|Issue 101 Autumn 2009|
The cover picture on this issue of American Studies in Britain looks back forty years to July 1969 and the first manned lunar landing. It shows US astronaut Buzz Aldrin posing beside the stars and stripes in the shadow of the lunar module ‘Eagle’ – immortalised in the phrase ‘The Eagle has landed’. The photograph was taken by Apollo 11 mission commander Neil A. Armstrong, who had descended with Aldrin to explore the Sea of Tranquility. The pilot of the command and service module ‘Columbia’, Michael Collins, remained in lunar orbit. Visible in the foreground of the illustration are prints made by the astronauts’ space boots, replicas of which can be purchased for a mere $225 from the American Space Store. The price tag on a full Apollo 11 space suits – built to NASA specifications, complete with helmet, hoses, snoopy cap, backpack and gloves – is $9,500. For the children of my generation, born in the mid-1960s and attending fancy-dress birthday parties at the height of space age mania, a suit like that would have been to die for. As it was, the astronauts among us had to make do with borrowed motorbike helmets and yards of tin foil. In those days the mock astronauts, like the real ones, tended to be male. The Soviet Union had sent a woman into space in 1963, when Valentina Tereshkova participated in the Vostok 6 mission, but the Americans would not follow suit until Sally Ride’s STS-7 expedition in 1983. A year later the USSR claimed another first, with Svetlana Savitskaya becoming the first woman to walk in space, followed a few months later by the American Kathryn D. Sullivan. In the early 1990s Sullivan’s compatriot and namesake Kathryn C. Thornton became the third woman to walk in space and the first to accomplish multiple extravehicular activities.
In choosing the cover picture I was tempted by two other routes, both connected to the space race and moon walking. The year 2009 marks the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the beginning of a wave of political revolutions in the communist states of Poland, Hungary, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, and Romania. Two years later the political enmity and technological rivalry between the two twentieth-century superpowers, the USA and the USSR, gave way to a new post-Cold War balance of power with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Ronald Reagan’s Star Wars would continue in modified form under George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton, but much of the impetus had been lost for strategic defense based on interceptor rockets and lasers.
As for moon walking, on 25 June 2009 the United States and the rest of the world lost perhaps the most famous ever moon walker, Michael Joseph Jackson. Born on 29 August 1958 and hitting the Motown scene with the Jackson 5 in 1964, Jackson made a sensational impact on popular music, music video and dance. Academic work on Jackson has addressed the Peter Pan complex, surgical passing, superstardom, fandom, trial by appearance, freak chic, cyborg identity and morphing, but perhaps his greatest legacy is in the videos of ‘Billie Jean’ and ‘Beat It’ and the best-selling 1982 album, Thriller. On vinyl.
Who knows whether some of these topics will make their way into panels and papers at the BAAS 2010 Annual Conference at the University of East Anglia. The call for papers is printed in these pages, along with reports from the rich and highly stimulating 2009 conference at Nottingham. The 2009 Annual Postgraduate Conference takes place at the University of Northumbria on 14 November 2009, on the theme ‘Continuities and Changes’. It promises to be a diverse and fascinating analysis of past and present-day America from within the context of the Obama era. See the BAAS website for details. Registration is by 16 October.
Dr Alison Kelly
BAAS Annual Conference: University of East Anglia
8-10 April 2010
The 55th Annual Conference
Call for Papers
The fifty-fifth British Association for American Studies Conference will be held at the School of American Studies, University of East Anglia from 8 to 11 April 2010. There is no overarching theme for the conference, and papers and panel proposals are welcomed on any subject relating to the United States of America and early America. The conference will feature papers from a wide range of disciplines and play host to an international collection of scholars from across the spectrum of the research community, from postgraduates to senior scholars. Interdisciplinarity is very welcome, and we are also happy to accept proposals for roundtable discussions, poster sessions, or other innovative panel ideas that we can incorporate into the conference schedule.
For further information about the conference please visit: http://www.uea.ac.uk/ams/baas2010
The University of East Anglia has been a pioneering centre for research and teaching in the field of American Studies since it was first established in the 1960s. It is also home to the Arthur Miller Centre for American Studies, which, amongst other activities, sponsors the annual International Literary Festival that has featured an extraordinary range of writers including Arthur Miller, Norman Mailer, Kurt Vonnegut, Joseph Heller, Richard Ford and Toni Morrison. East Anglia itself has a long and storied connection with America: a short drive from the University can take you to the hometown of Abraham Lincoln's ancestors, the birthplace of Thomas Paine, and the airfields used by the USAAF in World War Two.
For more information about Norwich and its environs, please visit:
Proposals for 20-minute papers should be a maximum of 250 words with a provisional title. These will be arranged into panel groups. Panel proposals by two or more people, sharing a common theme, are also invited. All proposals should be submitted by 16 October 2009 to:
School of American Studies
University of East Anglia
Norwich, NR4 7TJ
BAAS Annual Conference: University of Nottingham 2009
Annual General Meeting, held at the BAAS annual conference, University of Nottingham, Friday 17 April 2009
It has become customary to start the Chair’s report with a sort of State of the Subject address, and this year in no exception. BAAS as an organisation is committed to supporting American Studies programmes, whether they are single honours, joint honours, or indeed strands of other programmes; we recognise that we have at least as many members who are in Departments of History, Politics, Film and Media, Humanities, Social Sciences and English as in single subject American Studies Departments or Schools, if not more; but we strive to offer support to all colleagues who teach and research in the area of American Studies. As the most visible manifestation of American Studies scholarship, named departments and schools remain vital for our national standing, in league tables, and in relation to the RAE and more importantly the REF.
As Chair of BAAS, I write to Vice Chancellors about American Studies programme closures and offer BAAS’s support, sometimes with success, though often decisions have been made and communicated to staff before BAAS is able to offer its voice. Plymouth and Lancaster both confirmed the closing of American Studies provision this year, though American Studies options remain on other programmes.
As some programmes close, others thrive. Twenty-five programmes are listed in the 2009 Good University Guide League Table for American Studies, which is a higher number than in some previous years, and even here, not all programmes are listed. (By comparison, the 2005 table only listed 20 institutions.)
I’m pleased to announce that Sussex has retained its status as an American Studies department, which is good news and welcome in the current climate. In addition, many universities have seen a marked increase in applications to their American Studies courses, as announced in the Times Higher; across the board applications are up 22% with some institutions claiming rises of more than 50%. The reasons for this increase are mixed and various, and may include the fact that, on behalf of the community, BAAS supported the LLAS produced Discover American Studies CD-rom, produced at the University of Birmingham, and bought over 20,000 copies to distribute free to all institutions who asked for them. Others will claim the Obama effect, just as previously, others had bemoaned the Bush effect. Indeed, this summer I was interviewed by William Lee Adams of Time Magazine regarding American Studies – for an unfortunately named article, ‘American Studies: Stars and Gripes’, which appeared in October 2008. The journalist was keen to promote the idea that Bush was bad for American Studies – without seeing application figures in the context of peaks and troughs, and without recognising that American Studies teaching takes place in joint and combined honours programmes as much as it does on single honours, and certainly without taking into account the American option modules on every programme in English, Film, History, and Politics in the country – to name but a few.
BAAS arranged and sponsored a Heads of American Studies lunch at the ISA, London, in June last year, to discuss recruitment, links with schools and colleges, and research post-RAE. A follow-up meeting is scheduled for 16 June 2009. We have invited Paul Cammack, chair of the RAE subpanel and member of the REF Advisory Group, to discuss the new proposals.
For many of us, the RAE exercised a great deal of our thinking and not a little time. Eight institutions submitted to RAE Unit of Assessment 47, American Studies and Anglophone Area Studies, covering not only American Studies, but Caribbean, Latin American and Canadian Studies research. Although the number of staff submitted to the Unit fell from 114 in 2001 to 92 in 2008, there was also, according to the subject overview report, ‘significant evidence of staff renewal, with just over half of Category A staff submitted in RAE 2008 appointed to their institutions since 2001’. There was also a significant increase in the number of postgraduate students. There was a healthy number of cross-referrals to the panel, though BAAS’s concerted effort to persuade institutions to cross-refer work that was submitted to other panels to Unit 47 – a campaign led by Carol Smith as the former Vice Chair – was not as successful as had been hoped. Heads of Research perhaps misunderstood the cross-referral mechanism, which allowed for expert advice to be offered as a source of information to subpanels, which were free to use the advice as they wished. Although some colleagues have expressed disappointment with the RAE, particularly with the low number of institutions that submitted to the Unit, I quote from the publicly available RAE2008 UOA 47 subject overview report which states categorically:
Given the more demanding criteria of RAE 2008, which discriminates between different levels of international achievement, we believe that the quality of research activity assessed exceeds that of 2001….In 2008, three of the eight institutions submitted had 50 per cent or more of their activity recognised as world-leading or internationally excellent in terms of originality, significance and rigour…, and in all over 80 per cent of research (comprising research outputs, environment and esteem), weighted according to the number of staff in each submission, achieved international and world-leading quality levels of 2*, 3* and 4*.
