Eyes on Events: Milly Mulcahey & Kate Heffner, Kent Americanist Symposium 2022

University of Kent

The next episode in our series Eyes On Events, this week we are interviewing Milly Mulcahey and Kate Heffner about the upcoming Kent Americanist Symposium.  You can now grab your free ticket for the Americanist Conference, supported by CHASE and the University of Kent – Curating and Resisting Americana – online and hybrid,… Continue reading

Book Review: Female Physicians in American Literature: Abortion in 19th-Century Literature and Culture by Margaret Jay Jessee

Margaret Jay Jessee. Female Physicians in American Literature: Abortion in 19th-Century Literature and Culture (New York: Routledge, 2021). pp. 108. £44.99. Female Physicians in American Literature: Abortion in 19th-Century Literature and Culture (2022) asserts that it is not the first time in the history of America that previously claimed rights are being… Continue reading

Book Review: The End of Ambition: The United States and the Third World in the Vietnam Era by Mark Atwood Lawrence

If there was anything that most historians had firmly placed on the list of Richard M. Nixon’s accomplishments – good or bad – it was that his presidency engineered a rightward shift in US foreign policy. Yet, according to Mark Atwood Lawrence’s important new study, The End of Ambition: The United States and the Third World in the Vietnam Era, even this too must be stripped from the 37th president’s beleaguered historical legacy. An analysis of US policy towards the ‘Global South’ during the 1960s, Lawrence’s book argues that the key transitions away from the ‘ambitious’ policies of the John F. Kennedy years were made not by Nixon but Lyndon Johnson. Under the pressure of the Vietnam War, political change at home, and increasing anti-Americanism abroad, Johnson abandoned his predecessor’s interest in transformative global change to focus on stability and lower costs, even if that meant embracing pro-US strongmen. Nixon’s subsequent ‘doctrine’ to this effect merely codified in rhetoric what was already the case in practice. Continue reading

Book Review: Charlie Brown’s America: The Popular Politics of Peanuts by Blake Scott Ball

Blake Scott Ball’s biography of Peanuts’ cultural life chronologically documents the development of Charles M. Schulz’s work from a daily comic strip in seven US newspapers, to a national icon that articulated Cold War anxieties and the values of a past era. Though Peanuts is an artefact of extensive cultural significance, as Ball points out it has been ‘woefully understudied’ [5]. Ball’s study is the first to provide an extensive investigation into Peanuts’ place in Cold War American life. Continue reading

Eyes on Events: Rachel Williams, BAAS Annual Conference 2022, #2

University of Hull

The next episode in our series Eyes On Events, this week we are interviewing Rachel Williams about the upcoming BAAS Annual Conference. This is our second interview, taking place a week before the event itself. We discuss some of the innovative ideas being trialled, USSO’s own plans for the event, and the… Continue reading

Book Review: Burroughs Unbound: William S. Burroughs and the Performance of Writing edited by S. E. Gontarski

Burroughs Unbound is a collection of essays which explores recent interdisciplinary research on the twentieth-century US author William S. Burroughs. The main issues of the book concentrate on the performative aspects of Burroughs’ experiments on literature, particularly through what he, and collaborator Brion Gysin, called the ‘cut-up project’. The structure of the book somewhat mirrors the cut-up techniques used by the artists by being sliced and divided into three parts, with a series of appendices. The first part deals with ‘Theory’, where postmodernist and poststructuralist notions of control are captured via Derrida, Deleuze and Foucault. The second part, entitled ‘Texts’ is a textual analysis of Burroughs’ writing, from Naked Lunch (1959) to the cut-up texts and beyond. The third part explores Burroughsian ‘Performance’, in which, as the editor, Stanley Gontarski argues in his ‘Atrophied Introduction’, ‘Burroughs was as much a media and performance artist as he was a traditional literary figure’.[1] Continue reading

African American Theatre and The S Street Salon

Community Building and Articulations of Race and Gender at Georgia Douglas Johnson’s 'Saturday Nighters'

This article is adapted from a presentation given at the London Arts and Humanities Partnership postgraduate conference, 21st January 2022 During the Harlem Renaissance period, 1461 S Street, Washington D.C., the home of Georgia Douglas Johnson (1877-1966), represented an important hub of creativity and community for African American women writers. ‘Saturday… Continue reading

Book Review: The Invention of the American Desert: Art, Land, and the Politics of Environment edited by Lyle Massey and James Nisbet

If I had to choose just one moment to share from The Invention of the American Desert: Art, Land and the Politics of Environment, it would be this: J. Robert Oppenheimer, creator of the atomic bomb, dreamed about deserts. Joseph Masco, in his contribution to this volume, describes the way that Oppenheimer’s role in the siting of the Manhattan Project’s intellectual heart at Los Alamos reverberated outward with material impact. Masco calls Oppenheimer a ‘committed desert modernist’ who considered the desert a beautiful and empty space ripe for inspiration and experimentation. ‘His perfect desert,’ Masco writes, ‘the one with both sage and physics—set in motion a series of ongoing environmental, scientific, and military revolutions, transformations that now connect every living being on the planet via the embodied radioactive residues of US nuclear nationalism’ (24). Masco goes on to look at US military photography of the hundreds of nuclear explosions carried out in the Nevada desert in the 1950s, arguing that Oppenheimer’s idealised desert is reproduced in these photos—a settler-colonial imaginary of uninhabited space that created ‘an image of containment for events that were quite literally planetary in scope, dosing the global biosphere and every living being in [radioactive fallout] with each thermonuclear detonation’ (35). Continue reading

The People v. Ossian Sweet

The Promise and Threat of Black Detroit in the Age of the Great Migration

In the first decades of the twentieth century, no northern city drew more southern migrants than Detroit, ‘City of Tomorrow’.[i] As one Free Press reporter noted in 1917, ‘Detroit’s unexampled prosperity is the lodestone that is attracting thousands of Negroes’.[ii] Between 1910 and 1920, Detroit’s Black population increased almost eightfold,… Continue reading