Eyes on Events: Milly Mulcahey & Kate Heffner, Kent Americanist Symposium 2022

University of Kent

The next episode in our series Eyes On Events, this week we are interviewing Milly Mulcahey and Kate Heffner about the upcoming Kent Americanist Symposium.  You can now grab your free ticket for the Americanist Conference, supported by CHASE and the University of Kent – Curating and Resisting Americana – online and hybrid,… Continue reading

Book Review: Female Physicians in American Literature: Abortion in 19th-Century Literature and Culture by Margaret Jay Jessee

Margaret Jay Jessee. Female Physicians in American Literature: Abortion in 19th-Century Literature and Culture (New York: Routledge, 2021). pp. 108. £44.99. Female Physicians in American Literature: Abortion in 19th-Century Literature and Culture (2022) asserts that it is not the first time in the history of America that previously claimed rights are being… Continue reading

Book Review: The End of Ambition: The United States and the Third World in the Vietnam Era by Mark Atwood Lawrence

If there was anything that most historians had firmly placed on the list of Richard M. Nixon’s accomplishments – good or bad – it was that his presidency engineered a rightward shift in US foreign policy. Yet, according to Mark Atwood Lawrence’s important new study, The End of Ambition: The United States and the Third World in the Vietnam Era, even this too must be stripped from the 37th president’s beleaguered historical legacy. An analysis of US policy towards the ‘Global South’ during the 1960s, Lawrence’s book argues that the key transitions away from the ‘ambitious’ policies of the John F. Kennedy years were made not by Nixon but Lyndon Johnson. Under the pressure of the Vietnam War, political change at home, and increasing anti-Americanism abroad, Johnson abandoned his predecessor’s interest in transformative global change to focus on stability and lower costs, even if that meant embracing pro-US strongmen. Nixon’s subsequent ‘doctrine’ to this effect merely codified in rhetoric what was already the case in practice. Continue reading

Book Review: Charlie Brown’s America: The Popular Politics of Peanuts by Blake Scott Ball

Blake Scott Ball’s biography of Peanuts’ cultural life chronologically documents the development of Charles M. Schulz’s work from a daily comic strip in seven US newspapers, to a national icon that articulated Cold War anxieties and the values of a past era. Though Peanuts is an artefact of extensive cultural significance, as Ball points out it has been ‘woefully understudied’ [5]. Ball’s study is the first to provide an extensive investigation into Peanuts’ place in Cold War American life. Continue reading

Eyes on Events: Rachel Williams, BAAS Annual Conference 2022, #2

University of Hull

The next episode in our series Eyes On Events, this week we are interviewing Rachel Williams about the upcoming BAAS Annual Conference. This is our second interview, taking place a week before the event itself. We discuss some of the innovative ideas being trialled, USSO’s own plans for the event, and the… Continue reading

Book Review: Burroughs Unbound: William S. Burroughs and the Performance of Writing edited by S. E. Gontarski

Burroughs Unbound is a collection of essays which explores recent interdisciplinary research on the twentieth-century US author William S. Burroughs. The main issues of the book concentrate on the performative aspects of Burroughs’ experiments on literature, particularly through what he, and collaborator Brion Gysin, called the ‘cut-up project’. The structure of the book somewhat mirrors the cut-up techniques used by the artists by being sliced and divided into three parts, with a series of appendices. The first part deals with ‘Theory’, where postmodernist and poststructuralist notions of control are captured via Derrida, Deleuze and Foucault. The second part, entitled ‘Texts’ is a textual analysis of Burroughs’ writing, from Naked Lunch (1959) to the cut-up texts and beyond. The third part explores Burroughsian ‘Performance’, in which, as the editor, Stanley Gontarski argues in his ‘Atrophied Introduction’, ‘Burroughs was as much a media and performance artist as he was a traditional literary figure’.[1] Continue reading

African American Theatre and The S Street Salon

Community Building and Articulations of Race and Gender at Georgia Douglas Johnson’s 'Saturday Nighters'

This article is adapted from a presentation given at the London Arts and Humanities Partnership postgraduate conference, 21st January 2022 During the Harlem Renaissance period, 1461 S Street, Washington D.C., the home of Georgia Douglas Johnson (1877-1966), represented an important hub of creativity and community for African American women writers. ‘Saturday… Continue reading

Book Review: The Invention of the American Desert: Art, Land, and the Politics of Environment edited by Lyle Massey and James Nisbet

If I had to choose just one moment to share from The Invention of the American Desert: Art, Land and the Politics of Environment, it would be this: J. Robert Oppenheimer, creator of the atomic bomb, dreamed about deserts. Joseph Masco, in his contribution to this volume, describes the way that Oppenheimer’s role in the siting of the Manhattan Project’s intellectual heart at Los Alamos reverberated outward with material impact. Masco calls Oppenheimer a ‘committed desert modernist’ who considered the desert a beautiful and empty space ripe for inspiration and experimentation. ‘His perfect desert,’ Masco writes, ‘the one with both sage and physics—set in motion a series of ongoing environmental, scientific, and military revolutions, transformations that now connect every living being on the planet via the embodied radioactive residues of US nuclear nationalism’ (24). Masco goes on to look at US military photography of the hundreds of nuclear explosions carried out in the Nevada desert in the 1950s, arguing that Oppenheimer’s idealised desert is reproduced in these photos—a settler-colonial imaginary of uninhabited space that created ‘an image of containment for events that were quite literally planetary in scope, dosing the global biosphere and every living being in [radioactive fallout] with each thermonuclear detonation’ (35). Continue reading

