and evolutions of these national cinema traditions as indicators of wider cultural change. You will consider cinema’s potential for social, political and cultural critique and contextualise film within counter cultural production, innovation, reception and distribution. This will include discussions about high culture vs low culture and an investigation of the different audiences, institutions and practices that occur within different cultures.

Credits: 20

Optional module

On this module you will discuss independent cinema from historical, social, national and international perspectives. We approach independent cinema as an anti establishment voice that stands in opposition to mainstream studio productions. You will explore the wider cultural context of independent cinema, for example:

  • The festival circuit
  • Film preservation
  • Fandom
  • Web communities
  • Cult cinema.

Credits: 20

Optional module

On this module you will use different academic subject areas to approach to the Gothic such as film, art and literature. Topics covered will include:

  • The origins and influence of the gothic
  • Dopplegangers
  • Nightmares of science
  • Normality and abnormality
  • Metamorphosis,
  • Gender in horror and the overlap of romance and horror.

Year 3

In your third year, if you are a full time student, you will study:

  • A Dissertation module across semesters 1 and 2. This can be focused on either American Studies or Film Studies.
  • 2 optional modules (1 from each subject) in semester 1
  • 1 compulsory module and 1 optional module in semester 2.

If you are a part time student, the modules above will be split over 2 years.

You can find out which modules are available in each semester on the Course Specifications.

Optional modules will run if they receive enough interest. It is not guaranteed that all modules will run every year.

Modules

Credits: 40

Compulsory module

This year long module will involve working independently to research a topic of your choice, using primary sources, cultural literature and advanced secondary sources. It is the culmination of your degree studies, and your chance to explore a topic that you are passionate about. A dissertation supervisor will help you define and develop your project throughout the year.

Credits: 20

Compulsory module

On this module you will examine how transnational film can articulate themes of displacement, nomadism, cosmopolitanism, border-crossing, homelessness, diaspora, and hybridity. This includes exploring how transnational cinema, both as a cultural form and a mode of production. We will consider cinematic representations of marginalised groups like immigrants, exiles and asylum seekers and case studies of a diverse range of film makers. This module will also include a field trip relevant to the study of transnational cinema.

Credits: 20

Optional module

On this module you will consider and debate how America represents moments of conflict and trauma to itself and the world. On both a personal and a cultural level trauma can be dealt with by playing it out in a fictionalised form, and we will examine how America has attempted to exorcise its demons through film and TV. This will be in reference to major historical events such as the Civil War, the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement and their portrayal on the big or small screen.

Credits: 20

Optional module

On this module you will approach contemporary popular culture as a site of ideological, political and cultural expression. You will assess the ways in which popular forms such as animation, comic books, movies, television, music and social media react to the social and cultural conversations of their time. This includes everything from discussions around race, class and gender to concerns about security and politics. We also consider how popular culture can draw from, make use of and subvert ideas and imagery from the cultural past.

Credits: 20

Optional module

In this module we will explore and analyse different forms of animated film and video games. This will include analysis of the different visual styles and genres in animation. You will examine the production, distribution and consumption of animated films and video games in contemporary culture. You will consider both large media companies like Disney and Studio Ghibli and smaller, independent studios, engaging in debates about realism, hybridity and ideology in animation.

Credits: 20

Optional module

On this module you will investigate the longstanding partnership between Britain and the USA since 1945, including its role in the construction of post war international institutions and forming the defence structures of the cold war. We will explore the difficulties which emerged within the relationship, and assess it’s continuing importance in the present day. We will also consider the extensive cultural exchange between the two countries.

Credits: 20

Optional module

On this module you will deepen your understanding of the history, theory and practice of documentary film. You will learn about the production and consumption of documentary film through various cultural and historical contexts. You will discuss how ideas about reality, realism and representation can be expressed through documentary film, as well as considering the impact of new and emergent communications technologies.

Credits: 20

Optional module

This module requires you to engage with a wide range of media representations of gender and sexualities. In doing so you will critically assess how certain forms, formats and practices of media transgress, reinforce or challenge assumptions and prejudices relating to gender and sexuality. This will build upon previous discussions about identity and representation from other modules, encouraging you to cultivate nuanced responses towards contemporary debates. We will also encourage you to reflect upon the evolution of critical perspectives on gender and sexualities.

Credits: 20

Optional module

On this module you will examine, confront and evaluate the historical debates surrounding the American Civil War. You will learn about the campaigns and strategies of the war itself, as well as its social and political impact and its lasting cultural legacy. You will also consider the social and political forces that have shaped how this period has been retold in historical and pop culture representations. This will open wider discussion about how wars are remembered and commemorated.

Credits: 20

Optional module

The 1960s were a turbulent time for the USA. President Lyndon Johnson was embarking on a series of reforms aiming to create “the Great Society” at the same time as the seemingly endless war in Vietnam. It was also a time of great achievements, with America leading the first moon landings. Topics you will cover on this module include:

  • The image and domestic policies of the Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon presidencies
  • Radicalism and dissent, including counterculture, urban riots and student protests
  • The domestic impact of the Vietnam War.

Credits: 20

Optional module

On this module we will explore issues surrounding gender and sexuality. We will debate whether various elements of gender are natural or cultural, as well as how different genders and sexualities are presented in film and literature. We will investigate how do different cultural groups use popular culture and literature to reinforce, challenge, transgress or disrupt traditional gender expectations. This module challenges you to draw on all of the skills, theories and approaches encountered throughout your degree to interrogate the representation of gender roles and sexuality in popular culture.

