British Association for American Studies


60 Seconds With Sylvia Ellis

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?

At home with my children.

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

An uplifting moment rather than the grassy knoll!  June 1967, Monterey Pop Festival.

Who would you invite to your fantasy dinner party?

Tricky one!  Richard Burton, Keith Moon, Susan Sarandon, Ayrton Senna, King Kenny, Nina Simone, Benedict Cumberbatch, Alain Delon, Vivien Leigh, Gloria Steinem, Michelle Obama….

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

Wuthering Heights …. To remind me of a cold climate and Yorkshire!

What has been your most memorable career moment so far?

I’ve met a number of interesting politicians and activists over the years but the ones that stick out …. Interviewing Walt Rostow (blunt and candid) in Austin, Texas, and interviewing Barbara Castle in the back of a taxi.  Oh, and getting my hands on an Oscar in Chicago (belonging to Mercedes McCambridge).  Always love being in Washington DC (Library of Congress and the museums) and in Rhode Island (where I learnt to love the beach and began my postgraduate career).

What advice would you give to early career academics?

Work hard, have confidence, do every job well.  BUT have fun, travel lots, and don’t take academia too seriously.

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

I’m going on a research trip to the Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda, California to look at materials on the 1960 presidential election campaign.

How did you come to your current area of research?

A mixture of returning to an old familiar topic (after many years away from it), being excited by latest developments in the field, and collaborating with new colleagues.

What profession other than academia would you like to attempt?

Would have liked to have attempted (in my younger days):  Drama or sports!

What book is currently on your bedside table?

Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

Be honest; how long has it been there?

About a month…

What’s in your fridge right now?

Strawberries!!!  Love them.