The People v. Ossian Sweet

The Promise and Threat of Black Detroit in the Age of the Great Migration

In the first decades of the twentieth century, no northern city drew more southern migrants than Detroit, ‘City of Tomorrow’.[i] As one Free Press reporter noted in 1917, ‘Detroit’s unexampled prosperity is the lodestone that is attracting thousands of Negroes’.[ii] Between 1910 and 1920, Detroit’s Black population increased almost eightfold,… Continue reading

Eyes On Events: Elisa Pesce, International Panel on Fictional Maximalism

  The next episode in our series Eyes On Events, this week we are interviewing Elisa Pesce about the upcoming International Panel on Fictional Maximalisms and the Americas: New Voices, New Perspectives. The panel is being held on the 11th of April 2022, online via Zoom. To join, email Elisa at e.pesce.1@research.gla.ac.uk for further… Continue reading

Eyes on Events: Rachel Williams, BAAS Conference 2022

University of Hull

The next episode in our series Eyes On Events, this week we are interviewing Rachel Williams about the upcoming BAAS Annual Conference. This week we discuss sharing a call for papers, organising the practicalities of a conference, and adopting a hybrid approach. The British Association for American Studies’s 67th Annual Convention is being… Continue reading

Black Girl Magic, Community and Celebration in Contemporary American Culture

This article is adapted from the keynote presentation given at BAAS Postgraduate Symposium, 4th December 2021. The ‘Black Girl Magic’ movement is an opportunity both to celebrate what is means to be a Black woman and also challenge the oppressional practices and contemporary issues that affect them and their community.… Continue reading

Book Review: Phantoms of a Beleaguered Republic: The Deep State and the Unitary Executive by Stephen Skowronek, John A. Dearborn, and Desmond King

The Trump presidency was a period of unrelenting drama. Trump was often joined at centre stage by members of his own administration, cast as his adversaries. He described these previously anonymous bureaucrats as members of a hidden ‘Deep State’ within the government scheming to undermine his control over the executive branch.[1] Trump viewed the Article II vesting clause, which states that ‘[t]he executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States’ as having lodged all executive power in the presidency and, under that unitary executive theory, considered any resistance to his will to be a constitutional offence. He moved to stamp out all opposition within the government; frequently, as if to confirm Trump’s allegations of a rogue bureaucracy, the bureaucracy fought back. Continue reading

Eyes on Events: Malcolm Craig, HOTCUS Winter Symposium 2022

The next episode in our series Eyes On Events, this week we are interviewing Malcolm Craig about the upcoming HOTCUS 2022 Winter Symposium: The Manhattan Project Turns 80: Reflections on the Nuclear Age. The conference is being held on the 12th of March 2022, in-person at Liverpool John Moores University. More details… Continue reading

Broadway, Hollywood, and the Problem with The Prom

Among all the necessary and welcome debates around identity in contemporary culture, few have been more pronounced in theatre and film than that of who should be cast to play characters of marginalised identities. From gender identity and religious beliefs to nationality and disability, this issue is occurring with increasing… Continue reading

Mending Fences: The Broken Bond between Theatre and Film

Play to film adaptations have fallen in prestige and numbers in recent years, and one of the main reasons for this is the decline in popularity of plays that can be adapted. For example, A Streetcar Named Desire was the 5th highest grossing film of 1951[i] while Fences was the… Continue reading

“Where is Thy Sting?”: Clifford Odets and the Problem of Audience

On September 6th 1936, The New York Times went to print with an article entitled: “Odets, Where is Thy Sting?”[i] Reflecting on the recent reception of Clifford Odets’s The General Died at Dawn (1936), Frank Nugent described the enthusiasm of the audiences who had come to see the Broadway playwright’s… Continue reading

Drama and Cinematic Adaptation: USSO Special Series

  The adaptation of plays into films has been a core part of Hollywood’s output in the 95 years since the introduction of sound into cinema. In this time a huge number of the cinema’s finest and best-regarded works have begun life on the stage, Broadway or otherwise. Despite this… Continue reading

Book Review: American Democratic Socialism: History, Politics, Religion, and Theory by Gary Dorrien

Over recent years, American democratic socialism has experienced a remarkable revival. This includes Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s electoral success, but also the transformation of institutions like the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) from a 6,000-member organisation with an average age of 68 in the mid-2010s to a 94,915-strong group with an average age of 33 by 2021. But as Gary Dorrien uncovers in American Democratic Socialism: History, Politics, Religion and Theory, this politics has a history that stretches back long before today.   Continue reading

Eyes on Events – Hannah Jeffrey & Krysten Blackstone, SASA Annual Conference 2022

The next episode in our new series Eyes On Events, this week we are interviewing Krysten Blackstone and Hannah Jeffrey about the upcoming Scottish Association for the Study of Americas (SASA) Annual Conference.  The conference is being held on the 5th of March 2022, with a week of events beforehand. You… Continue reading

Book Review: Philosophy for Spiders: On the Low Theory of Kathy Acker by McKenzie Wark

