American Studies News

Professor Jerry Cohen honored for 55-years of service

Brandeis' Interium President, Lisa Lynch, along with American Studies Chair, Thomas Doherty, joined the Faculty in honoring Professor Jacob "Jerry" Cohen in his 55-years of dedication to instructing and guiding Brandeis students.  Doherty remarked "I believe it can be said without fear of contradiction that Jerry has taught more Brandeis students than any other faculty member in the history of Brandeis." Throughout his career at Brandeis, he has always been one of the university’s most generous and active citizens: repeatedly chairing the AMST Dept, twice chairing the faculty senate, and twice serving as chair of the faculty committee on admissions and financial aid.  Click here to read Professor Doherty's tribute to our beloved Jerry Cohen.

Professor Whitfield Humors Kerem Shalom

Resident humorist and American Studies Professor, Stephen Whitfield, presented "What is Jewish Humor?" at Karem Shalom on November 15.  For much of the 20th century, Jews exercised a disproportionate role in American comedy. At one time, four out of five stand-up comedians were estimated to be Jewish, though Jews were no more than 3 percent of the population. Minority status alone cannot explain such influence; no other ethnic or religious group has shown a comparable aptitude for an antic disposition that has reshaped the heritage of the nation’s humor.   

Hollywood and Hitler

Professor Doherty Visits the Holocaust Museum & Education Center, November 12 at 6:30 pm

American Studies Professor, Thomas Doherty, shared clips and insights from his book "Hollywood and Hitler, 1933-1939" on November 12 at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center.

Professor Doherty explored how the rise of the Third Reich confronted Hollywood with an unwelcome set of problems—over how to conduct business with the Nazis; over whether to address or ignore Nazism in Hollywood movies; and over the coverage of Hitler and his victims in newsreels. 

A Statement from the American Studies Program on the recent move by the American Studies Association to boycott Israel:

It is a with deep regret that we in the American Studies Program at Brandeis University have decided to discontinue our institutional affiliation with the American Studies Association.  We view the recent vote by the membership to affirm an academic boycott of Israel as a politicization of the discipline and a rebuke to the kind of open inquiry that a scholarly association should foster.  We remain committed to the discipline of American Studies but we can no longer support an organization that has rejected two of the core principles of American culture-- freedom of association and expression.

American Studies

American Studies

The American Studies program offers an interdisciplinary approach to the myths, values, symbols, institutions and behavior of the peoples of the United States and to the questions raised by the influence of the United States in shaping the modern world. The American studies major is designed to provide a comprehensive understanding of the history and major features of American civilization.


Students anticipating careers in law, business, public policy, communications, education, journalism, teaching and careers as professors of American studies, history and literature have typically enrolled in the department.

As a sponsor of programs in law, journalism and environmental studies, the department welcomes students who seek active engagement with the contemporary world through firm grounding in a sound liberal arts education.

Upcoming Events

Stan Brooks: From Brandeis to Hollywood | Monday, December 7 at 5:00 pm, Mandel, G03 

The road from Waltham to Hollywood can be both treacherous and rewarding. Just ask Brandeis alum Stan Brooks ‘79 (AMST), who has produced over sixty films and recently directed the indie feature PERFECT SISTERS starring Oscar winner Mira Sorvino and nominee Abigail Breslin. 

He will tell his story from creating a Film Festival in Deroy his Freshman year to running the Student Programming Board his Senior year and then venturing to Tinsel Town, winning the Emmy for Outstanding Miniseries. Don’t miss this chance to talk movies and television with a Hollywood veteran.

Recent Events


Gentleman's Agreement

On October 26, Rachel Gordan presented a screening of Elia Kazan's classic "Gentleman's Agreement" (1947) which is based on Laura Z. Hobson's 1947 novel of the same name. Professor Gordan is in residence at the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute and is currently working on a book entitled "How Does One Fight Such Things? A Gentleman's Agreement."

True Yankees: The South Seas and the Discovery of American Identity

On October 22, Dane Morrison spoke to the American History Majors. Dane is a Professor of History at Salem State University and the author of "True Yankees: The South Seas and the Discovery of American Identity." He presented his latest research, tracing early American voyages to the East Indies and explored how representations of that experience in the public sphere contributed to the construction of an American national identity.

RE: Joyce | Women Changing the World | A Symposium in Honor of Joyce Antler

This two-day event honored American Studies Professor—and the Samuel B. Lane Professor of American Jewish History and Culture and Women's and Gender Studies—Joyce Antler. Twenty-two speakers participated in six session, all to empower attendees and "rejoyce" in Joyce Antler's life's work. Sessions discussed: Women Writing Women's Lives, American Studies/Jewish Studies/Women's Studies, Creating Feminist Institutions, Experiments in Education, Empowering Voices for Change, and Comedy and Jewish Mothers. A reading of "Year One of the Empire: A Play of American War, Politics, and Protest was directed by Dmitry Travanovsky and Joyce's daughter, Lauren Antler, concluded the conference with heart felt laughs.

Hollywood History, Hollywood Fiction: A Talk by Farran Smith Nehme

Blogger, author, and New York Post film critic Farran Smith Nehme will be speaking on "Hollywood History, Hollywood Fiction" on Wednesday, October 7 at 4:00 pm in the Usdan International Lounge, Brandeis University. Her recent novel Missing Reels is described as an utterly winning, wholly delightful, totally cinematic debut novel of young love, old movies, and an epic search for a long-lost silent film.


Where did the stereotype of the Jewish mother actually come from?

Professor Joyce Antler gives a brief history of the universally recognized metaphor for nagging, whining - and unstinting devotion in Haaretz.(PDF)

Click for more information on previous events.