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 at home. Well, I’m in my “sabbatical home” in London.
If you could time-travel to observe one moment in the history of America, where would you go?
Good question! I’ve just read James McBride’s The Good Lord Bird and I teach Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead, so I find John Brown a really fascinating figure. However, I’m not sure I’d want “to observe” any particular moment in his chequered career because simply “to observe” would, of course, still implicate me in the charged racial politics of the time… So, maybe I’ll say that I’d like to observe a conversation between Frederick Douglass and John Brown when Brown stayed with Douglass in Rochester for a month in 1858 (this is rendered really hilariously in McBride’s novel).
Who would you invite to your fantasy dinner party?
Do they have to be American? Miriam Margolyes, Tina Fey, Mary McCarthy, Alice McDermott…oh dear, this is very Judy Chicago! So passé!
You’re stranded on a desert island, but luckily you pre-empted it. Which book do you take with you?
James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room. It never fails to move me.
What has been your most memorable career moment so far?
Probably the day I got a letter from the Leverhulme Trust offering me a postdoctoral fellowship.
What advice would you give to early career academics?
a) Get somebody who has got a job relatively recently to look over your job application template. It sounds obvious, but in my experience, it clearly doesn’t happen all the time…
b) Write down any questions you are asked in your interview as soon as possible after the interview takes place. They’ll be indispensable when your next interview comes around.
What is the most exciting thing you have planned in the next six months?
Well, I’m coming to the end of six months of research leave, so I feel as if the most exciting things of the year are behind rather than in front of me! But, hopefully, I will be going on a research/student recruitment trip to Texas in October.
How did you come to your current area of research?
My current project is a study of the “Returned Yank” figure in the Irish cultural imagination, 1952 to present. I came to it from my previous book, “Other People’s Diasporas”: Negotiating Race in Contemporary Irish and Irish-American Culture, in which I was interested (partly) in the juxtaposition of returned emigrants (as “legitimate” migrants to Ireland) with so-called “non-nationals” (“non-legitimate” migrants) in debates on immigration to Ireland during the Celtic Tiger years. I became very interested, particularly, in the extraordinary importance of The Quiet Man (dir. John Ford, 1952) in the Irish cultural imagination, so this has become the point of departure for my current project.
What profession other than academia would you like to attempt?
Primary school teaching. I did some supply teaching before I started my Ph.D. and really enjoyed it.
What book is currently on your bedside table?
So many! Colm Tóibín’s The Master, William Maxwell’s So Long, See You Tomorrow (and I have no excuse there, because it’s very short!), Mary Dorcey’s A Noise From the Woodshed (short stories; I dip in and out), Roddy Doyle’s The Guts (abandoned several months ago; a very weak novel) and Joseph O’Connor’s The Thrill of It All (which I actually am reading at the moment).
Be honest; how long has it been there?
Well, The Thrill of It All has only just been published, so not that long at all!
What’s in your fridge right now?
Is this really of interest to American Studies academics? Assorted vegetables, some lamb, milk, jam, parsley, coriander, half a lemon, limes, parmesan, mature cheddar, chorizo, crème fraîche, sparkling water, cooking wine, pesto, some fresh soups, one of those Innocent pots, my partner’s lunch that he’s taking into the BL tomorrow…In short, your basic bourgeois fridge situation.