McKenzie Wark’s work over the last decade and a half has delved into a remarkably vast array of themes and problems, running the gamut from the politics of forms of communication, to the relevance of early Soviet thought in the Anthropocene, via a series of books on the Situationist International. If there has been a common thread to these studies, it may be Wark’s account of low theory—a compellingly protean articulation of the possibilities for theoretical production from below, beyond the canonisation of High Theory. Continue reading

Gatekeeping Country: An Ethnographic Study of Female Country Music Performers in the 21st Century

This article is adapted from a presentation given at BAAS Postgraduate Symposium, 4th December 2021. In December 2021, I was delighted to have the opportunity to present a paper on my ongoing PhD research at the BAAS Postgraduate Symposium. Sitting at an intersection of ethnomusicology, American studies, and the sociology… Continue reading

Towards an intersectional theory of news selection in US-based broadcast journalism

This article is adapted from a presentation given at BAAS Postgraduate Symposium, 4th December 2021. This paper argues that by re-thinking ideas of how journalists decide what is and is not news through an intersectional lens, scholars will be better placed to evaluate journalism’s ability to accurately represent the communities… Continue reading

Book Review: Doris Derby: A Civil Rights Journey by Doris Derby

Sharecroppers labouring in Mississippi fields. African American women organising cooperatives to support their communities. Members of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). The Free Southern Theatre, and the potential for theatre to be a catalyst for change. The centrality of Farish Street to Black life in Jackson, Mississippi. Medical clinics. Schools. Liberty House cooperative. Woodstock. Churches. Houses. Murals. Shootings. Funerals. Speeches. Families. Continue reading

‘Now You’re The Only One For Me Jolene’: Queer Reading and Forging Community in Country Music

When Nadine Hubbs wrote an additional verse to Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene’ with the lyric: ‘It’s true that my man found you first / You awakened such a thirst / Now you’re the only one for me, Jolene’, the song’s homoerotic and queer subtext became explicit. [i] This was one example… Continue reading

Book Review: The Republican Party and the War on Poverty: 1964-1981 by Mark McLay

In The Republican Party and the War on Poverty, Mark McLay analyses how the Grand Old Party (GOP) responded to Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty, and the issue of poverty more broadly, between 1964 and 1981. He considers what Republican opposition to anti-poverty measures reveals about the GOP and wider US politics during this period. In chronological chapters, McLay examines continuity and change in Republican approaches to poverty. He shows persuasively how Republican reactions to the War on Poverty shaped the GOP’s enduring conservative, anti-statist, and racialised responses to poverty, alongside how anti-poverty measures were understood by the wider public, for years and decades to come. Continue reading

“Your Name is Safe”: The Ladder as lesbian literary community

This article is adapted from a presentation given at BAAS Postgraduate Symposium, 4th December 2021. In the second issue of the Ladder – the San Francisco-based lesbian literary magazine that circulated between 1956 and 1972 – Ann Ferguson published an article intended to reassure nervous subscribers, titled ‘Your Name is… Continue reading

MA Graduate Teaching Assistantship Award in Southern Studies at University of Mississippi: Lily-Pearl Benn’s testimony

As the deadline for BAAS’s MA Graduate Teaching Assistantship Award in Southern Studies at University of Mississippi nears, read the testimony from Lily-Pearl Benn about her time at the University of Mississippi.  I first heard about the BAAS award via email when I was an undergraduate in English and American… Continue reading

Book Review: Fictive Fathers in the Contemporary American Novel by Debra Shostak

‘Why is it’, Debra Shostak asks at the beginning of Fictive Fathers in the Contemporary American Novel, ‘that so many works of fiction of the last fifty years, especially those centring on relation within middle-class white families, are haunted by the figure of a father who […] fails his family or vanishes in actuality? […] What are the nature and sources of the originary image of paternal security and authority that cause disappointment, disruption, or trauma when an individual father falls short?’ (2). Powered by these questions, Fictive Fathers is centrally concerned with exploring the relationship that fathers have with fictionality. It explores the ‘double meaning embedded in the titular “fictive fathers”’: in one sense about the representation of fathers in recent fictional texts, but also how these texts narrate the ‘fathers for (and by) whom the pervasive construction of traditional white fatherhood in the United States is laid bare as illusory’. For Shostak, ‘this “fictive” fatherhood constitutes a myth, on the social plane, and a fantasy, on the personal plane’ (3). Continue reading

Review: ANZASA 2021 (Online)

As the Australia and New Zealand American Studies Association met for its biannual conference on November 24-25th, the conference’s key themes of ‘American Crisis’ and ‘American Renewal’ were kept in an incredibly fine balance. Hosted by the Macquarie School of Social Sciences, ANZASA 2021 was the Association’s first pandemic-era conference… Continue reading

Book Review: Revolutionaries for the Right: Anticommunist Internationalism and Paramilitary Warfare by Kyle Burke

By its very nature, the American New Right was destined to have an ambiguous relationship with the state. A movement fusing Cold War hawks, social conservatives, and economic libertarians, it on the one hand called for handing over considerable amounts of money and authority to the state for ‘national security’ while on the other demanding that same state be severely restricted in its control over any aspect of national life deemed ‘the economy.’ Kyle Burke’s fascinating and illuminating book, Revolutionaries for the Right, proves that this ambiguity went deeper than the mere results of coalition politics – and, in doing so, provides a window onto the origins of the political forces that have increasingly displaced the New Right following the 2016 US presidential election. Continue reading

