NORAM4550 – Theory and Method in North-American-studies

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

This course is both theoretical and practical.

The course will give a relatively broad theoretical and methodological introduction to the field of American Studies. The course is concerned with the historical development of the field, its current status and future prospects. We note that American Studies as practiced within the United States differs from that practiced in Norway and Europe generally—and while we will concentrate on its American iterations, the Norwegian context will also be considered. Critical to these differences is the  institutionalization and more recent deinstitutionalization of the field. Studying America in Europe has always been linked to the rising importance of the United States in international affairs, particualrly after the Second World War and has been tied as well to development of English as a global lingua franca, while the current de-emphasis of American Studies reflects a widespread belief in a postnational paradigm, multiculturalism and the rise of “global English.”

Part of the purpose of reviewing the instituional history is to emphasize the extent to which knowledge is made for specific purposes; in this respect American Studies in Europe reflects much about American-European relations and European attitudes toward the United States, while the development and re-iterations of American Studies in the United States says much about what Americans think about themselves.

In other respects the development of the American Studies field parallels recent developments in the humanities. We discuss  the rise of hermeneutics, post-colonialism, race, gender and Cultural Studies, as well as more recent turns in technology-and-culture studies, environmental studies and political theory. We will read both theoretical pieces arguing over what American Studies is or should be, as well as essays or excerpts from books that provide different models and methods for how to do American Studies.

The course serves as an important link to your thesis work because for perhaps the first time you will be entering into a meta-discourse about the way knowledge is created and structured, a process that shapes the sorts of question we ask when conducting research. In short, you will move beyond the particular subject matter of American Studies courses to examine the methods aand theories that lie behind the courses and the field itself.

In addition to two short informal and ungraded papers in the course of the semester, you will produce a 10 page “position paper” describing your research project (master oppgave), analyzing it through the literature of the field you have been introduced to in this course, and spelling out your research questions.

Thi paper may also be presented separately to your thesis director as a thesis prospectus.

Learning outcome

Upon completion of the course you will have:

  • Acquired the following skills necessary for writing your thesis. You will:
  • Understand the differences between research and other forms of text writing;
  • Know the difference between primary and secondary sources, and the ways each can be used in research;
  • Learned how to find and assess the scholarly literature and debates on a topic;
  • Have the ability to critically analyze academic arguments;
  • Understand how to formulate fruitful problem statements and hypotheses;
  • Know how to apply proper scholarly ethics;
  • Acquired the skills to write a project outline for your thesis;
  • Acquire the skills to write a full prospectus for your thesis.
  • Gained an understanding of the field of North American Area Studies. You will have:
  • Acquired the skills necessary for understanding the epistemology of relevant academic models and theories in the social sciences and humanities;
  • Learned how to see questions within the broader field of North American Studies.


Students who are admitted to study programmes at UiO must each semester register which courses and exams they wish to sign up for in Studentweb.

If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures.

This course is only for students admitted to the master program Europeiske og amerikanske områdestudier, NORAM or LeP/LaP.


Formal prerequisite knowledge

No obligatory prerequisites beyond the minimum requirements for entrance to higher education in Norway.


Seminar 2 hours per week for 10 weeks; 1 one-hour meeting per student for guidance on your term paper. 21 hours in total.

Attendance is obligatory at least 8 out of 10 seminars. Additional absences must be justified by documentation given to the exam coordinator. Read more about guidelines for compulsory activities.

There will be different class assignments during the semester.

Access to teaching

A student who has completed compulsory instruction and coursework and has had these approved, is not entitled to repeat that instruction and coursework. A student who has been admitted to a course, but who has not completed compulsory instruction and coursework or had these approved, is entitled to repeat that instruction and coursework, depending on available capacity.


The exam will consist of a portfolio. Your thesis prospectus will be a part of the portfolio.

Language of examination

The examination text is given in English, and you submit your response in English.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

Withdrawal from an examination

A term paper or equivalent that is passed may not be resubmitted in revised form.

If you withdraw from the exam after the deadline, this will be counted as an examination attempt.

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.


Feedback from our students is essential if we are to provide the best possible education. As a student at the University of Oslo you will be asked to participate in various types of evaluation of our courses. Every time a course is given, we ask students to participate in mid-term evaluations, and periodically we ask them to participate in periodic evaluation of the course.

Reports from periodic evaluations (in Norwegian)

Facts about this course






Every spring


Every spring

Teaching language