Best Of the Web: Black History Month Must-Reads

As it reaches the end of the UK’s Black History Month the U.S. Studies Online editorial team have rounded up some of the our favourite BHM posts on the web.

Check out our must-reads, and let us know yours! Continue reading

“An Eagle On His Button”: How Martial Portraiture Affirmed African American Citizenship in the Civil War

The wearing of a military uniform symbolises the desire to prove one’s worth as a citizen. There were few other ways in which African Americans could gain a platform from which to prove their equality with white men, and to earn their right to citizenship in the post-war United States, than through honourable action carried out in the midst of great national suffering. This is especially so considering the prior use of African American manpower to act as cooks, teamsters and burial workers for the military. These portraits provide undeniable proof of military service, and as such the uniform and weaponry included in these photographs transcend being merely destructive armaments and become tools for the attainment of equality and freedom. Continue reading

Not just Yo’ Mama but Rap’s Mama: The Dozens, African American Culture and the Origins of Battle Rap

The most famous Dozens recording is the 1938 recording performed by Ferdinand Joseph LaMothe, known professionally as Jelly Roll Morton, the self-proclaimed inventor of Jazz music. This concept of taking an African-American oral tradition and putting it to music is a time honored tradition that continues until this very day. The utilization of rhyming mechanisms and swift off the cuff lyrics needed during bouts of The Dozens was easily transferred into the linguistic styles utilized by MC’s during rap battles in the early days of the Hip-Hop era. This makes it clear then that The Dozens, as Elijah Wald writes, is “Rap’s Mama”. Continue reading

Patricia Highsmith’s ‘Authentic’ American and the Performative Subject in ‘The Talented Mr Ripley’ (1955)

‘Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr Ripley (1955) conflates the Cold War debate over what it means to be an ‘authentic’ American. It begins to suggest something unnerving about the state of bodies during this period, that they were something other than what they seemed. This is a time in American history that demanded a visible, and conformist identity. One that was single, collective and unanimous, and could distinguish ‘them’ from ‘us’. Highsmith’s work of a bloodthirsty murderer who assumes the guise and identity of his victims, takes on an importance that is not only political, but also troubling.’ Continue reading

60 Seconds With Jennifer Daly

You’re stranded on a desert island, but luckily you pre-empted it. Which book do you take with you?

“This is a horrible, horrible question. I never have just one book with me. However, I’m going to pretend that my house is on fire and I can only rescue one. That would be my signed copy of Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. It’s my favourite book. It’s beautifully written and every time I read it I get something different from it.” Continue reading

The War Memorial in Visual Culture – Triumphalism and Repression in The West Wing and The X-Files

Here, I will look at two memorials to major wars in American history and their representations in mainstream television drama – The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in a fourth season episode of The X-Files entitled ‘Unrequited’ (Michael Lange, 1997), and the Korean War Veterans Memorial in a first season episode of The West Wing entitled ‘In Excelsis Deo’ (Alex Graves, 1999). Do they use memorials in a celebratory fashion, or to question and challenge the purpose of the wars to which the monuments are dedicated? Does their representation signal an affirmation of national unity as in the case of The West Wing, or, as in The X-Files, is it indicative of the fracturing and disintegration of this construct? Continue reading

Book Review: American Unexceptionalism – The Everyman and the Suburban Novel after 9/11 by Kathy Knapp

By ignoring the lack of innovation in fiction after “9/11,” and by continuing to privilege the representation of a singular “event” as the cornerstone of a national literature, American Unexceptionalism can only partially commit to dismantling the exceptionalism played upon by its title. Continue reading

Book Review: Sex Scene – Media and the Sexual Revolution by Eric Schaefer

Citing the work of Alan Petigny, and also that of contemporary sexologists such as Alfred Kinsey, editor Eric Schaefer claims that ‘what constituted the sexual revolution was not only a change in manners and morals; that had already been occurring discretely in minds and bedrooms across the nation. It was the fact that sex was no longer a private matter that took place behind closed doors’. (3) Featuring fifteen chapters by sixteen different authors, Sex Scene seeks to argue that ‘what we have come to understand as the sexual revolution of the late 1960s and early 1970s was actually a media revolution’. Continue reading

The Manhattan Male in “Grit Lit” and Film from the 1970s to the 1990s

“Modern masculinity has shifted in order to fit into amodern city frame. This leaves behind the man in the gray flannel suit and the image of the conformist suburbanite. The new urban man of the late twentieth century has his identity constructed by Manhattan’s rapid commodity fetishism. Like the city itself, his body becomes visible, measurable and displayed.” Continue reading

60 Seconds With Joe Street

What has been your most memorable career moment so far?

“After I gave my first paper at the Southern Historical Association when I was writing up my PhD thesis, two people came up and said some very, very kind things about it: the SNCC activist Cleveland Sellers and the great historian John Dittmer. I felt about ten feet tall at that moment.” Continue reading