British Association for American Studies


60 Seconds with Christina Westwood

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. 

Christina Westwood is a PhD candidate in English Literature at Keele University and the new USSO Book Reviews Editor for 2018-2020.

Where are you right now?

In my garden, enjoying a wonderfully sunny early summer’s evening.

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

 I would time-travel to Massachusetts in 1621 to witness the peace treaty between the Wampanoag and the Pilgrim settlers. Alternatively, I would like to witness the Freedom Rides that left Washington D.C. in 1961 or travel to Oakland in 1935 to see Amelia Earhart land after her flight from Hawaii to California.

Who would you invite to your fantasy dinner party?

Tisquantum, Maya Angelou, John Steinbeck, Harper Lee, Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller, as well as Francis and Zelda Fitzgerald. And of course, I would love to chat to the authors whose works I investigate for my PhD. Dorothy Parker would also be on the guest list as her wit would enliven conversation even more.  

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

Either the collected poems by Maya Angelou; some short stories by Richard Yates or F. Scott Fitzgerald; or A Streetcar Named Desireby Tennessee Williams. Perhaps I would succeed in sneaking all these titles onto the island!

What has been your most memorable career moment so far?

Being given the keys to my first classroom indelibly impressed on me what a privilege it is to work in education.

What advice would you give to your younger self (or younger scholars)?

Seize all opportunities to immerse yourself in new things, even if there is no immediate academic goal in sight. Study for the enjoyment of it and remember to learn not only from colleagues in academia but also by retaining an open, curious mind.

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

I look forward to becoming Book Reviews Editor for U.S. Studies Online as I love reading, reviewing and handling books. I also look forward to more PhD writing and some European travel with my family over the summer months.

How did you come to your current area of research?

I completed a Masters dissertation in American literature which investigated masculine guilt in four plays by Arthur Miller. I have since become interested in literary geographies, city writing and New England literatures, so I decided to pursue a PhD in this area.

What’s your favourite archive or library?

Without a doubt the collections at the British Library where the Eccles Centre’s fabulous team have always made me so welcome. As a Visiting Postgraduate Fellow, I have spent dedicated research periods there this year which have proved invaluable.

What profession other than academia would you like to attempt?

I love my job as a teacher of literature and languages but another career that might have interested me is that of a literary agent specialising in fiction.

What book is currently on your bedside table?

Paul Theroux’s Deep South, along with some poetry by Walt Whitman and Anita Shreve’s last novel before she passed away earlier this year. It is called The Stars are Fire. 

Be honest; how long has it been there?

Each of these books: three or four days at most.