British Association for American Studies


Christian O'Connell

Primarily a cultural historian, I teach on modules which examine African American as well as American cultural history. I am particularly interested in the role and development of African American culture in the US, but also abroad, especially in the transatlantic exchange. I completed my PhD in 2012, which examined the emergence of transatlantic scholarship on African American blues music through the work of Paul Oliver. This research is the subject of a book entitled “Blues, How Do You Do? Paul Oliver and the Transatlantic Story of the Blues” which will be published by the University of Michigan Press in 2014. Presently, I am working on research projects which consider the transatlantic representations of the American South on British television, and the reception of African American music in Italy during Fascism. I am also running an online course on the blues through the University of Exeter.

In my spare time, I like playing music and play guitar in a band called James Carr & The Comrades (www.jamescarrandthecomrades.com).

Teaching America ‘Online’: Designing and delivering the Online Distance course ‘A History of the Blues’

The sixth post in the ‘Teaching America’ series is by Dr Christian O’Connell (University of Gloucestershire), author of Blues, How Do You Do? Paul Oliver and the Transatlantic Story of the Blues, who discusses the benefits to online distance learning when teaching the history of U.S. music.

Re-Imagining the Blues: A Transatlantic Approach to African-American Culture

Revisionists writers, such as Elijah Wald and Marybeth Hamilton, have argued that representations [of the blues] by white and, therefore, ‘alien’ observers during the post-war blues revival of the 1950s and 1960s distorted historical truths, and ‘invented’ the blues as we know it […] The work of [blues writer] Paul Oliver … is representative of the fact that meanings and representations of African American music and culture have been constructed within a transatlantic context. […] His work demonstrates how the blues became a reified ideal constructed in opposition to the forces of modernity, represented by the commercial music industry and the growth of teenage oriented pop in the 1950s and 1960s. African American music became a source of cultural capital for those that were disillusioned with Western consumerism and mass culture in the post-war era.

60 Seconds With Christian O’Connell

“What advice would you give to early career academics?”

Don’t discount yourself from anything, apply to every job that you would like to do, no matter how competitive if may be, apply for all available research funding (you don’t ask, you don’t get!), and go to as many conferences as possible!