British Association for American Studies


60 Seconds With Katie Barnett

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?

On a train from Birmingham to London, currently somewhere south of Rugby, and north of Milton Keynes.

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

Some of those early rock & roll concerts of the mid-50s.

Who would you invite to your fantasy dinner party?

I’d invite Tim Curry, in the hope that he might serve dinner creepy-butler style, a la Clue. As for the rest of the guests: Nora Ephron, Sandi Toksvig, Eddie Vedder, Philip Roth, and another of my favourite authors, Erlend Loe. I feel like Bill Clinton would have to be there, and I imagine he’s pretty good at this whole dinner party thing. And finally, I’d invite Jim Henson. Maybe the Muppets could provide the after-dinner music.

I hope they all like enchiladas.

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

My first thought was Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City, preferably in some kind of desert-island-friendly omnibus edition… But I might actually take Nora Ephron’s collected works, which I’m reading at the moment. Long enough to keep me occupied for a while, and heavy enough to intimidate miscellaneous desert island creatures.

What has been your most memorable career moment so far?

Probably passing my viva and getting a job on the same day, although I can’t say I remember much about it, other than the celebratory nachos. (There were a lot of nachos.)

Other than that – hosting the BAAS postgraduate conference in 2011. Lots of great people, lots of fascinating research, and a disproportionate amount of time spent worrying about tea urns and chocolate digestives.

What advice would you give to early career academics?

Keep writing, be creative, and say yes to stuff. I’d also say, don’t get too caught up in there being a ‘right’ way to do things.

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

A trip to Vienna to see Pearl Jam, and a weekend in Cologne.

How did you come to your current area of research?

I wrote my MA dissertation on single fathers in Hollywood films of the late 1970s/1980s, and it all spiralled from there. Having memorised Ted Kramer’s “it’s about constancy” speech from Kramer vs. Kramer, I moved on to Robin Williams throwing fruit at Pierce Brosnan’s head and started looking at fatherhood in the context of this pre-millennial, masculine angst Hollywood seemed to be doing so well.

What profession other than academia would you like to attempt?

I’d like to give being a children’s author a go.

What book is currently on your bedside table?

The Most of Nora Ephron, which is a collection of all her articles and essays, as well as her novel, Heartburn, and the screenplay for When Harry Met Sally. Also: The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell, and White Fang, by Jack London.

Be honest; how long has it been there?

Nora has been there since Christmas, but it’s a big book! The other two have been on my Kindle for a while.

What’s in your fridge right now?

Off the top of my head: milk, jam, an excessive amount of Double Gloucester, some tortellini, leftover veggie Bolognese, and a rather sad triangle of Laughing Cow. There’s also a tub of ‘Butter Me Up’, Tesco’s unnecessarily named own brand “butter”.

About the Author

Katie Barnett is currently a lecturer in Media and Cultural Studies at the University of Worcester. She received her PhD from the University of Birmingham in 2013, and her current research examines paternal constructions of masculinity, focusing particularly on representations of fatherhood in 1990s Hollywood cinema.