This is an achievement to be proud of, though as BAAS has consistently noted in media interviews, to colleagues, and to Vice Chancellors, American Studies research is found in a variety of other units of assessment as well, and American Studies research has a far wider base than represented here. Thus I urge individuals and heads of programmes to contact me with information about where they and their colleagues were submitted.
These achievements are ably demonstrated by the many awards, promotions and other recognition accorded American Studies colleagues this year. Jacqueline Fear-Segal won the American Studies Network book prize for her book White Man's Club (University of Nebraska Press, 2007). Rebecca Ferguson (University of Wales, Lampeter) gained a Recognition Award from the Toni Morrison Society in America for her book Rewriting Black Identities: Transition and Exchange in the Novels of Toni Morrison (2007). Gareth Davies (St. Anne’s, Oxford), was awarded the Richard Neustadt Prize of the American Politics Group of the Political Studies Association for his book See Government Grow on Federal education policy. And of course BAAS offers its own Book Prize, which this year is awarded to Kasia Boddy for her book Boxing: A Cultural History (Reaktion, 2008).
American Studies continues to offer clear evidence of its relevance and impact to both the US and the UK. For example, the Institute for the Study of the Americas formally launched its new United States Presidency Centre (USPC) on 24 October 2008. The centre is being set up to promote and facilitate research and scholarship on the US presidency, not only from a contemporary institutional and policy perspective but also in terms of its historical and cultural significance. Professor Matthew Jones (Nottingham) has been appointed by the Prime Minister as a Cabinet Office official historian, and commissioned to write the history of the Chevaline programme. On a very different note, an American Studies PhD Student at Sheffield, Kaleem Ashraf, has had his poetry read by Julia Wright (writer, activist and daughter of the great Richard Wright) at the National Unveiling of the Richard Wright Stamp at the Chicago Post Office earlier this month, as part of the centennial celebrations of Wright’s life and work.
BAAS members have also had success in achieving research grants, a significant factor regarding the health of the subject. Paul Grainge (Nottingham) made a successful bid to host and organise an AHRC research workshop on its 'Beyond Text' scheme. Sharon Monteith (also Nottingham) was successful in her application to the AHRC Research Leave Scheme to complete her book on Civil Rights in the Melodramatic Imagination.
This year has also seen a number of well-regarded academics achieve career distinction. Will Kaufman has been made Professor of American Literature and Culture at the University of Central Lancashire. Craig Phelan has been offered a Chair in History at Kingston. Jude Davies has been made Professor of American Literature and Culture at the University of Winchester.
Philip Davies, Emeritus Professor at De Montfort University and Director of the Eccles Centre, has been elected as a Rothermere American Institute Fellow, in recognition of his ‘exceptional contribution to the intellectual life of the RAI’ and his ‘distinction in academic, professional or public life’. Phil has also become co-editor of the Academy of Social Sciences journal 21st Century Society.
Douglas Tallack has been appointed Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Arts, Humanities and Law at the University of Leicester, and Richard Carwardine is to become the next Warden of Corpus Christi.
Sadly, we also lost some long standing supporters of American Studies in Britain this year, including Vivien Hart, former Professor of American Studies at Sussex and Charlotte Erickson, a former BAAS Secretary and Chair who remained closely connected with BAAS throughout her lifetime.
BAAS offers many important services to the community. This year alone, BAAS will award 29 prizes worth a total of over £70,000, not including the support and funding we offer to conference organisers. We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of the US Embassy and also of individual BAAS members who regularly contribute to our Short Term Travel Award funds or who donate anonymously in other ways. For the first time this year, we will announce a new award of BAAS Fellow in recognition of services to BAAS and the American Studies Community.
As Chair of BAAS, I attended many functions on the community’s behalf over the past year, including, perhaps most memorably, the Election Night Party at the Embassy as well as a Breakfast meeting at the US Ambassador’s house the next morning – at 8am! At our table was, amongst others, Sir David Frost. It was an enjoyable and interesting set of events. I was also fortunate to be invited to the Ambassador’s house for the annual 4th of July barbeque, complete with lashings of rain and the odd celebrity spotting opportunities.
On a more academic note, I attended the Regional Awards Winner reception and dinner for the AHRC in June, which was followed by a robust question and answer session with Philip Esler. I attended two meetings of UKCASA on BAAS’s behalf. I also attended a meeting of the Chief Officers’ Group for the Academy of Social Sciences in London. I attended a meeting of the Associate Fellows of the Institute for the Study of the Americas and have twice met the ISA’s new director, Maxine Molyneux, with plans for further meetings over the next academic year. I had to decline other invitations – to Fulbright lectures, for example – but often other officers or members of the executive were able to represent BAAS when I was unable to attend.
Perhaps one of the biggest tasks facing BAAS over the past year, as in previous years, was responding to a variety of consultation activities – often with very little notice. For example, we responded to a US patents consultation run by the British Library. Often, though, such consultation activities require repeated correspondence and negotiation. BAAS remained engaged with the European Reference Index for the Humanities project. Although we find journal rankings invidious and problematic, we also felt, as a subject association, that we would rather be involved in a project that seemed to be going ahead regardless of academic opinion – and thus be in a position to shape it – than to allow it to proceed without expert advice and guidance. We worked tirelessly to ensure that the Journal of American Studies achieved an A rating on the recently published Literature list, but we noted other anomalies. We thus contacted relevant journal editors and publishers to make them aware of the project and how they could correct the misapprehensions of their expert panel, and we nominated a number of BAAS members to serve – though to date we have yet to hear back from the ERIH as to whether our nominations were accepted.
We remain engaged with AHRC consultations. We wrote several letters to the AHRC regarding not only their Block Grant Proposal Scheme which continued to ignore the presence of American Studies, but also their creation of four new prioritisation panels. It was on the basis of this latter correspondence that I spoke at the UKCASA meeting about area studies in relation to the AHRC in January. Other area studies associations expressed similar concerns and thanked BAAS for being proactive in writing to the AHRC. We welcomed the commitment from the AHRC to seek American Studies experts for panels, though we were disappointed that in the reply to us, the overall nature of area studies was not recognised. We are pleased that a number of our members are AHRC peer college reviewers, and that some sit on the prioritisation panels themselves, and it is through this connection – as well as continuing dialogue and inviting representatives to speak to this conference – that we continue to engage with the AHRC.
We made a commitment to being involved, as appropriate, with a new body called the Arts and Humanities Users’ Group – a pressure group set up to respond to the AHRC, HEFCE and other bodies about research initiatives. On your behalf, the Executive Committee approves or does not approve linking our organisation’s name to letters sent out by the group about proposals and plans.
Other ways in which we support and promote American Studies are through engaging with the media, both in print form as noted above with Time Magazine, but also through other media outlets. For example, this year I talked with BBC Radio 4, Radio 5 Live, Radio 3 and other media outlets about the elections, John McCain, a miniseries on American History, George Washington’s Death Mask and Radio 3’s Free Thinking Festival of Ideas, often passing on the names of BAAS members for panels and discussions, and I’m aware that the rest of the Executive, particularly the Secretary, does the same. We issued a press release for the first time this year about our awards winners, and we have initiated plans to raise the profile of the Association – and American Studies– over the next year, for which we will need your help.
I have consistently noted that BAAS is much larger than its thirteen-strong elected representation – hence our need to rely on you to help us with consultations, profile raising, and representing American Studies nationally and internationally. But it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the hard work of all the members of the Executive, who sit on the committees and subcommittees as volunteers and often during their own free time; who respond with patience and dedication to these consultation activities; and who judge the copious number of awards BAAS funds or supports. I want to thank in particular the other officers: Martin Halliwell as Vice Chair and chair of the Publications subcommittee; Theresa Saxon as Treasurer, and Catherine Morley as Secretary. I know from experience the amount of time that this last role in particular requires, as the Secretary acts as a conduit for most of the information flow in BAAS. Thanks are extended also to the other subcommittee chairs: Sarah MacLachlan, Will Kaufman and Ian Scott, and to ex-officio and co-opted members Paul Blackburn, the Teachers’ Representative, Dick Ellis, the chair of the Library and Resources subcommittee, and Susan Castillo as editor of the Journal of American Studies. Michael Collins has completed his first year as postgraduate representative and has done a sterling job of continuing to support this important segment of our population, and other members George Lewis, Mark Whalan, Andrew Lawson, Robert Mason and Ian Bell offer their valuable support and input into committee and subcommittee meetings.