Book Review: Black Paper: Writing in a Dark Time by Teju Cole

The breadth of Teju Cole’s oeuvre – novelist, essayist, photography critic, and photographer – has led many to describe him as a public intellectual. It’s a label Cole has expressed his discomfort with[1], in spite of his knack for presenting innovative work through social media, amongst them his Twitter short story Hafiz, and his consistently oblique photographs that knowingly jar with the dominant aesthetic on Instagram. The publication in 2010 of his second novel, Open City, saw him heralded as a major new writer, despite his novel being subtle, ambiguous and, on the surface, largely plotless. He followed Open City with the wider publication of his debut novel, Every Day is For the Thief, previously only published in Nigeria. He has since gone on to publish a collection of essays, Known and Strange Things, and three photobooks: Blind Spot, Fernweh and Golden Apple of the Sun. Black Paper is his second collection of essays. Continue reading

Call for Reviewer: BAAS Postgraduate Symposium 2021

U.S. Studies Online are seeking conference reviewers for the upcoming PG BAAS Conference: Visibility / Invisibility: Representation and Community Formation in American Studies. USSO is the postgraduate and early-career website, network, and blog for the British Association for American Studies, committed to publishing new work in and related to the… Continue reading

Book Review: Wallace’s Dialects by Mary Shapiro

Mary Shapiro makes the case for Wallace’s Dialects clearly on the first page: Wallace’s ‘inventive and poetic uses of language have been frequently praised, but little studied from a linguistic point of view’ (1). Shapiro’s book is a welcome addition to the field of Wallace Studies. Positioned as it is, Wallace’s Dialects has two clear distinctions as a monograph. First, this book focuses very notably on Wallace’s texts (both fiction and not) at the micro level, at the level of sentence. Particular word choices, even letter choices, are scrutinised across Wallace’s oeuvre. This is distinct from other monographs that more readily examine the structure of Wallace’s writing at the macro level.[i] Second, and relatedly, this tight focus at the level of sentence means that Wallace’s Dialects operates at the juncture of textual analysis and biography – a way of mediating between the effects of the writing and the conditions of that writing’s composition. This monograph closely reads the language to make conclusions about both texts and author. Continue reading

Eyes on Events – Chris Dixon, ANZASA Annual Conference 2021

The next episode in our series Eyes On Events, this week we are interviewing Chris Dixon about the upcoming Australia and New Zealand American Studies Association Annual Conference 2021: American Crisis / American Renewal.  The event is taking place virtually via Zoom, on 24-25 November 2021. For further information and updates… Continue reading

The Afghanistan Effect: Isolationism in US Foreign Policy

On September 28th 2021, General Mark Milley, US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before the US Senate Armed Services Committee regarding the end of US military involvement in Afghanistan. The general responded to Senator Hawley’s question on the evacuation of US citizens: “Strategically, the war is lost.… Continue reading

Eyes on Events – Jennafer Holt & Aashima Rana, BAAS PGR Conference 2021 #1

  The next episode in our series Eyes On Events, this week we are interviewing Jennafer Holt and Aashima Rana about the upcoming British Association of American Studies Conference: Visibility/Invisibility: Representation & Community Formation in American Studies. We speak with two of the organisers about their experience so far, the event, and the Call… Continue reading

Book Review: Dueling Grounds: Revolution and Revelation in the Musical Hamilton ed. by Mary Jo Lodge and Paul R. Laird

Featuring important contributions from scholars and professionals of theatre and performance as well as specialists in musicology, history, and economics, Dueling Grounds: Revolution and Revelation in the Musical Hamilton provides a vast variety of disciplinary perspectives on Hamilton and its wide-ranging deployments of liminality. The show itself has garnered a great deal of acclaim for promoting diversity and inspiring historical education, praise certainly not without warrant. However, the editors and contributors of this topical volume do not shy away from the fact that Hamilton leaves some aspects of eighteenth-century American life either obscured or unaddressed, particularly with regard to issues involving people of colour and women. Continue reading

Sampson Selig: the 1896 election and children in American political history

Children remain disenfranchised. They are formally divorced from political participation and are unable to directly influence who is elected to their local board of supervisors, never mind who enters the White House. But American political history is incomplete without considering the nation’s youngsters. Firstly, children wield immense soft political power… Continue reading

Book Review: Understanding Jennifer Egan by Alexander Moran

Understanding Jennifer Egan by Alexander Moran is the first book-length study to provide critical analysis of all of Jennifer Egan’s published fiction to date. Arriving in the same year as Ivan Krielkamp’s A Visit from the Goon Squad REREAD,[i] the rising critical attention to Egan’s work is a welcome sight, correcting the tendency to overlook Egan’s constant and significant presence in contemporary fiction. Continue reading

Eyes on Events – Maria Manning & Janice Deitner, IAAS PG 2021

The next episode in our series Eyes On Events, this week we are interviewing Maria Manning and Janice Deitner about the upcoming Irish Association of American Studies Postgraduate Symposium -The (Hi)stories We Create: Narratives of Exceptionalism, Ideology, and Resilience. The event is taking place virtually via Zoom, on the 5th/6th November… Continue reading

