(Re)Constructing the Past in George Saunders’ “CivilWarLand in Bad Decline”

The American Civil War (1861-1865), which cleaved the country into two halves, the North and South, is known as one of the most violent, tumultuous, divisive events in American history. Yet, instead of reflecting the actual brutally violent realities of the country’s past, the war is reconstituted in America’s collective… Continue reading

Review: Kent Americanist Symposium “The Spatial Americas” (Online)

The Kent Americanist Symposium returned on November 21st for the fourth of what is now an annual gathering of early career scholars. The day was admirably led by Jack Dice and Irene Lopez Sanchez, both of the University of Kent, and was sponsored by the British Association of American Studies… Continue reading

Review: The IAAS Postgraduate Symposium “Parallel Lives in America” (Online)

‘Parallel Lives in America’ encouraged scholars to investigate the juxtaposition of various dynamics, particularly between those with power to those who are oppressed, that exist in America today. This year’s theme of the IAAS postgraduate symposium, co-organised by Sarah McCreedy and Maria Manning, was described in the opening remarks by… Continue reading

Review of Topophrenia: Place, Narrative and the Spatial Imagination by Robert T. Tally Jr.

Cultural geographer Robert T. Tally Jr. publishes widely and frequently on many aspects of literary geographies, including the myriad forms of map-making. This book comprises his latest research and presents an excellent introduction to his work. Tally Jr. espouses the cartographic imperative: simply by being in the world, he argues, we map and reference our surroundings in an infinite variety of ways. Continue reading

Book Review: A Literate South: Reading Before Emancipation by Beth Barton Schweiger

‘Culture is ordinary: that is where we must start.’ Raymond Williams’ famous statement provides an epigraph to Beth Barton Schweiger’s important study of reading in the antebellum South, A Literate South: Reading Before Emancipation. Barton Schweiger builds on Williams’ statement to provide a bank of evidence that culture was, indeed, ordinary, in the rural antebellum South. Using two chief examples, the diaries of two families, the Cooleys in Virginia and the Speers in North Carolina, Schweiger uncovers how reading and printed materials were important parts of Southern culture, and how this is often ignored in studies of the period. Continue reading

Conference Review: The 17th International Willa Cather Seminar, Winchester, Virginia, 17th-21st June 2019

Arriving at Shenandoah University for the 17th International Willa Cather Seminar, scholars were greeted by the incongruous sounds of revving Harley-Davidson motorbikes and bagpipes. For one week in June, the small town of Winchester, Virginia, played host not only to the Willa Cather Foundation’s biennial seminar, but also to the Virginia Piping and Drumming School’s summer meet and the 2019 HOG (‘Harley Owners’ Group’) Rally. While that meant that accommodation choices in town were limited, the celebratory atmosphere befitted the fact that, for the Cather group, this conference was something of a homecoming. Continue reading

Review: Irish Association for American Studies Annual Conference 2019

University College Cork

Conference Review: ‘Confidence-Men and Hucksters, Corruption and Governance in the U.S.’, Irish Association for American Studies Annual Conference, University College Cork, Ireland, April 12th-13th 2019 https://iaas.ie/iaas-annual-conference/ Interested in the parallels between Donald Trump’s presidency and the 2004 novel The Plot Against America, in January 2017, The New Yorker (https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/01/30/philip-roth-e-mails-on-trump) contacted… Continue reading

Walking Distance: Navigation, Epiphany, and Memory in American Small-Town Fiction

The navigation of the physical small-town space triggers memories, emotions, and other physiological responses that help narrate and give shape to localised communities. The act of walking can be epiphanic and cathartic, it can geographise and shape the vast topography of American regions, and, in the texts concerned with small-town America, it becomes a vital signifier not simply of life, but of living. 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

Folklore and Gay Literature: The Making of a Community

This essay is the third 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