Finally, I am very grateful Celeste-Marie Bernier and her colleagues at Nottingham, for organising such an excellent conference, with grace, good humour, and of course, musical entertainment in the evenings.
Minutes of 2009 BAAS AGM
The 2009 AGM of BAAS was held on Friday 17 April at the University of Nottingham at 3:15pm.
Treasurer Theresa Saxon (to 2012)
John Fagg (to 2012)
Martin Halliwell (to 2012)*
Iwan Morgan (to 2012)
*Not eligible for re-election to this position.
The Treasurer circulated copies of the Trustees’ Report and the draft audited accounts, which she asked the AGM to approve. She informed the AGM that the Trustees’ Report now contains a paragraph outlining firm concepts of how BAAS activities provide public benefit. This is a new aspect of the report which has recently been introduced by the Charities Commission. TS noted that as yet there is no template for phrasing our public benefit but we should have clearer guidelines next year. She added that in this first year she has stressed the provision of resources on the BAAS website and conference subsidies to PGs.
In terms of the accounts, TS drew the membership’s attention to the increase in the cost of journals and publications this year. The figure is double that of last year, which is linked to the Discover American Studies Project. TS also noted that subscriptions are down on last year, which means that our income from subscriptions has dropped £3000 this year. She noted that there have been a few cancelled standing orders. BAAS will need to monitor this issue as it may be a continuing trend; undoubtedly, the current financial crisis has had an impact. Overall she noted a healthy deficit of £14,000 in 2008. This is a positive position (as we should not make a surplus) and certainly no cause for concern.
The Treasurer noted that the bank accounts (as at 15 April 2009) were as follows: General Deposit, £17,214.69; Short Term Awards, £1701.44; Current, £21,349.73; Conference, £969.96; making a total of £41,235.82. The amount in the RBS Jersey is £15,474.61 and the US Dollar Account has $9,460.90.
Judie Newman (Nottingham) proposed that the accounts be approved; Carol Smith (Winchester) seconded the motion, and it was carried unanimously.
TS reported on progress made on Gift Aid, which has been an ongoing issue over the last few years. Since 2000, membership subscriptions and donations have been eligible for Gift Aid, and BAAS can claim back 22/78th for those who have signed legitimate Gift Aid declarations. TS has recently put in a claim to the Inland Revenue for approximately £1600. However, there are currently only 120 Gift Aid mandates on file (which accounts for just a quarter of the membership). TS urged the membership to collect, complete and return the circulated Gift Aid forms.
TS also reported on membership figures; there are currently 462 fully paid up members (160 of which are postgraduates), which compares to 523 (including 190 postgraduates) at this time last year. When those who have not updated their standing orders are included, this number rises to 525 in total (with 179 postgraduates).
On behalf of the Executive Committee TS proposed an increase in the BAAS subscription, to be introduced in 2010. She noted that BAAS and JAS have been linked since 2005 (with an optional subscription to the journal tied to membership). CUP have proposed to increase the number of volumes from three to four issues per year. Inevitably, this will incur an additional cost of £5.00 per annum. As BAAS has not increased membership fees since 2002, the Executive Committee have proposed an increase of £2.00 per annum on full membership and £1.00 per annum on postgraduate and retired membership costs. This rise is necessary to build the community, to build on the work of the association, and to invest in the updating and maintenance of the BAAS website. Thus, with the new JAS rate and the BAAS membership increase, the overall proposed subscription increases are as follows:
Phil Davies (Eccles Centre) proposed that the increase be approved, with effect from January 2010; Carol Smith seconded the motion, and it was carried unanimously.
The Chair offered a comprehensive verbal report, which is reproduced in full above.
Sarah MacLachlan began her report by acknowledging what a huge success the Nottingham conference had been so far, and offered public congratulations to Celeste-Marie Bernier and her team of postgraduates for the hard work they had put in before and during the conference. SM noted that this year she had visited the 2010 conference site at UEA with Thomas Ruys-Smith, the 2010 conference organiser. The conference will be based at the University of East Anglia (8–11 April 1010) and preparations are already well underway. She noted that the call for papers was available in conference packs and members were asked to consider submitting proposals early to allow for planning.
The 2011 conference will be held at the University of Central Lancashire, organised by Theresa Saxon. SM reported that the University of Manchester was confirmed for the 2012 conference, with the University of Exeter hosting the conference in 2013, and the University of Birmingham taking on the conference in 2014. Finally, SM invited suggestions for future conferences.
Martin Halliwell began his verbal report by reminding the AGM that minutes of all meetings are published on the website, so that individuals may keep updated about current activities. He then reported on some of the highlights of the year in relation to the Publications subcommittee. In relation to BRRAM (British Records Relating to America in Microform), Ken Morgan (Brunel) continues to be active in developing the catalogue. A new BRRAM microform, ‘The American Correspondence of Arthur C. Murray with Franklin D. Roosevelt’, was released in late 2008; ‘The Manuscripts of Samuel Martin, a sugar planer in C18th Antigua’ is ready for release; and the William Davenport Papers (relating to a Liverpool slave merchant) have been added to the online resources on the slave trade. Ken Morgan is looking to expand the number of large American research libraries that have a standing order to take all the BRRAM titles, and would welcome any suggestions of new papers for the collection.
In relation to the BAAS EUP series, the series editors, Simon Newman (Glasgow) and Carol Smith, and EUP commissioning editor, Nicola Ramsey, have been busy in 2008 exploring possible new subjects and authors for the BAAS series. A new addition to the series is Celeste-Marie Bernier’s African American Visual Arts, co-published with University of North Carolina Press. Books on The American Short Story since 1950 and North American Theatre are due out in 2009-10.
MH noted that the editor of JAS, Susan Castillo, associate editor, Scott Lucas, and CUP representative Martine Walsh have been working very hard in 2009, streamlining and improving the JAS editorial processes. In 2008-9 Janet Beer (Oxford Brookes) and Shelley Fisher Fishkin (Stanford) had their terms of office on the JAS editorial board extended for another three years. MH welcomed the following as new board members: Richard Crockatt (UEA), Jane Dailey (Chicago) and Marjorie Spruill (South Carolina). At a meeting on 13 March in London, CUP, JAS and BAAS representatives discussed the proposal to move from three to four issues per year from 2010. The extra issue would cost an additional £5, making the rate £20 for BAAS members to receive JAS. The page length of future issues will be 240 pp. MH also noted that CUP are keen to develop First View for JAS which will mean that fully citable articles will appear online before they appear in print form. It was also proposed to add the associate editor of JAS to the BAAS Executive as a co-opted member. Carol Smith proposed the motion be approved; Judie Newman seconded the motion, and it was carried unanimously.
In relation to other publications, the latest issue of ASIB was produced earlier in the spring, with the deadline for the autumn issue being 31 July. MH noted that the typesetting for ASIB remains at Oxford Brookes University and, on behalf of BAAS, thanked Alison Kelly (RAI) for her work as editor.
Felicity Donohoe (University of Glasgow) took over from Elizabeth Boyle (Sheffield) as editor of US Studies Online in autumn 2008. Issue 13 was published in November 2008 and Issue 14 will include a number of papers first aired at the 2008 Exeter BAAS PG conference. MH noted that flyers for US Studies Online were included in conference packs and the editor is keen for the journal to be publicised to all American Studies graduate students.
MH thanked colleagues on the Publications subcommittee for the work they did in 2008-9.
