British Association for American Studies


60 Seconds with Amanda Niedfeldt

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. 

Amanda Niedfeldt is a PhD candidate in English Literature at University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and is one of the new Co-Editors for 2020-2022.

Amanda Niedfeldt (Co-editor)

 Tell us a bit about yourself

I am a final year PhD Candidate in the English Department at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. I moved to the UK in 2016 and the department has been supportive in enabling me to finish the degree from a distance. I have been teaching English as a foreign language and working with exchange programmes of one kind or another for over a decade, which has decidedly shaped my research. I carve out time to be in nature each week, whether through running, hiking, or getting to the sea.

 What do you research and why? 

 My dissertation focuses on artistic patronage in the Cold War. Centred on the Ford Foundation’s funding of writers in Berlin after the building of the Wall in 1961, it explores the proliferation of institutional patronage by probing the experience of writers through the 1950s and 1960s pivoting on their time in Berlin. My work is inherently interdisciplinary drawing on research in the fields of History, Politics, International Relations, and Literary Studies. I am most curious about how political and financial circumstances shape individual decisions. Examining how writers and intellectuals interacted with institutional patronage in the early Cold War has been most insightful to the complexity of human decisions in the face of social, political, and monetary pressure.

 You’re throwing a fantasy dinner party for 6. Who’s invited and why? 

Having all of my travel plans cancelled for the foreseeable future, I would surely choose my family and dearest friends. What pure joy it would be to hug them close and share a meal. In relation to historically notable figures, I’d probably choose Witold Gombrowicz, James Baldwin, Simone de Beauvoir, Arthur Koestler, Susan Sontag, and William F. Buckley, Junior. Gombrowicz complained that in the mid-twentieth century everyone just presented their ideas and never engaged in real debate. This combination should be sure to kick start a vigorous conversation while giving real insight into my research.

In a Desert Island Discs: American Studies scenario, what song and book are you taking?

Considering the focus is on American Studies, I would choose Henry David Thoreau’s Walden for my book because we could explore the mythology of self-reliance and individuality in the United States, while also gleaning some tips for how to live a year on your own. For the song, I would choose Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” for three reasons: it is a productive starter for a discussion of protest, which is apt at the moment, it simultaneously relaxes and stirs you to action, and it has the line “paranoia strikes deep/into your life it will creep,” which will be likely be a necessary reminder on a deserted island.

What do you hope to achieve during your time with USSO?

I look forward to working with and learning from a team of brilliant researchers. During my tenure, I hope to initiate a number of series concentrated on the contemporary United States and the pivotal decisions that will unfold domestically and in foreign policy in the next 12-24 months, shaping the country’s future.





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