British Association for American Studies


60 Seconds With Rebecca Harding

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.


Profile picWhere are you right now?

At home. The battery of my ancient laptop is broken so I am pretty much tethered to my desk by the power cord until it dies for good.

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

I’d go to New York in 1974 to see Philippe Petit walk between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center on a high wire.

Who would you invite to your fantasy dinner party?

Grayson Perry, Cormac McCarthy, David Sedaris, Gertrude Stein, Oliver Sacks.

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

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace – I have just finished reading it for the first time. I’m desperate to go back and try and figure out everything that I missed first time round – one lifetime of solitude might be an appropriate amount of time to spend with it actually.

What has been your most memorable career moment so far?

Well, I presented at a conference in Paris in February, where Don DeLillo was the special guest speaker. My entire PhD project is on his work, so it was a surreal and highly amazing few days, and I still can’t really believe that it happened.

What advice would you give to early career academics?

Learn how to say no to things! Although you will have to learn from my failure rather than my success in this.

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

I am on the board of Excursions, an open access journal run by students at the University of Sussex and I am co-editing the 2016 issue. Our theme for the issue is ‘Failure’, and we’ve received lots of really exciting submissions. It will be a lot of work over the next few months but I’m really looking forward to seeing it come together.

How did you come to your current area of research?

Modern and contemporary literature and American Studies are such strengths at the University of Sussex, and an American Literature class that I took during my MA really cemented my interest in DeLillo. I feel very fortunate to be part of an academic community where I not only get to study what I love, but am surrounded by people with similar interests.

What profession other than academia would you like to attempt?

Baker. I find that, doing a PhD, the fruits of your labour can be kind of frustrating and intangible, and the idea of physically creating something with your hands becomes very appealing!

What book is currently on your bedside table?

Stoner by John Williams.

Be honest; how long has it been there?

I wouldn’t care to speculate – I certainly have a bit of a guilt complex when it comes to reading that is not directly related to my research. It may have also been on holiday and back with me unread…