Will Kaufman began his report by noting a series of positive developments, including the introduction of the BAAS Honorary Fellowship Award (developed in conjunction with the Ian Scott and Ian Bell on the Awards subcommittee) and the marked increase in the number of applications for conference support. He noted the Development subcommittee’s concerns about the liaison between schools and the American Studies community, and added that he hoped to meet with teachers, establish contacts, listen to grievances and receive teachers’ suggestions about BAAS–schools liaison. He stressed the value of initiatives such as the BAAS Schools Essay Prize, but added the need to do more, on both sides of the school-HE equation. The Development subcommittee has discussed, for instance, the possibility of recruiting a second schools liaison member from the teaching sector, either to accompany or alternate with the current schools liaison representative – perhaps from a southern region to complement the existing northern representation. BAAS welcomed the news that Dr Bella Adams (LJMU) has taken over the directorship of the American Studies Resource Centre, which continues to host the important 6th Form Conference. WK also offered congratulations to Dr Adams’s predecessor, Ian Ralston, who was recently offered a State Department Tribute for his services to American Studies.
WK noted that HE recruitment was a constant issue of discussion for the Development subcommittee, adding that in the coming year BAAS hopes to have some concrete statistics regarding the impact of the Discover American Studies CD-Rom project fronted by Dr Sara Wood and Professor Dick Ellis in collaboration with the Subject Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies – and generously funded by the US Embassy. One of the forthcoming tasks of the Development subcommittee will be to gather national feedback about the use of this recruitment package. The membership were asked to contact WK with details of recruitment and their use of the CD.
In terms of US Embassy grants, WK offered thanks to the US Embassy, who kindly agreed to provide the requested funds for this year’s BAAS conference, the STAs and the Ambassador’s Awards. He noted that the embassy had kindly provided a sum of £12,880, which broke down exactly into the requested amounts for each bid. Particular thanks were extended to Sarah-Jane Mayhew and Sue Wedlake.
WK noted an increase in the number of BAAS conference funding requests. Since the last AGM BAAS has been able to offer funding worth approximately £4,980 for conference organisation. The recipients were as follows: Trevor Burnard (Warwick) and Tim Lockley (Warwick) were awarded £300 for a conference on Early American and Atlantic History; Philip Davies (Eccles Centre) was awarded £300 for the 2008 Congress to Campus 6th Form conference; Michael Collins (Nottingham) and Mark Storey (Nottingham) were awarded £300 for a Nineteenth Century Literature postgraduate conference; Lewis Ward (Exeter) was awarded £300 for the 2008 BAAS postgraduate conference; Kathryn Gray (Plymouth) was awarded £300 for the South West American Studies Forum; Alan Rice (UCLAN) and Fionnghuala Sweeney (Liverpool) were awarded £300 for the Liberating Sojourn 2; Karen Heath (Oxford) was awarded £300 for the Nixon Era conference; Matthew Ward (Dundee) was awarded £300 for the 10th annual SASA conference; Iwan Morgan (ISA) was awarded £300 for the Seeking a New Majority conference; Ruth Hawthorn (Glasgow) was awarded £300 for the New Clear Forms conference; Richard Martin (London) was awarded £300 for a David Lynch conference; Helen Mitchell (Northumbria) was awarded £300 for the 2009 Annual BAAS postgraduate conference; Dick Ellis (Birmingham) was awarded £300 for the Engaging the New American Studies conference; Phil Davies (Eccles Centre) was awarded £300 for the 2009 Eccles Congress to Campus conference; Bella Adams (LJMU) was awarded £200 for ASRC schools conference; and applications for support funding have also been received for a Toni Morrison symposium (£280 requested) and the forthcoming HOTCUS conference (£300 requested).
WK extended thanks to Michael Collins for his ongoing work as Postgraduate Representative. He commended the organisers of the very successful BAAS postgraduate conference at Exeter in 2008; and noted that the forthcoming postgraduate conference will be held at Northumbria University on 14 November 2009.
WK concluded his report by thanking those who had replied to his email call for information regarding high-profile American Studies graduates, especially Pete Messent, Chris Gair, Phil Davies and Richard Crockatt. With their assistance BAAS has had responses from Richard Lister of the BBC, the novelist Jill Dawson, and the crime-writer John Harvey. WK reported that he had also had a response from the personal assistant to the First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond, which noted that ‘[Mr Salmond’s] dissertation on the 1860 election gave him a great admiration for Abraham Lincoln that has continued to influence him throughout his career in politics’.
All the members of the Development subcommittee were thanked for their contributions during the year.
Ian Scott began his report by thanking the anonymous judges who contributed to the successful business of the Awards subcommittee. He noted that the success of the Awards had meant that this work had grown exponentially in the past few years and the Executive Committee will continue to encourage members to volunteer their services in the adjudication of BAAS Awards. He noted that BAAS will award 29 prizes in 2009 worth a total of nearly £70,000.
IS also reported that the teaching assistantship at Wyoming had been very successful again and that this would continue through another cycle for a further two years at least. He also noted that the Eccles Fellowship Award was still open and he encouraged colleagues to apply for the various EU and domestic awards. IS mentioned the inauguration of the new BAAS Honorary Fellowship Award, and asked the membership to consider proposing individuals for the fellowship. Finally, IS thanked the US Embassy for their support, as well as the individual members of BAAS who donate funds to support the Short Term Travel Awards.
Libraries and Resources:
Dick Ellis reported that the subcommittee had dealt with three main items over the past year. The first was the Discover American Studies CD, which was kindly funded by the US Embassy and purchased by BAAS. He reported that already American Studies applications have risen by 22%. DE noted that the CD was still available and interested individuals should email him for copies. The second major item of business for the subcommittee was the BLARs journal, which continues through the financial support of the US Embassy and the work of Matthew Shaw. The next issue will appear in August 2009. Those with suggestions for articles should email the editor, Dr Matthew Shaw, at the British Library. He also noted that BLARs had run a very successful session, entitled Dirty Filthy Copyright, at the conference on Thursday 16 April. Next year’s Dirty Sexy Copyright 2 is already in the planning stages. DE reported that the final item of major business was the development of an American Studies resources website (to be developed with INTUTE). This online tutorial provision will help teach students how to evaluate and criticise materials on the web. He added that he will contact the membership shortly, requesting assistance with the second phase of the programme.
Thanks were extended to all members of the subcommittee, especially Jane Kelly (Secretary), Phil Davies and colleagues at the British Library.
Phil Davies reported that his main business concerned the EAAS biannual conference in Dublin. He noted that the 24 workshops and lectures had recently been finalised, but there would be opportunities to propose papers for the workshops. This would be advertised in the newsletter on www.eaas.eu. Details would also be circulated via the BAAS e-list. He reminded the AGM that the extended deadline for the EAAS Rob Kroes Book Prize would close at the end of July and urged the membership to send along their manuscripts. He also reminded the membership of EJAS as a valuable publishing outlet. He concluded by noting that EAAS 2012 would be held in Turkey.
Jenel Virden (Hull) asked why all institutions with raised application figures were not reported in the Chair’s Report. The Chair replied that she had reported the figures of all those institutions which had responded to her call for information.
The AGM concluded at 4.30pm.
Professor Vivien Hart (28 May 1938 – 2 February 2008)
Professor Vivien Hart died peacefully following a short illness caused by an aggressive brain tumour earlier this year. She was a modest, undemonstrative friend who provided unstinting support and sage advice to her colleagues and students at the University of Sussex and beyond.
An interdisciplinary social scientist whose work traversed the fields of history, politics and law, Vivien’s research focused particularly on the contribution of women to the political process and more recently their role in constitution-making. After completing her PhD at Harvard, Vivien joined colleagues in American Studies at Sussex in 1974. There she worked to help establish American Studies as a leading field at the university as well as nationally, becoming Professor in 1996. Always ready to read a research proposal or book chapter, she would offer detailed and supportive feedback that was often accompanied by a glass of wine as well as much encouragement. A model of patience in an often frustrating or difficult environment, Vivien quietly succeeded without making enemies or losing friends.
Alongside her dedicated service to Sussex, she sustained an expansive network of friends and colleagues throughout the world. She spent time as a visiting Professor at Smith College and at Ohio State University, and held fellowships at the American Council of Learned Societies, Toronto University, the United States Institute of Peace, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the Brookings Institution.
While she enjoyed travelling and always found time for her many friends, Vivien was happiest making a difference to those most excluded from positions of power and decision making. Her work was sustained by a desire to investigate and correct the politics of exclusion. Vivien’s short report, ‘Democratic Constitution Making’, written during a fellowship at the US Institute of Peace, has become one of the most significant and effective contributions that an American Studies academic has made to conflict resolution throughout the world. Her colleagues at the Comparative Constitutions project thus recently mourned her as ‘a pioneer in thinking about how the process of making constitutions relates to the consolidation of democracy and human rights’, and she was proudly bemused that, of all her work, this short report seemed to have made the most impact and was being used to inform conflict resolution in areas as divergent as Iraq and Sri Lanka.
