American studies is a distinct interdisciplinary field that promotes a broad humanistic understanding of American culture past and present. American Studies is both multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary in character and encourages scholars from diverse disciplines to exchanges ideas on scholarship as they relate to the American experience.
Vernon Louis Parrington is often cited as the "Founder of American Studies" for his writing within the Pulitzer Prize winning "Main Currents in American Thought", which combines methodologies of literary criticism and historical research.
"I have undertaken to give some account of the genesis and development in American letters of certain germinal ideas that have come to be reckoned traditionally American--how they came into being here, how they were opposed, and what influence they have exerted in determining the form and scope of our characteristic ideals and institutions. In pursuing such a task, I have chosen to follow the broad path of our political, economic, and social development, rather than the narrower belletristic..."
Vernon Louis Parrington - From the introduction to Main Currents in American Thought:
The "broad path" that Parrington describes is the scholastic course of study that was furthered by Henry Nash Smith , who received a PhD from Harvard's interdisciplinary program in History and American Civilization (1940) setting an acedemic precedent of present day American Studies programs.
The American Quarterly: The Journal of The American Studies Association has been the main outlet of American Studies Scholorship since 1947.