60 seconds with Hannah Murray

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 Executive Committee of the British Association for American Studies, our parent organisation, and before that the lovely (ahem) U. S. Studies Online Editorial team. For the remainder of the summer we have invited our first contributors to tell us a little bit more about themselves, the moment they decided “this is the path for me,” and what keeps them going all these years –or months– later. 


Where are you right now?

In my bedroom at my parents’ house in Birmingham, where I have escaped to for the month.

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

I was lucky to be studying at Penn State University during the 2008 election, so I would go back to election night again. There was so much hope and excitement in the air. Standing in Grant Park to hear Obama’s acceptance speech would be fantastic. Failing that, a crazy Gatsby-style party in 1920s New York.

Who would you invite to your fantasy dinner party?

Chuck Palahniuk (he has great stories), Loudon, Rufus and Martha Wainwright (they can do the music too), RuPaul and Michelle Visage. Very pop culture, I know.

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

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglass Adams. Because you only need that and a towel to survive.

What has been your most memorable career moment so far?

Being awarded an AHRC studentship for my second and third years (I may have danced around the office at Nottingham when I got the email).

What advice would you give to early career academics?

For anyone starting a PhD I would say, know when to ‘switch off’ from work. Such a large project can threaten to take over your life, so make sure you have a hobby and a social life! Also, network! I’ve been to some really great free or inexpensive events across the country this year and met a lot of C19 people from both sides of the Atlantic.

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

Teaching my first seminar on nineteenth century American literature! Plus, outings to Norwich for the BrANCA reading group and Brighton for the postgraduate BAAS Conference, both in November.

How did you come to your current area of research?

I wrote a Masters paper on racial liminality in Poe’s ‘The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar’. The rest of my MA was all US literature from 1980s onwards, so it was quite a change to research the nineteenth century, but I really enjoyed it. I wanted to pursue this theme of liminality further in my PhD work, and explore how it’s represented across a group of antebellum texts. I’m really interested in how liminality is manifest through vocal acts, in particular the voices of those on the boundary between life and death. I grew up reading and watching a lot of horror, so my thesis in part indulges a long-held fascination with all things weird and gothic.

What profession other than academia would you like to attempt?

Anything creative—in the past I have done a bit of singing, playing in bands, acting, writing, and I love cooking and craft. I have started trying to make clothes so in a dream world I would be on Project Runway.

What book is currently on your bedside table?

The Dream of the Great American Novel, Lawrence Buell.

Be honest; how long has it been there?

Only a few days in this house, but before, a good couple of months next to my bed in Nottingham. It’s so long! I am in the middle of writing a review, just the writing to go now!

What’s in your fridge right now?

It’s my parents’ fridge, so a lot of middle-class condiments and supplies, plus cheese, bread, milk and almond milk, white wine and Pimms, fruit and veg, yoghurt, lamb sausages and half a victoria sponge covered in homemade frosting. My sister and I are in the middle of making a cake for a family wedding, I’m sure we’ll be on Bake Off next series!

About Hannah Murray

Dr. Hannah Lauren Murray is an early career researcher at the University of Nottingham. Her monograph in preparation examines liminal whiteness in early national and antebellum fiction.  From September, she will join the English department at King’s College London to teach Early American Studies. She sits on the Steering Committee for British Association of Nineteenth-Century Americanists (BrANCA).
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