To Vivien, the theory and the practice of social inclusion and participatory democracy could not be separated and she always had her eye on the practical outcomes of her academic research. Her work on the formation of national identity or constitution-making, for example, was driven by pragmatic considerations such as: ‘Can there be such a thing as a woman-friendly state?” In her book, Bound by Our Constitution: Women, Workers, and the Minimum Wage she wrote that “Minimum wagers trod a narrow path between the attractions of theoretical perfection and the urgent need for practical solutions. Their dilemma, and ours, in choosing between the best policy or the best they could get, was never better stated than by New York activist Pauline Newman, reminding yet another preliminary inquiry in 1915 that, while the theoretical debates roll on, “in the meantime the girls are absolutely starved”.’
Vivien Hart’s death leaves us with one less feminist voice to remind us about what is important while theoretical debates roll on in academic or juridical institutions – but she also leaves us with the gift of her sharp and peace-loving intellect that will continue to inform and sustain the research and social policy of inclusive politics beyond the boundaries of American Studies and her own time.
Dr. Susan Currell
University of Sussex
Albert Hamilton Gordon (1901-2009)
Albert Hamilton Gordon, a generous supporter of American Studies postgraduate students at Glasgow University, died on 1 May in his New York City home. His wife, Mary Rousmaniere, predeceased Albert, and he is survived by five children, twelve grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. 107 years old at his death, Albert Gordon lived a full and remarkable life, and to those who met him he appeared a living link with more than a century of American history. Albert’s mother, Sarah Flanagan, left Galway with her family in the wake of the Great Famine, while his father Albert Franklin Gordon had been one of the first ranchers in the Wyoming Territory before becoming a leather broker who was the leading supplier to the British Army during the Great War.
Albert was born in Scituate, Massachusetts on 21 July 1901. He was educated at Roxbury Latin School before graduating cum laude at Harvard University in 1923, and then going on to receive his MBA from Harvard two years later. He began working as an analyst for Goldman Sachs, traversing the eastern seaboard and developing a love of travel, while enjoying New York City and all it had to offer during the era of Prohibition. After the Wall Street Crash Albert and two partners took control of the ailing company Kidder Peabody, which they relocated from Boston to New York City. Eventually becoming chairman, Mr Gordon helped make it a major Wall Street institution: by 1960 he was listed one of the ten most powerful men on Wall Street, and Kidder ranked as one of the top investment banking concerns. Albert became known as one of the ‘Titans of Wall Street’, and he was the last of these men who rebuilt American investment banking.
Kidder Peabody was sold to General Electric in 1986, but retirement was not an option, and until 2007 Albert continued spending four days a week in the office. His enthusiasm for good health and exercise combined with his love of travel in interesting ways: he climbed stairs rather than take elevators, walked instead of taking buses or subways, and he loved running, wherever he was. He made a hobby of walking from the downtown areas of major cities to airports, regularly walking from his home in Manhattan to JFK airport, as well as walking to airports in such cities as Baltimore, Cleveland and even Los Angeles (the latter taking him six hours). An early supporter of the New York Road Runners Club, Albert helped the group to create the New York Marathon, and the club named its library and an annual race in his honour. He was the oldest competitor in the inaugural London Marathon, and although he was forced to stop running in his 80s, Albert continued to exercise until shortly before his death.
Mr Gordon was an enthusiastic supporter of many good causes, working for and helping to support Roxbury Latin School and Harvard, where he created the Harvard Associates and raised money for academic and athletic causes. In the UK Mr Gordon has provided teaching and coaching scholarships for American graduates at Winchester College, and he created an endowment for American Studies postgraduate students at the University of Glasgow, becoming an Honorary Fellow of the University in 2002. The annual Gordon Lecture in American Studies is named in his honour, and the ninth lecture was given by Professor Douglas Tallack just a few days before Albert’s death.
Albert Gordon was often more interested in finding out about the interests of others than in talking about his own life, asking about favourite authors before gently probing the respondent on his or her answers: at his 101st birthday party at his summer home on Fisher’s Island, he quizzed me quite mercilessly about F. Scott Fitzgerald, and I soon realised that he knew far more about Fitzgerald than I did. Few people knew more about Trollope than did Albert, and he was an enthusiastic patron of the Trollope Society and a great collector of various editions of Trollope’s novels. I was once able to ask Albert about his education at Harvard, and whether or not he had taken classes from a particular American historian, and if so what they were like. Knowing full well how interested I was, he replied with a twinkle in his eye that he had indeed taken a course with Frederick Jackson Turner, but had found him a rather boring lecturer. Perhaps Albert Gordon did represent a living link with much of American history, from the Irish Great Migration to the Roaring Twenties to the rebuilding of Wall Street, but it will be for his enthusiasm for life, for reading and for running that I shall remember him. And for his sense of humour. Although one of Wall Street’s most eminent bankers he often flew in economy class, and he once noticed a junior Vice President from his bank taking a seat in business class. Albert scribbled a short note, and had a flight attendant take it forward to his junior colleague, asking ‘What is the food like up there?’
University of Glasgow
Following RAE 2008
An Open Letter by Peter Messent and R. J. Ellis
American Studies in Britain has emerged from the 2008 RAE as a subject area under considerable threat. Following publication of the RAE results, research funding across the board in American Studies has dropped by 22%, making it the seventh most heavily cut in terms of funding in this RAE research round. More to the point, at least three of the eight units returned in the American and Anglophone (UoA 47) panel have been subject to immediately adverse affects. The American Studies undergraduate course at University of London, King’s, has been closed. American Studies has lost its Departmental status at Swansea, instead operating as a programme within a reconfigured School of Arts and Humanities. The Liverpool unit is under threat of closure. Indeed, the existence of the American Studies and Anglophone Area Studies Panel itself is now in serious question as a result of such developments. Though not all of the above are due solely to the RAE results, they have certainly had a substantial contributory effect.
While we consider it pointless to complain about an exercise that is now completed, we think it worth highlighting an apparent unevenness across Arts panels which has worked to the detriment of our subject area. A series of statistics make this clear.
The median GPA, or ‘National Profile,’ for the whole of RAE2008 (all subjects) was 2.62, whilst in American and Anglophone Studies the GPA was very significantly lower – the ninth lowest – at 2.38.
Exactly 50% – 4 of the 8 – units assessed in the American and Anglophone panel had unclassified grades of between 5 and 15%. The Philosophy panel, with 42 returns, had only one unit with an unclassified grade. English (87 returns) had 19 units with unclassified grades – just over 20% of the units assessed. History, with 83 units returned, had 18 units with unclassified grades – just below 25% of the units assessed. However if we omit London Metropolitan (unrepresented on the closely related English and History panels), and look directly across units at the remaining institutions represented on the three panels (English, History and American and Anglophone), neither English or History had any unclassified returns in these seven institutions while American Studies and Anglophone had three units (over 40%) with unclassified grades.
At the other end of the scale, we might look at the 4*s and 3*s, taken as one combined sum. Again we omit London Metropolitan as the one institution not also submitting in English and History. The remaining seven units in American and Anglophone received, on average a 4* or 3* for only 45% of their entries. English’s percentage ratings in the same institutions average at 63.6%. History’s average was 59.3%.
All these figures indicate the scale of the problem generated by the RAE. There are other statistics that could be given, but the indications here are of a panel that, whatever its integrity and good intentions (for we do not question these), judged less generously than its peers, and that not enough adjustment was made at a higher level to compensate for that fact. It might be suggested that the American Studies outputs in these Universities are – across the board – less worthy of merit than in those comparative units. We would strongly resist any such reading. The fact that Professor Paul Cammack, the Chair of UoA 47, has confirmed that, where research was cross-referred to the American and Anglophone panel from other panels, no significant difference in quality was evident, helps support that claim.
In raising these issues, we wish in part merely to make others aware of these acute disparities, and of the misleading impression of our subject area that has accordingly been generated. We also look for representations to be made to ensure such disparities are ironed out next time round, if – as we hope – some version of an American Studies panel still exists.
However we are also concerned about the immediate visibility of our subject area and how it may now be affected. American Studies, it is true, could perhaps survive as a piecemeal scattering of fragmented provisions. Indeed, it has been argued by at least one major scholar in the field that this is inevitable, and should not, perhaps, be resisted. Our own sense is that we should resist such a development where we can. And this is where BAAS comes in. BAAS defends and protects the interests of the subject as a whole, and represents much more than specialised American Studies Departments or Schools: our subject, after all, is taught widely, often as part of the activities of other departments, across the University board. But it is specialised American Studies Departments that provide the subject area with its public visibility. It is a constant battle (as BAAS knows well) to keep American Studies represented in the public educational domain. The fact that American Studies is not a named subject in the new AHRC Postgraduate Block Grant Partnership is symptomatic of the endemic difficulties that constantly emerge.