Book Review: The Cult of the Constitution by Mary Anne Franks

The Cult of the Constitution is a rich and insightful account of the role of the U.S. Constitution in American political life. Arguing that 1787 marked the creation of ‘not merely a constitution, but a cult’ (34), Mary Anne Franks draws out the parallels between fundamentalist approaches to religion and to the Constitution. A vital point of commonality, Franks argues, is a practice of ‘victim-claiming’ in which powerful individuals and groups position themselves as vulnerable and therefore entitled to use their power to disarm and censor those threatening them (xii-xiii). This line of thought enables the penetrating account of the Constitution’s role that Franks develops, which situates the Constitution firmly and productively within its immediate socio-political context. Continue reading

Tim Galsworthy on the 2021 BAAS Peter Parish Award

In March 2021, I was fortunate enough to be the recipient of a Postgraduate Research Assistance Award from BAAS. Receiving this award, especially one named after the great Peter Parish, was humbling. This award was also invaluable for my doctoral project. After initially considering the possibility of a visit to… Continue reading

Book Review: The Victims of Democracy: Malcolm X and the Black Revolution by Eugene Victor Wolfenstein

The Victims of Democracy: Malcolm X and the Black Revolution (2021) is a new rendition of Eugene Victor Wolfenstein’s 1981 The Victims of Democracy. It constitutes a biographical study of Malcolm X’s life, heavily drawing from the model that Alex Haley utilised in his 1965 The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Wolfenstein is in conversation with the fields of psychoanalysis, Marxism and critical race theory. He draws on Malcolm X’s published speeches and a number of different historical materials to support his main arguments. Continue reading

Book Review: The Rise of Common-Sense Conservatism: The American Right and the Reinvention of the Scottish Enlightenment by Antti Lepisto

Why were historians of conservatism shocked by Donald Trump’s rise? Antti Lepistö, an intellectual historian at the University of Oulu, Finland, seeks to answer this question in his first monograph, The Rise of Common-Sense Conservatism: The American Right and the Reinvention of the Scottish Enlightenment. The work is split into six chapters each focusing on a different element of neoconservative thought. The first- and second-chapters study journalist Irving Kristol’s use of ‘common man’ rhetoric in the late-1970s and early-1980s, and how social scientist James Q. Wilson built upon this. Continue reading

Taking Notice: Nature and Climate Change Deniers in American Climate Fiction

Climate change is no taboo topic as in recent years, figures and organisations such as Greta Thunberg and WWF have brought the on-going environmental crisis to the media’s forefront, presenting us with frankly terrifying statistics about our planet’s future if radical changes to our destructive behaviours are not made. Literature… Continue reading

Book Review: Infamous Bodies: Early Black Women’s Celebrity and the Afterlives of Rights by Samantha Pinto

In Infamous Bodies: Early Black Women’s Celebrity and the Afterlives of Rights, Samantha Pinto thinks about the ways in which black women come into political view by interrogating the premises of the female celebrity genre. She carefully considers what it means to be a political figure and situates the discourse of vulnerability at the centre of politics. Infamous Bodies consists of five chapters, each of which deals with a celebrity of the eighteenth or nineteenth century. Pinto thinks through five case studies, the private and public lives of Phillis Wheatley, Sally Hemings, Sarah Baartman, Mary Seacole, and Sarah Forbes Bonetta, and the ways in which they reverberate across different political moments and are taken up again in the following centuries. Continue reading

Meditations on Critical Race Theory and 21st Century Anti-Communism

In recent months, there have been ongoing public discussions about Critical Race Theory (CRT).[i] With Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts backing a resolution to combat the teaching of Critical Race Theory in the state’s universities,  and other states responding to crowds of parents and protestors calling for the ‘removal of CRT… Continue reading

Book Review: The American Weird: Concept and Medium edited by Julius Greeve and Florian Zappe

The American Weird is an essay collection divided in two parts: ‘Concept’ and ‘Medium’. Its claim to originality lies in the latter part’s focus on manifestations of the weird in non-literary media running the gamut from film and music to television and videogames. Naturally, however, these cannot be discussed in isolation from the first part’s question of ‘concept’ – of what the weird is. Continue reading

Panel Review: ‘Elemental America’ BAAS Annual Conference 2021 (Online)

The British Association for American Studies (BAAS) held their 2021 conference entirely in a digital mode. This made the conference more sustainable and accessible – yet during a global pandemic, it is also a necessity. I’m currently based in Lisbon, so it was the only way I could ‘attend’ it!… Continue reading

The Historiography of Ethan Allen

Ethan Allen is widely celebrated as one of the founding fathers of Vermont, formerly called the New Hampshire Grants until it declared itself an independent republic in 1777. In the decades prior to Allen’s arrival in the Grants, the settlers (the majority of whom owned illegitimate land grants from New… Continue reading

Review: ‘Indigenous Mobilities: Travellers through the Heart(s) of Empire,’ Beyond the Spectacle (Online)

Organized by the collaborative AHRC research project “Beyond the Spectacle” (University of Kent, University of East Anglia and University of British Columbia), “Indigenous Mobilities: Travellers through the Heart(s) of Empire” engaged speakers in a 4-day discussion around the importance of Indigenous travels and movement in scholarly and non-scholarly debates. In… Continue reading

