Decomposing and Reconstructing the Marginal: Walker Evans’ Portrait Photography in Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

The pictures are for the most part mild, but in spite of this, though always exquisitely clear in reasoning and in visual quality, they pack a wicked punch. There’s nothing oppressively ‘photographic’ here, it isn’t a long nose poking into dirty corners for propaganda and for scandal, there are no… Continue reading

Visualising the Americas: Kent’s Third Annual Americanist Symposium, Keynote Addresses

What happens when you attempt to condense thousands of words, and years of research, into a single image? This was the challenge put to attendees of the Kent Americanists Symposium in June 2019 – to find and share the single image through which an entire wider discussion could be accessed. Continue reading

Symposium Panel Review: ‘Visualising the Americas: Kent’s Third Annual Americanist Symposium’, The University of Kent, Keynes College, Monday 3rd June, 2019.

From pre-colonised American Indian art to contemporary graffiti murals, the Americas have a rich and varied visual history. This one-day symposium, co-organised by three PhD candidates at the University of Kent – Ellie Armon Azoulay, Sarah Smeed, and Megan King – invited panellists and speakers to focus on one particular image or object as a catalyst for exploring larger themes, trends and figures. Continue reading

Social Disorder: Publics, 1968, Amateur photography and Vivian Maier

This essay is the fourth in our series, ‘Literature, Visual Imagery and Material Culture in American Studies’. The series seeks to situate literature, visual imagery and material culture at the heart of American studies, and will explore the varying ways in which written and non-written sources have been created, politicised, exploited, and celebrated by the diverse peoples of the United States and beyond. You can find out more information here. Continue reading

Night: Another Frontier in American Wilderness Studies?

In his groundbreaking book, At Day’s Close (2005), A. Roger Ekirch deftly reveals one of the significant differences between the pre- and post-industrial world: the overwhelming darkness of night in the absence of electric lighting. ‘Night brutally robbed men and women of their vision, the most treasured of human senses. None of sight’s sister senses, not even hearing or touch, permitted individuals such mastery over their environs’ (8). In a world of perpetual light, we post-industrialists have lost the sense of terror within the pre-industrialist’s night. Continue reading

Configuring The Dream Factory: Prince Fans and Destabilisation of the Album in the Digital Age

The speed with which ‘Prince’s ‘Vault’ of unreleased recordings was drilled into after his untimely death felt shocking to many. The existence of ‘The Vault’, a locked room within Prince’s Paisley Park recording complex, has been well known for decades and is believed to contain thousands of unreleased Prince recordings, as well as unseen music videos. However, the promise of authorising material that fans have been making their own for a considerable amount of time has refuelled discussion. Continue reading

Black Films Matter: Reassessing Spike Lee’s ‘Do the Right Thing’ in Post-Ferguson America

Charged with social awareness and style, Spike Lee’s 1989 film, Do the Right Thing is nothing less than a street ballet. It fuses music with the body, giving characters idiosyncratic and physically charged expression to their narrative arcs. They shuffle, strut, stride, and twitch their way through the world, with changes in bodily (and musical) expression coming to signify much larger attitudinal shifts. These changes are important – they help the film to antagonise its audience, shining an uncompromising light upon the hidden subtexts of modernised racism, degradation, and white supremacy. Continue reading

Review, ‘An American Toy Story’

Officially launched on 19 March, the museum’s latest exhibition is, ‘An American Toy Story’. From Mickey Mouse to James Bond, the exhibition showcases vintage toys and memorabilia from an eclectic range of films. As explained by Chief Curator Kate Hebert, the exhibition celebrates toys whilst embracing the sense of nostalgia that one feels when recognising a beloved childhood relic. Continue reading

Research Across Borders – As fragile as a metaphor: Constructing Edna St. Vincent Millay from the Library of Congress records

These newspaper and magazine articles provide a striking insight into the version of Millay constructed by the press. She is consistently referred to as a ‘little poetess’ and reviews of her live performances pay as much attention on her gowns, hairstyles and gestures as they do the words of her poems. Continue reading

The legacy of Black Power Visual Culture in 1990s Hip Hop

Artists such as KRS-One, Public Enemy and Chuck D. position themselves as heirs to the legacy of the Panthers and Malcolm X by creatively updating the “media-conscious iconography of sixties black radicalism for a 1990s constituency”, says Hannah Jeffery. Continue reading