We hope here both to focus the minds of our friends and colleagues on the damage done by the last RAE, and to call for the development of a coherent counter-offensive. The poor results recorded in UoA 47 are visible for all to see. We note that HEFCE has not moved to develop strategies to assist American Studies. This is in stark contrast to what has happened in Languages and Non-Anglophone Area Studies, where Professor Michael Worton, Vice Provost, UCL, is leading a review of the health of these subjects and how they might be helped (following equivalently poor RAE results). This review is likely to lead to increased resources being diverted to these subject areas. American Studies has no such assistance on the horizon; it has to fend for itself.
Consequently we lend our own voices to the agenda that BAAS no doubt is already considering. We would argue the immediate need for a careful stock-taking of our subject area. At this crisis point (for this is how we see it) we ask that BAAS pays continued and particular attention to the defence and promotion of its named American Studies units to ensure that more losses of resource, and indeed of teaching and research units, do not occur. It is here that the present damage is being done, and if these units (and institutional recognitions of their presence) continue to be depleted, and to fade from view, the health of the whole subject area will be – perhaps irreparably – damaged.
BAAS Notices and Requests
An American Studies Gold Mine: The Journal of American Studies Archive
There is a saying that, the deeper you delve into a gold mine, the richer the rewards. In academic terms this can only be a good thing – particularly given the way that past theories and scholarly trends have a tendency to come back into fashion. As the field of American Studies regenerates, evolves and moves on its intellectual debt to the works of the past becomes increasingly evident. When the academy honours its senior scholars – as it did at this year’s British Association of American Studies Conference – it becomes clear how important the evolving state of the American Studies field is to contemporary understandings of ‘America’ and its various representations. Consequently, understanding and re-examining past works remains hugely important for current scholars: not just to get to grips with the extant literature, but also to help to situate contemporary work within the wider narrative of American Studies scholarship.
Nevertheless, in spite of these obvious advantages it has not always been easy to access past issues of journals and the Journal of American Studies has been no exception. Until now, that is. Cambridge University Press, which publishes JAS, has recently completed a project to digitise all back copies of the journal. Ranging from April 1967 until the present day, there is now a dizzying range of articles, review essays and reviews available to peruse. On their own, the issues provide a tour d’horizon of some of the most distinguished American Studies scholars since the 1960s. Collectively, however, they provide a pathway through an evolving and diverse field – which takes in a range of innovative inter-disciplinary methods and approaches, culminating most recently in the ‘cultural turn’ and the emergence of transnational American Studies. At a time when ‘America’ and our understanding of it is being challenged by new developments and events, this opportunity to reconnect with the past of American Studies is most timely; one which we hope many people will take the opportunity to enjoy.
The archive is available at http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayJournal?jid=AMS via log-on through Athens.
Bevan Sewell, University of Nottingham
Editorial Assistant, Journal of American Studies
Media Contacts Database: call for information
As the plans for the Research Excellence Framework (REF) take shape, it is apparent that measuring the impact of our research beyond the academic community will be an increasingly important criterion in the assessment of research activity. Accordingly, BAAS hopes to improve and make more systematic its role as an information gateway for external agencies – especially media – who are seeking to contact experts in British American studies for the purpose of drawing on their research expertise. We hope to establish a contacts database listing research specialisms and key publications for UK American Studies academics, which will allow media organisations, NGOs, schools, and arts and culture institutions better access to details of the range and location of American Studies expertise in the UK.
BAAS Database of Schools Liaison Personnel
Again with the REF and our impact beyond the academic community in mind, BAAS is keen to increase members’ interaction with schools. Accordingly, we hope to establish a contacts database listing details of academic staff and postgraduate students who would be willing to speak to school groups on American Studies topics.
By providing this information, you agree to it being passed on to schools who are seeking a speaker on American Studies or a related discipline.
BAAS Database of External Examiners
By providing this information, you agree to it being passed on to universities who are seeking an external for American Studies or a related discipline. Should you wish your name to be removed or your details updated in the future, please contact the Secretary.
Any university representative interested in receiving the list should also contact the Secretary. BAAS only acts as a holder of the list; it does not ‘matchmake’.
Paper copies can also be requested by sending a letter to:
Dr Catherine Morley
Centre for American Studies
University of Leicester
Leicester, LE1 7RH
Journal of American History Scholarship Records
You are asked once again to respond to a call for information about recent publications in American History from the Journal of American History.
For BOOKS, please include the following information: author name, title, city of publication, name of the press, year of publication, number of pages, ISBN number, price in local currency, and language(s) of publication.
ARTICLES FROM JOURNALS should include the author name, title, volume number of the journal, month or season (if applicable) and year of publication, page numbers.
ARTICLES FROM EDITED COLLECTIONS should include the name of the volume, pages, and the editors' names, press, city, year of publication.
DISSERTATIONS should include author's name, full title, institution from which the dissertation was written, the year of the degree.
US Studies Online
the BAAS postgraduate journal, issue 14, spring 2009 is now available on the British Association for American Studies website http://www.baas.ac.uk/
Travel Award Reports
Towards the end of 2008 I submitted an abstract to the organisers of a conference in Virginia; I had seen their call for papers and it was exactly in line with my current research. Very quickly they responded and accepted my proposal. However, as a part-time tutor only a few months out of my PhD I knew that my ability to actually attend the conference would depend on whether the debt I had incurred during my postgraduate studies shrank or grew. It grew. And then I awoke one morning to find that we had entered the second Great Depression. This was not a good time to hit the credit card, and the Bank of Mum and Dad had already given more than enough in the course of my PhD (money, accommodation, their hopes and dreams that I might find secure employment this side of thirty). The situation did not look promising. Obviously, my first thought was to apply for a government bail-out. But apparently you only get that if you lend and lose vast amounts of other people’s money. Instead, therefore, I applied to the BAAS travel award scheme. I would like to record here my sincere thanks for the grant which followed. It enabled me to deliver a conference paper in early June 2009 at Liberty University, in Lynchburg, Virginia. The conference theme was ‘D-Day’, and it was purposefully timed to coincide with the 65th anniversary of the allied invasion. It brought together social, cultural and military historians from across the United States; I was the only UK-based scholar to attend. My paper examined American commemoration of D-Day in Normandy from the end of the war to the present. More specifically, I discussed the ways in which the image of 6th June has changed through time and, in doing so, I considered the extent to which representations of the wartime past are often framed by the circumstances – political, cultural, economic, psychological – of the present.
This conference paper was based upon research undertaken during the course of my PhD; my thesis examined the ways in which Americans have commemorated the Second World War in Europe, and upon the European landscape. I engaged with this subject via a detailed study of commemorative activities in East Anglia (wartime home of the American air force and thus ‘occupied’ during the war by approximately 200,000 American servicemen) and in Normandy (site of the largest amphibious operation in history, and a region through which up to half a million American soldiers passed). The widespread commemorative activities witnessed in these two regions over the last sixty-five years have included, amongst other things, memorial construction, museum building and battlefield pilgrimages. In more recent years, such activities have also been joined by other, less ‘traditional’, practices: the production of commercial memory media and the development of internet based ‘sites of memory’. Thus, I have examined the ways in which acts of commemoration continuously re-script the past with reference to the concerns of the moment; but I have also explored the extent to which the actual practices of commemoration likewise change through time.
During the course of my PhD I gave papers discussing aspects of this research at several conferences in Britain and Ireland. But I had not had the opportunity to present my research on D-Day commemorations, nor had I been able to offer my thoughts to a specifically American academic audience. The generous award of the BAAS travel grant provided that opportunity. Moreover, it also allowed me to be involved in a conference which was itself an act of commemoration: the conference included numerous talks and presentations by living witnesses to D-Day, and the final day of the conference (6th June) also included attendance at a commemorative ceremony at the National D-Day Memorial, located in Bedford, Virginia.
I found my attendance at the conference to be an enormously rewarding experience. It was a pleasure and a privilege to be able to meet with, and talk to, many D-Day veterans, and I was also able to make several contacts with American academics pursuing similar lines of research. I look forward to following up some of these contacts, and continuing my discussions with these scholars, during the years to come.