Panel Review: ‘Pop Cultural Interventions’ BAAS Annual Conference 2021 (Online)

One of the final sessions for the British Association for American Studies 2021 digital conference was titled Pop Cultural Interventions, chaired by Dr. James Peacock (Keele University). Pop culture covers a wide range of subjects and media which was reflected in this conference session, including discussion of film, television, social… Continue reading

Plenary Speaker Interview: Laura Marks interviewed by Michael Hedges, BAAS 2021 Annual Conference

Laura U. Marks is the Principal Investigator of Tackling the Carbon Footprint of Streaming Media, a research group at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver. This interdisciplinary project brings together researchers from the university’s School for the Contemporary arts (Laura U. Marks and Radek Przedpełski) and the School of Engineering Science (Stephen… Continue reading

Book Review: Diane Di Prima: Visionary Poetics and the Hidden Religions by David Stephen Calonne

Poets have often figured as the liaison between mystic items and the vast audience to whom the inner meaning of such items was mysterious or unknown. In this sense, poets act as prophets, translators of symbols or, more metaphorically, bridges. It is precisely the idea of the poet as a bridge which David Stephen emphasises in Diane di Prima: Visionary Poetics and the Hidden Religions. In this 2019 volume, the legendary figure of the late di Prima is portrayed in turn as a bridge between cultures, key literary and intellectual movements, and ethnicities. Continue reading

Panel Review: ‘Lights, Camera, Crash: Finance and Contemporary Genre Film’, BAAS Annual Conference 2021 (Online)

The conference for the 2021 British Association for American Studies was held entirely online this year in response to the global pandemic of Covid-19 and as a way to hold an almost carbon neutral conference in response to growing concerns around climate change. Indeed, the first session of the conference… Continue reading

“Heeere’s Johnny!”…Again…and Again…: Pluto TV and the Continued Presence of Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show

(Image source: https://www.facebook.com/PlutoTV/videos/johnny-carson-tv/1012800892491661/)   In August 2020, Pluto TV, a free streaming service from ViacomCBS, launched a new channel called “Johnny Carson TV.” Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, the channel streams hour-long edited episodes of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (NBC, 1962-1992).[i] This article will explore… Continue reading

‘Brings Back Some Memories’: Textual and metatextual experiences of nostalgia in Twin Peaks: The Return

  “When you see me again, it won’t be me,” the entity called The Arm warns in the second season finale of Twin Peaks, the cult 1990s TV series co-created by screenwriter Mark Frost and filmmaker David Lynch. This cryptic statement was borne out by the long-awaited revival of the… Continue reading

“Be Curious, Not Judgemental.” Influences of Positivity and Kindness in Ted Lasso

    In the summer of 2020, Ted Lasso, a sitcom centred around a former NBC soccer promoter, was released to both critical and commercial success and appeared to channel a specifically upbeat register quite unlike its peers. Built on the tried-and-tested ‘fish out of water’ comedy trope, Ted Lasso centres… Continue reading

Review: “20/20 Vision: Citizenship, Space, Renewal,” EAAS Annual Conference 2021 (Online)

Organised by the European Association for American Studies, “20/20 Vision: Citizenship, Space, Renewal” coincided with the 400th anniversary of the establishment of the Plymouth Foundation and invited scholars to contemplate on American history, politics and culture. The conference called for an exploration of three broad thematic areas: the aspect of… Continue reading

Quantum Leap: Jukebox Nostalgia and the Flattening of History

In the opening scene of the Quantum Leap episode “Animal Frat” (2×12), Dr. Sam Beckett ‘leaps’ into the body of Knut “Wild Thing” Wileton, arriving in his body on top of a pool table as two ‘Tau Kappa Beta’ fraternity brothers pour beer from the keg into Sam’s startled face.… Continue reading

The Mandalorian: The Latest Space Western Series in a New Era of American Television

  From the outset, Jon Favreau’s The Mandalorian (2019) pays homage to a duality of histories: the American Western genre and the rich tapestry of the Star Wars franchise. Set in the years following the fall of the Empire and before the emergence of the First Order, the show follows… Continue reading

Book Review: Trump and Us: What He Says and Why People Listen by Roderick P. Hart

Roderick P. Hart’s book was written in a time noisy with the sounds and echoes of Donald Trump’s Twitter feed.  The political world is quieter now.  Former President Trump can hardly be heard from his Florida base.  He has not disappeared, and his continuing influence on the Republican Party and on the practice of US politics is evidenced by the nervous cotillion being performed around him.  Witness Senator Mitch McConnell who, in rapid succession, voted to acquit Trump in the second impeachment trial, made a speech excoriating Trump for his role in prompting the January 6th 2021 attack on the US Capitol, and only days later affirmed that he would ‘absolutely’ support Trump’s return to the White House should the Donald gain the GOP nomination in 2024. Continue reading

Mirroring the Medium: Depictions of Female Domesticity in ‘WandaVision’

WandaVision (2021) is, at its core, a story of grief and nostalgia. In its genre-bending magnificence, WandaVision narrates the evolution of American sit-coms, hurtling us forward through the second half of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first, as the black-and-white pastiches of The Dick Van Dyke Show and Bewitched… Continue reading

