British Association for American Studies


60 Seconds With Rachael Alexander

The U.S. Studies Online 60 Seconds interview feature offers a short and informal introduction to a postgraduate, academic or non-academic specialist working in the American and Canadian Studies field or a related American and Canadian Studies association. 

Last month you spent 60 seconds with the U. S. Studies Online Editorial team. This month we have invited the Executive Committee of the British Association for American Studies, our parent organisation, to tell us a little bit more about themselves, their interests, the way they made it into academia and, crucially, their top advice for new academics.


Where are you right now?

I’m currently at my usual desk in the Graduate School at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.  This is where I get most of my work done.

If you could time-travel to observe one moment in the history of America, where would you go?

I don’t think I’d choose a particular moment; I’d rather get a peek at the 1920s.  As my research focuses on that period I would love to observe what it really was like in the jazz-age.  Perhaps spy a little on Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald or something.

You’re stranded on a desert island, but luckily you pre-empted it. Which book do you take with you?

My incredibly tattered copy of Angela Carter’s Burning Your Boats.  It contains four of her books of short stories, so maybe I’m cheating slightly, but as it’s one paperback I think it’s acceptable.  I first read The Bloody Chamber when I was eighteen and it captivated me.  Carter is one of those rare authors that I never get bored of, no matter how many times I read and re-read her stories.

What has been your most memorable career moment so far?

I’d say it was probably the first time I presented a paper at a conference.  I don’t think I’ve ever been that nervous in my life.  I was convinced it was a disaster.

What is the most exciting thing you have planned in the next six months?

I’ve just had a really exciting six months—including a research trip to Canada and America, and numerous other conference trips—so the next six months will be a bit of a lull really, full of writing, writing, reading and some more writing!  I will be heading to the University of Nottingham for the Culture at the Canada-US Border conference later this month so that will probably be the highlight.

How did you come to your current area of research?

My research focuses on a comparative study of American and Canadian mass-market magazines in the 1920s which I came to by way of a slightly meandering path.  I had an enduring interest in 1920s American literature from my undergraduate career, which came together with an interest in Canadian literature developed during my MLitt.  I’ve always been fascinated by magazines—their inherent contradictions, their disposable nature, the fact that they only purport to be true at the time of publication—and had originally intended on studying more contemporary examples.  After my MLitt, however, the possibility of this project came up; which allowed me to bring together my interests and also continue working with my MLitt supervisor, Faye Hammill.  Overall, it was a very fortuitous series of events.

What profession other than academia would you like to attempt?

If not academia, I’d like to go into publishing.  Whenever people ask me questions like this, I feel I must seem like I have a very strict set of parameters for employment.  A sort of books-or-nothing approach.  Perhaps that’s a fair assessment.

What book is currently on your bedside table?

I’m terrible for reading at least three books at a time, so at the moment I’ve got Kathy Acker’s Blood and Guts in High School, Ted Ferguson’s Strange Days: Amazing Stories from Canada’s Wildest Decade, and JT Leroy’s The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things.

Be honest; how long has it been there?

Less than a week, but I did only move flat last week so that’s perhaps not a truly representative time frame!

What’s in your fridge right now?

I’m a little ashamed to admit that, currently, only lots of condiments and some milk.  It’s one of those fridges.