British Association for American Studies


60 Seconds with Will Carroll

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. 

Will Carroll is a second-year PhD candidate at University of Birmingham and is one of the new Co-Editors for 2020-2022. 

Will Carroll (Co-editor)

Tell us a bit about yourself

I am a second-year PhD researcher at University of Birmingham, where I also studied my BA English Literature and Creative Writing and MA Literature and Culture (if you haven’t guessed that I’m from Birmingham yet, you will if you ever hear me talk). I have broad interests across American cultural studies, from sitcoms (I even host a podcast on NBC’s Frasier) to photography and art. All of this, and yet I’ve never set foot on U.S soil…

 What do you research and why? 

My research focuses on narratives of small-town America in the early-to-mid twentieth century, with a particular focus on oral culture, spatiality, migration narratives, and everyday ritual. I look at a range of materials from canonical authors (Sherwood Anderson, Willa Cather, Thornton Wilder) to artists (Norman Rockwell) to Depression-era photographers (Ben Shahn, Walker Evans, etc.). Small-town American appears perennially as a creative muse/setting in American cultural productions; I’m interested in finding out the origins of this and in complicating the often mythic image with which it’s associated.

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

Very tough. If I can cherry pick from the different mediums that I love then I’d go with: Laura Marling (music), Kelsey Grammer (acting), Stephen Shore (photography), Kelly Reichardt (film), and John Coltrane (Okay, another music one – also impossible, but still!). Enough intelligence around that table that I can just sit in the corner and listen/drink…

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

Stephen King’s IT was the book that made me fall in love with reading – it took me about an hour to finish the final 20 pages, reading them in bed on a snow day when school had been cancelled. After 1,400 pages, I wasn’t ready for it to end. A quote from the book was also inscribed in a gift-copy of another King book given to me on my last day of sixth-form from my English teacher, so it means a lot to me. Song-wise, it’d probably have to be ‘re: stacks’ by Bon Iver…

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

I’m excited to work with so many great researchers, both on the editorial team and in USSO’s wider network, and to promote as varied and inclusive research as possible. In my tenure as Co-Editor, I want to make sure USSO is the first port of call for both new and established scholars and researchers who want to share shorter original work with the academic community. I’m also really keen to encourage more creative approaches to American Studies, from poetry to fiction to audio/visual material.