Panel Review: ‘Lineages of Black Activism’, BAAS Annual Conference 2021 (Online)

Organized by the Digital British Association for American Studies, the 66th American Studies conference invited scholars to critically engage with American literature, history, culture and politics in North America, the United States and the Americas more broadly. All sessions took place remotely through a digital events platform, Zoom. In the context… Continue reading

“The Only Way Forward Is Back” – Nostalgia, Grief and Television in WandaVision

WandaVision, one of the newest installments of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), abandoned the cinema altogether to bring two of the Avengers, Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) to the small screen in a 7-episode miniseries airing weekly between January and March 2021 on streaming platform Disney+. The… Continue reading

Eyes on Events – Alexandra Abletshauser, Creative Conversations with Indigenous Canada

The next episode in our series Eyes On Events, this week we are interviewing Alexandra Abletshauser about the upcoming Creative Conversations with Indigenous Canada . These workshops will be run on Zoom. Events are free, registration is required. Both events run from 7-8 pm BST. Full details can be found here: June 7:… Continue reading

Eliminating “Blood and Thunder” from Containment Culture: Audience Efforts to Censor Postwar Radio Programming in the Run-Up to Television

The decade after WWII (1945-1955) was distinct and pivotal in the formation of American media policy, and in establishing postwar social norms.[1]  The major broadcast networks (NBC, CBS, and ABC) had profited from wartime spending and garnered some regulatory goodwill through their work with the Office of War Information.  Still,… Continue reading

When Mariah met Lutie – Luke Cage, The Street and the cultural capital of TV comic adaptation

Content Warning: Graphic Images (violence, severed heads) Netflix released the first series of Luke Cage in September 2016 to immediate acclaim. Cheo Hodari Coker, the producer of the Marvel comic adaptation, uses the richness of African American culture to create a hyper-real Harlem as the backdrop for his eponymous hero.… Continue reading

Watchmen and Hunters: Reading Nostalgia, Repair, and Heroism in American Historical Fiction

    Watchmen (2019 and Hunters (2020) are both TV shows that engage with a deep sense of nostalgia and reparation: whether it is their counterfactual worldmaking with an ‘American god’ or a group of Jews who are on the ‘hunt’ to kill Nazis in post-war America, they both demonstrate… Continue reading

U.S. Television, Nostalgia and Identity – Editorial

The ubiquity of television has been written about extensively in both scholarship and popular writing; ever since the first commercial sets began replacing the hearth as the centrepiece of any American living area, television has dominated how we write and think about the United States. In 2020, a time unlike… Continue reading

‘Heart’, ‘Hope’, and ‘Tombstones’: Donald Trump and Populist discourse

Like other actors in the public sphere, politicians manipulate our emotions to achieve an “emotional re-framing of reality”[i]. Either in their spontaneous or prepared addresses, those in public office usually trigger a myriad of emotions ranging from fear, anger, frustration, resentment, happiness, grief to nostalgia. This chameleonic communication is often… Continue reading

Eyes on Events – Emily Hull & Stephen Colbrook, UCL Americas Research Network Annual Conference: Histories of Inequality

The next episode in our new series Eyes On Events, this week we are interviewing Emily Hull and Stephen Colbrook about the upcoming UCL Americas Research Network Annual Conference: Histories of Inequality. The conference is being held on the 1st of June 2021. You can register for this virtual event here: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/americas/events/2021/jun/ucl-americas-research-network-annual-conference-histories-inequality Please email… Continue reading

Book Review: Laughing to Keep from Dying by Danielle Fuentes Morgan

Laughing to Keep From Dying centres its discussion on the ways satire enables a social commentary which illustrates the power of Black selfhood; satire becomes a new form of social justice. (2) The texts discussed in this book ‘reveal critical anxieties about race and critique the irrationality of racialization’. (3) This critique draws attention to the mistreatment of African Americans and initiates a discourse about racial inequality in America. Continue reading

Roundtable Review: ‘American Studies in the Twenty-First Century’, BAAS Annual Conference 2021 (Online)

In his introduction to ‘American Studies in the Twenty-First Century’, Andrew Fearnley (University of Manchester), who co-organized the roundtable with Hilary Emmett (University of East Anglia), argued that the “greatest challenge that faces British American Studies is our subject’s diminishing profile among young people.” This panel sought to consider how… Continue reading

Plenary Review: Dr Laura Marks, BAAS Annual Conference 2021 (Online)

‘Conference Review: ‘British Association for American Studies 2021’, Plenary Address: ‘Streaming Media, Online Conferences, and the Jevons Paradox’, 5th April 2021.   Dr Laura U. Marks’ opening plenary at the 66th British Association for American Studies (BAAS) came after a year during which many of us have organised, attended, or… Continue reading

Panel Review: ‘Recent Work in Asian American Studies’

Chaired by Eithne Quinn, the roundtable ‘Recent Work in Asian American Studies’ was a critical component of the larger British Association for American Studies (BAAS) conference. Deeper discussion of marginalised texts and authors is always pertinent, and this certainly includes the entire “body” of Asian American literature with its many… Continue reading

Essentialism and the Revival of Black Power: Re-inventing American Integrationist Discourse