Let me conclude by offering, once again, my thanks to BAAS for the award of a travel grant without which I would not have been able to attend the conference.
I am extremely grateful to the British Association of American Studies for awarding me a short term travel award to the Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives in New York where I hoped to uncover more about James Baldwin’s early political life. Located on the tenth floor of New York University’s main library, the Tamiment Library is a little-known (or used) resource for scholars interested in Labor and the left.
I am, I confess, a big fan of archives. I love the ritual of entering the library; of discovering who’s helpful (and who to avoid). I relish the moment when I know I’ve stumbled across something of value and I enjoy the unwritten code of conduct when communicating with other scholars (nod, smile but rarely speak). Archival work, as I try and tell my students, is akin to sleuthing. (I see myself as in the mould of The Wire’s McNulty – though I suspect my students see me more as a Dr. Watson figure.)
I am currently working on two projects centred on the African American writer James Baldwin. I have recently edited A Historical Guide to James Baldwin (Oxford University Press, 2009), and am currently finishing a monograph, provisionally titled: James Baldwin: Race, Identity and Politics From the Cold War to Gay Liberation. The monograph examines how Baldwin’s work shaped and responded to key political and cultural developments in the United States from the 1940s to the 1980s. During the course of my research I became increasingly drawn to Baldwin’s early political career, a part of his life that has largely been airbrushed from biographical and critical works.Despite cutting his teeth on a group of magazines associated most closely with the ‘New York intellectuals’ (including later articles for Partisan Review), Baldwin repeatedly played down his early political associations whilst at the same time offering tantalising hints at the importance of a cluster of anti-Stalinist editors on his early career. Saul ‘Sol’ Levitas of The New Leader, Randall Jarell of The Nation and Elliot Cohen and Robert Warshow of Commentary, Baldwin acknowledged, ‘were all very important to my life. It is not too much to say that they helped to save my life.’ And yet Baldwin is curiously hazy about his connections to the political scene of the 1940s. ‘My life on the Left,’ Baldwin wrote (and it’s the second part that whetted my appetite), ‘is of absolutely no interest.’
I used the archives at the Tamiment Library to trace Baldwin’s involvement with Eugene Worth, a close friend whom Baldwin recalls introduced him to the Young People’s Socialist League (YPSL) and to get a better sense of the author’s political past. Although I did not uncover any specific references to Baldwin (there are no records of YPSL members from the early 1940s), I was able to find a number of extremely useful unpublished articles. In particular, I located a number of illuminating articles from the YPSL magazine, Challenge! from the early 1940s (the time when Baldwin was a member) as well as articles and letters from key YPSL and Socialist writers on the Left and racial politics (e.g. George Breitman). The material that I have found will give my book more focus, illuminating the wider connections between Leftist politics and African American politics in the 1940s.
University of Staffordshire
I am grateful to the British Association of American Studies for a Founders’ Award which paid for a transatlantic air fare to pursue two projects, at two archives, alongside two existing small grants in the United States for four weeks in April 2009.
My first two weeks of research were spent at John F. Kennedy Library and Museum, Columbia Point, Massachusetts, with the additional aid of a John F. Kennedy Foundation Research Grant. I am currently working on a project about global responses to the Kennedy presidency and assassination. Much of this centres on the controversy surrounding Britain’s establishment of a National John F. Kennedy Memorial at Runnymede in 1964 (located next to Royal Holloway, University of London), as well as a Kennedy Memorial Trust to administer scholarships to Harvard and MIT. It places these specific debates more broadly within the global context of Kennedy commemorations with special reference to the construction of Kennedy memorials around the world.
At the Kennedy Library I made use of the Gerald Jay Steinberg Collection. It was deposited over 30 years ago, and I was the first scholar to use the collection in its entirety for a dedicated research project. Steinberg, a Maryland dentist, boasted the largest collection of Kennedy ephemera in the world. As part of the collection he meticulously documented Kennedy memorials, writing to hundreds of US cities, counties and states, and scores of countries, for information and photographs. The result is a collection that maps the geocultural coordinates of Kennedy memorials worldwide, revealing intriguing domestic and transnational dimensions to this phenomenon. A co-chaired workshop on the topic has since been accepted by the European Association of American Studies for their conference in Dublin, 26–29 March 2010.
My second two weeks of research were spent at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC), Sleepy Hollow, New York, with the additional help of a RAC Grant-in-Aid. I spent the time beginning research on a project to write a political biography of Arkansas governor Winthrop Rockefeller using the 264 microfilm reels of his papers housed at the archive. Rockefeller was the first Republican governor of Arkansas since Reconstruction (1967–71) and, alongside Florida’s Claude R. Kirk, Jr. (no relation!) he was one of the first two Republicans in the South to win gubernatorial elections since Reconstruction.
What makes Rockefeller and other early Republican governors of the modern South so fascinating is that they were almost all liberal Republicans, which flies in the face of what has become the dominant conservative ‘southern strategy’ narrative of Republican ascendancy in the region. My research will examine, through Rockefeller’s career, how and why liberal Republicans paved the way for the party’s successful conservative incursion into the South. Winthrop Rockefeller’s career is particularly apposite in this respect since it was his brother Nelson, New York governor (1959–73) and forty-first vice president of the United States (1974–77), who lent his name to the liberal ‘Rockefeller Republicanism’ of the era in US politics.
In the first instance my research will be directed toward an essay about Rockefeller’s 1966 election campaign to appear in Glen Feldman’s forthcoming edited collection How, When, and Why the South became Republican. Two other articles based on my research, which will be stepping stones to the full-length study, are in currently in progress. Whilst at the RAC I was invited to apply for a place on a newly launched Scholar-in-Residence programme and I will return to the archive to conduct further funded research in August 2009.
The Founders’ Award was extremely helpful in allowing me to stretch and maximise the benefits of two existing small grants from the US and in enabling me to successfully apply for further funding from other sources. The results of the research will be disseminated at conferences and in publications over the coming year and will shape my unfolding research well beyond that period.
John A. Kirk
Royal Holloway, University of London
Since 2005 I have been collecting documents on the work of various business organisations that were active in the United States during and after the Second World War. These records are spread throughout the US in federal, state, presidential, university and local archives. As a result I have had to make several short trips, as opposed to one more convenient large one, in order to visit the available sources. With the help of a Founders’ Award, in 2008 I was able to make one such trip to archives in Detroit, Michigan, which up to that point had been too expensive to undertake. The material I gathered there has proved invaluable in my overall project, which seeks to weigh the contribution and influence of the corporate elite on the policies of the US government.
The home of several manufacturing concerns, not to mention the ‘big three’ car firms of Ford, Chrysler and General Motors, Detroit has a lot to offer business historians, especially those interested in studying American corporations during their global heyday of the 1950s and 1960s. The trip to Detroit also allowed me the opportunity to visit the extensive archive in the library of the University of Chicago, home of the ‘Chicago school’ of scholars and intellectuals that became so prominent in American business and politics during the 1940s. The staff at the library were extremely helpful and courteous and operated their system in a similar way to that of the larger National Archives in Washington, DC, where records have to be carefully pre-ordered and must be viewed in a very prescribed fashion. In all the trip was a great success, at least if my suitcase-full of photocopies and literature is anything to go by!
The Founders’ Award helped pay for the flight and accommodation leaving only the subsistence costs for me to find. In these tough financial times (when have they ever been otherwise?) when competition for larger grants from the well-known funding institutions is especially high, it is worth noting that research trips – even overseas – can still be achieved with the help of the smaller yet invaluable contributions that are offered (competitively and on merit) by professional organisations such as BAAS. From my perspective, without these opportunities to win smaller grants, the gathering of material for my current project would have been almost impossible or taken even longer to accomplish had I waited until I hit ‘paydirt’ by winning a single large grant.
University of Wales Institute, Cardiff
John D. Lees Award
In September 2008 I travelled to Washington DC for a three-month fieldwork trip to conduct research towards my PhD, the subject of which is post-9/11 US civil–military relations. Specifically, the research seeks to assess and explain the relative balance of influence between senior civilian policymakers and military leaders in order to address the question of who controls military strategy in the post-9/11 era. The thesis uses two major case studies, Afghanistan (2001–2009) and Iraq (2003–2009), with which to provide an answer to the central research question and to test theoretical propositions regarding the relative balance of influence within the civil-military relationship. The purpose of the fieldwork trip was threefold: to gather evidence to corroborate or clarify existing accounts of the decision-making process for key decision points identified for each case study; to provide additional information regarding particular benchmarks in the evolution of US military strategy which have received little or no attention in the existing literature (particularly with regards to Afghanistan); and to investigate the importance of specific variables that appear to have a significant effect on the civil–military balance of power.
