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. 

This month we’re taking time out of our usual publishing schedule to invite you to spend 60 seconds with the new members of the U.S. Studies Online editorial team and BAAS Executive Committee. Our first interviews will be with the new Co-Editors and Assistant Editors of USSO.


RA - PhotoWhere are you right now?

I’m at my desk, in the Grad School at the University of Strathclyde.  Actually, it’s not really ‘my’ desk, since we have a theoretical hot-desking system.  But it’s the one I always sit at.

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

I’d like to get a peek at the 1920s, since my research focuses on that period.  It’d be interesting to see the reality of it, pop into a few speakeasies and whatnot.

Who would you invite to your fantasy dinner party?

Not to slight historical figures and literary giants, but after the awful news about Prince last week he’s been on my mind a lot. I’d definitely want him there. I’m also mad about Canadian musician Claire Boucher (Grimes), Jeremy Scott (creative director at Moschino), and Annie Clark (St. Vincent) so I’d invite them too. It’d be a pretty wild dinner party.  I’d probably invite a good few of my friends as well, since it wouldn’t really be a party without them.

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

It would have to be Burning Your Boats, by Angela Carter.  It’s an incredible collection.

What has been your most memorable career moment so far?

I’d say it was probably going to Canada and the U.S. for a research trip.  I’d never been away completely on my own before for longer than a weekend, and I was there for over a month.  I was petrified, but it turned out to be fantastic!

What advice would you give to early career academics?

I’m not sure I’m experienced enough to give any advice to early career folk.  But I think some of the best advice for postgrads is to spend some time getting to know other postgrads in your field; whether that be at your institution, at conferences or online.  That’s easily been the thing that’s helped me the most.

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

Well, I’m due to submit my thesis very soon, so I’ll be having my viva within the next six months.  That’s a little more terrifying than exciting though.  The notion of submitting is pretty exciting, more so because I fly off to Barcelona for the Primavera Sound festival a few days later.

How did you come to your current area of research?

My current research looks at American and Canadian mass-market magazines, which I came to by way of a slightly meandering path.  I did my undergraduate dissertation on narrative theory and the videogame form, and my Masters on Canadian author Ethel Wilson.  I’ve always been interested in ‘new media’ and how they’ve been considered superfluous to literary history.  So I had intended on looking at more contemporary magazines, but after my MLitt 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?

I’d maybe like to do something in TV or film.  Not acting or anything (I’m woeful in front of a camera) but perhaps research.  I have a few friends who work in that industry and it seems like it would be right up my street.

What book is currently on your bedside table?

I’ve always got a little pile of them. At the moment, Carrie Brownstein’s Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl, Ali Smith’s Public Library, and Toni Morrison’s Jazz.

Be honest; how long has it been there?

All three have been there about two weeks.  I keep sporadically dipping in an out of them.