Teaching and assessment

Teaching and learning

We use a range of different teaching methods to support your learning on this course. You will take part in:

  • Lectures
  • Seminars
  • Tutorials
  • Workshops
  • Task focused activities
  • Field trips and excursions
  • Engagement with media practitioners and those working in the creative industry.

You will typically study 3 modules each semester. Each module will normally have 3 hours of contact time each week, so you will have a minimum of 9 hours each week of teaching.

Alongside your timetabled contact time, you will be expected to study independently. You will need to spend time reading around the topics we cover and preparing for your taught sessions. This will ensure that you get the most out of your degree, as well as building valuable time management skills.

Our teaching draws on both our research and professional experience. This means your learning is informed by the most current thinking in the subject area. You can find out more about our research and backgrounds by visiting our staff pages.

 

Assessment

There are no exams on this course. You will be assessed entirely through coursework, which could include:

  • Essays
  • Portfolios
  • Individual and group presentations
  • Interactive digital portfolios (using platforms such as Word Press)
  • Creative visual pieces.

Career outcomes

Your future with a degree in American Studies and Film Studies

This degree can lead to a variety of different career paths, some of which are directly related to film and some allow you to apply your skills more broadly. You will learn to think critically, form logical arguments and articulate your opinions, work independently and in teams, and manage your own work.

This degree could be the first step toward your career in:

  • Writing or producing for TV and film
  • Researching for TV and film
  • Marketing and PR
  • Advertising
  • Journalism
  • Public sector.

Discover more career options on Prospects careers advice pages.

You could also progress onto a postgraduate degree and take your learning even further.

Postgraduate degrees at York St John University

American Studies MA

Whatever your ambitions, we can help you get there.

Our careers service, LaunchPad provides career support tailored to your ambitions. Through this service you can access:

  • Employer events
  • LinkedIn, CV and cover letter sessions
  • Workshops on application writing and interview skills
  • Work experience and volunteering opportunities
  • Personalised career advice.

This support doesn't end when you graduate. You can access our expert career advice for the rest of your life. We will help you gain experience and confidence to succeed. It's your career, your way.

Entry requirements

Qualifications

Minimum Entry Requirements

    104 UCAS Tariff points

    3 GCSEs at grade C/4 (or equivalent) including English Language.

Calculate your UCAS Tariff points

International Students

If you are an international student you will need to show that your qualifications match our entry requirements.

Information about international qualifications and entry requirements can be found on our International pages.

If English is not your first language you will need to show that you have English Language competence at IELTS level 6.0 (with no skill below 5.5) or equivalent.

International entry requirements

This course is available with a foundation year

If you do not yet meet the minimum requirements for entry straight onto this degree course, or feel you are not quite ready for the transition to Higher Education, this is a great option for you. Passing a foundation year guarantees you a place on this degree course the following academic year.

Liberal Arts foundation year

Mature Learners Entry Scheme

If you have been out of education for 3 years or more and have a grade C GCSE in English Language or equivalent, you are eligible for our entry scheme for mature learners. It's a scheme that recognises non-traditional entry qualifications and experience for entry onto this course. Information on how to apply can be found on our dedicated page.

Mature entry offer scheme

Terms and conditions

Our terms and conditions, policies and procedures contain important information about studying at York St John University. You can read them on our Admissions page.

Fees and Funding

To study for an undergraduate degree with us, you will need to pay tuition fees for your course. How much you pay depends on whether you live inside the UK or EU, or internationally (outside the UK/EU). Tuition fees may be subject to inflation in future years.

UK and EU 2022 entry

The tuition fee for 2022 entry onto this course is

  • £9,250 per year for full time study
  • £6,935 per year for the first 4 years if you study part time.

These prices apply to all UK/EU, Jersey, Guernsey and Isle of Man students.

You can find out more about funding your degree by visiting our funding opportunities page.

Funding Opportunities

Placement year funding

If you choose to take a placement year, and your course offers it, you can apply for the Tuition Fee and Maintenance Loan for your placement year. How much you are awarded is based on the type of placement being undertaken and whether it is a paid or unpaid placement. The tuition fee for your placement year will be reduced.

Tuition Fees

    UK and EU 2021 entry £9,250 per year full time

    International 2021 entry £12,750 per year full time

International 2022 entry

The tuition fee for 2022 entry to this course is £12,750 per year for full time study.

This price applies to all students living outside the UK/EU.

Due to immigration laws, if you are an international student on a Student Visa, you must study full time. For more information about visa requirements and short-term study visas, please visit the International Visa and Immigration pages.

Find out more about funding your degree.

International Fees and Funding

Additional costs and financial support

There may also be some additional costs to take into account throughout your studies, including the cost of accommodation.

Course-related costs

While studying for your degree, there may be additional costs related to your course. This may include purchasing personal equipment and stationery, books and optional field trips.

Study Abroad

For more information on tuition fee reductions and additional costs for studying abroad, please visit our study abroad pages.

Accommodation and living costs

For detailed information on accommodation and living costs, visit our Accommodation pages.

Financial help and support

Our Funding Advice team are here to help you with your finances throughout your degree. They offer a personal service that can help you with funding your studies and budgeting for living expenses. 

For advice on everything from applying for scholarships to finding additional financial support email fundingadvice@yorksj.ac.uk

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