On July 24 2015, around 500 advocacy groups representing African American communities from all over the country met in a three-day conference at Cleveland State University to deliberate on the creation of a unified political front. Outside the conference facilities, demonstrators shouted slogans decrying what they perceived as deliberate institutional… Continue reading

Book Review: The Age of Hiroshima edited by Michael D. Gordin and G. John Ikenberry

The essays chosen for The Age of Hiroshima are an attempt by its editors to, in their words, ‘unsettle’ the legacy and understanding of the bombing of Hiroshima, an act that ushered in the nuclear age. (2) This collection explores the nuclear age from a global perspective, rather than simply through the viewpoint of the Cold War. Continue reading

Panel Review: ‘Instapoetry and Hypercapitalism,’ BAAS Annual Conference 2021 (Online)

April 2021 has seen the return of the British Association of American Studies annual conference, organised by Suzanne Enzerink, in a newly digital form. Following the necessary cancellation of the BAAS 2020 conference due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s event was a long-anticipated opportunity to bring together Americanists throughout… Continue reading

Eyes On Events – Dr. Yvonne Battle-Felton, Bookable-Space African American Lit Literary Salon

Bookable-Space African-American Lit-Literary Salon is a monthly, online literary event featuring African American writers. The salon is a warm, welcoming literary community made by and for individuals who are passionate about reading good books. New members are always welcome, so get in touch to find out what you need to do… Continue reading

“The Greatest Infomercial in Political History”: A Presidency in the Age of Entertainment

  ‘Do me a favor. Do you paint houses too? What is this?’ asked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in her final speech at the 2020 impeachment of Donald Trump.[i] By thus referencing Martin Scorsese’s 2019 film The Irishman, Pelosi likened the president’s language in his notorious phone call to Ukrainian… Continue reading

Book Review: What Were We Thinking: A Brief Intellectual History of the Trump Era By Carlos Lozada

Carlos Lozada. What Were We Thinking: A Brief Intellectual History of the Trump Era. (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2020). pp. 272. £20.  Even before Donald Trump’s election as president in 2016, numerous books began to appear that attempted to diagnose the Trump phenomenon and situate it in relation to American… Continue reading

Playing Paranoid in The Lighthouse

  If the 2000s were infested with zombie horror and alien invasions, what can we make of the recent resurgence of Lovecraftian tentacled monsters in film and television? In a blog post from October 2016, Roger Luckhurst traces the re-emergence of Lovecraftian themes to Netflix’s Stranger Things, arguing that the… Continue reading

The Golden Years: Hollywood’s Fairy Tale History in the Age of Donald Trump

  It is obviously not advisable to get your historical knowledge from cinema, but during the presidency of Donald Trump, this became more tempting than normal. The chance to not only escape from reality, but into a different version of it, was hard to resist, and two films served this… Continue reading

Assassination Nation, Young Female Anger and Futurity in the Wake of Trump’s America

“Don’t take your hate out on me, I just got here.” — Assassination Nation   On 21 September 2018, Sam Levinson’s Assassination Nation was released into American cinemas.[i] With its hyper-stylised neon party scenes, soundtrack of push notification pings and extreme violence, some critics were quick to dismiss the film… Continue reading

Culture Shock: Representing border discourses and practices in the Trump era

On July 4, 2019, Hulu launched the tenth installment of its ‘Into the Dark’ horror anthology, titled Culture Shock and directed by Mexican Canadian Gigi Saul Guerrero. Culture Shock’s narrative development focuses on the crossing of the US–Mexico border by a group of migrants who are imprisoned in a border… Continue reading

Hollywood in the Age of Trump: USSO Special Series

  Questions remain over whether former President Donald Trump will fade away or return, Grover Cleveland style, for another election cycle in 2024. Trump’s single term in office was memorable for its quality of sensory overload and contribution to a culture of partisan desensitisation in the Republican Party. The relationship… Continue reading

Eyes on Events – Suzanne Enzerink, BAAS Annual Conference 2021 #3

The final episode in our series Eyes On Events, this week we are interviewing Suzanne Enzerink about the BAAS Annual Conference 2021. In our third episode, we discuss the successes of the conference, what could be improved, and the future of the online, sustainable conference post-COVID-19. If you are organising an upcoming or… Continue reading

An Epidemic of Presidential Ignorance: The AIDS Crisis and the US Presidency  

‘Epidemic’ is a powerful word. For something to be deemed an ‘epidemic’, it suggests something has gone terribly wrong. The ongoing response to COVID-19 has attracted a wide array of criticism from medical professionals, politicians and the American public. From downplaying the severity of COVID-19 to neglecting testing protocols and… Continue reading

Book Review: The Sum of Our Dreams by Louis Masur

Louis P. Masur’s three-hundred-something page history of the United States is positioned as an introductory text, ‘a foundation of knowledge’ (xvii). All the familiar faces put in an appearance, from John Smith to Frederick Douglass; Horatio Alger to Martin Luther King Jr. Masur quotes Benjamin Franklin on death and taxes, Neil Armstrong on small steps and great leaps, and Gordon Gekko on the goodness of greed. He lingers on the Founding Fathers, on Lincoln, on the two Roosevelts, on Nixon, on Trump. In the four hundred and thirty years this book covers, the only women who receive more than passing mention are Harriet Beecher Stowe and Hilary Rodham Clinton. Continue reading