Given the contemporary nature of the two case studies and the limited access to government records relevant to national security decision-making, interviewing was to be a primary tool for compiling a qualitative account of civil-military interaction throughout the policymaking process. Over the course my twelve weeks in DC I met with a number of professionals relevant to my thesis, interviewing individuals within the Joint Staff at the Department of Defense, the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs at State, as well as speaking with current and retired military officers, including a former commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan. In addition to sources located within, or with proximity to, the core decision-making forums, I also benefited from the analyses and views of a number of journalists (including an associate editor at the Washington Post), scholars (from Johns Hopkins, National War College, and George Mason University), and analysts from institutions such as Brookings and the Centre for American Progress. I was amazed at the time, and continue to be surprised even now on reflection, at how receptive these individuals were to my requests for their time and how willing they were to engage with my research. Each interview provided a unique insight into the interests, preferences, and respective influence of the major civilian and military players, illuminating the different patterns of military-policymaker behaviour and illustrating how the relationship dynamics shaped the substance of military strategy as it evolved in Afghanistan and Iraq. I anticipate that the material gained from the fieldwork will be of significant value in facilitating the testing of the explanatory power of the different models of military–policymaker relations under development.
In addition to interviewing, I also attended a number of events and conferences taking place in the DC area, the highlight of which was a two-day topical symposium on national security reform organized by the Institute for National Strategic Studies at the National Defense University. The not-for-attribution nature of the commentary and discussions of the symposium provided a frank and incisive dialogue on the issues at hand, many which were of distinct relevance for my research. Involvement in these events further provided the opportunity to listen to significant figures, including the Deputy Chairman of NATO Military Committee, a former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, current regional military commanders, and distinguished scholars who are at the very forefront of the evolving debates on national security reform, civil–military relations, military transformation, post-conflict administration and security challenges in the post-9/11 era.
Such a short report as this cannot really capture the full value of the twelve weeks spent in Washington as it was enriching in many ways, both academic and personal. Having always studied and observed the US from a distance, experiencing how Washington works from within has given me a whole new perspective. The personal interactions I had with interview subjects helped to locate my research within the contemporary debates and reaffirmed, on both a personal and professional level, the significance of my research area. Finally, if for no other reason, the experience and skills I gained over the course of the trip have been invaluable in terms of the development of my confidence. My sincere thanks to the British Association of American Studies for its contribution towards the trip by way of the John D. Lees Travel Award.
Charlotte Louise Regan
University of Westminster, London
Peter Parish Award
Being awarded the BAAS Peter Parish travel grant provided me with invaluable funding for research in Georgia towards my thesis, Race and the State Fair in the American South 1900-1930. The annual state fair provides a cultural canvas on which the impact of national events and trends can be seen within a local context during this era. It reflects how local communities engaged with national constructs of race, progressivism, education and consumerism. In doing so, the fair provides a unique space as, unlike other forms of entertainment, such as the circus, it celebrated and consciously interacted with current issues or the ‘norms’ of everyday life. This is particularly significant in terms of racial dynamics as, following the Atlanta race riot, an alternative African American state fair was established in 1906 to take place the week following the ‘white’ fair. A part of my thesis examines the black fair, an event which has not been examined in depth before. It analyses the history of the black fair and the spirit of accommodationism in which the fair was established, alongside the prominent African American educators who were involved in the fairs. The predominantly black crowds present at the fair and black parades throughout the streets of Macon projected and promoted a sense of black identity, consciously or unconsciously creating a black community through the strategy of accommodationism.
My research trip started in New Orleans, Louisiana in April 2009. In New Orleans I presented a conference paper at the Popular Culture Association (PCA) conference entitled ‘Black and White Days: Racial Space in Georgia’s African American and “White” fairs, 1900–1915’. Apart from providing me with the experience of an international conference it helped me to network with fellow academics in the field of American Studies. After continuing on my trip to Macon, Georgia, I started working with Betsy Yates of the Macon Exchange Club alongside the wonderfully helpful staff at the Genealogy section of the Washington Memorial Library.
The research trip and my immersion within the local community helped me reach a geographical and historical understanding of Macon and the state fair during this time period. Talking about and interpreting state fair documents with the help of people who had a familial understanding of Macon’s history proved to be a priceless experience. My knowledge of the state fair was furthered by an almost tangible sense of history that, whilst not written down, came from the memories of people who had grown up in Macon. In particular this provided a useful insight into Macon’s racial dynamics, as much of de facto segregation tacitly depended on assumed community knowledge and boundaries.
The documents I found on my trip will form a seminal part of my PhD thesis. A designated Ku Klux Klan day in 1926, alongside evidence of the role played by the state fair’s women’s department as an antidote to the perceived modernising and corrupting influence of the suffragette movement, are examples of some of the cultural forces at play at the Georgia state fair during this period. Significantly, my research trip and access to primary sources has disclosed more elusive facts regarding the history of the black state fair in Macon from 1906 to 1919. My thesis will therefore address a unique and previously unexplored topic within the field of American Studies. Again, many thanks to BAAS for providing me with the funds which not only assisted me in gathering information pivotal to the completion of my PhD but also in enabling me to immerse myself in such a special and rewarding experience.
University of Sussex
Funding Report: South West American Studies Forum
On 16 May 2009 the University of Plymouth hosted a regional American Studies conference for academics and postgraduate students in the South West. The event was attended by colleagues from the Universities of Plymouth, Exeter, West of England and East Anglia, with additional speakers from the Roosevelt Study Center in Holland and the University of Glasgow. In all there were six panel speakers, one plenary speaker and a keynote speaker. The topics covered included: America’s reputation in a global and transatlantic context, early 20th century literature and visual culture, the work of Henry James, as well as contemporary American literature, music and culture. The one-day forum fully demonstrated the breadth, depth and vibrancy of the field in the South West.
£300 of BAAS conference funding supported the travel and subsistence of our keynote speaker, Andrew Hook, Emeritus Bradley Professor of English Literature at the University of Glasgow, whose address was entitled: ‘Anti-Americanism in 19th century British Literature’. The conference was also supported by the US Embassy, who funded postgraduate travel and conference fees, and by local artist Brian Pollard, who donated this image of the Mayflower for our exclusive use at the conference.
The South West American Studies Forum meets biennially and we look forward to meeting again in 2011.
University of Plymouth
Funding Report: Richard Nixon and the Making of Modern America
On 11 May 2009 a postgraduate conference entitled ‘Richard Nixon and the Making of Modern America’ was held at the Rothermere American Institute, University of Oxford. The event was made possible through the generous sponsorship of the British Association for American Studies, in conjunction with the Arts and Humanities Research Council. It was the third annual event in an emergent tradition of postgraduate symposia on the postwar United States held at the University of Oxford. Fifty delegates from as far afield as Poland came to hear five renowned historians speak alongside three panels of graduate students on a wide range of perspectives on Nixon’s legacy for the United States and beyond.
The day started with an enthralling talk by veteran journalist and author Godfrey Hodgson on ‘Remembering Nixon’, informed by Mr Hodgson’s experience of interviewing the late president. The first panel, on ‘Explaining Nixon’s rise to power’, was introduced by Dr Robert Mason (Edinburgh) and featured two papers related to Nixon’s ‘Southern strategy’. The second panel, entitled ‘America at home and abroad during the Nixon Administration’, was introduced by Professor Margaret MacMillan (St. Antony's College, Oxford) and featured two papers on the public reaction to the Vietnam War, together with an examination of political satire in the early 1970s. The final panel, which aimed to address Nixon’s legacy, was introduced by Professor Iwan Morgan (Institute for the Study of the Americas, London) and encompassed four papers on a range of topics: the exit strategy from Vietnam and its consequences for US foreign policy in the 1990s; the politics of Presidential libraries with reference to post-Watergate developments, particularly the Nixon Presidential Library; an examination of Nixon’s portrayal in Hollywood films; and the enduring effects on radical art of cultural politics during the Nixon Administration.
The conference was rounded off by a keynote address delivered by Prof. David Greenberg (Rutgers) entitled ‘Defrost Nixon: The Politics of Reputation in the Age of Clinton and Bush’, which elicited a lively discussion referencing many of the earlier papers.
A sign of the convivial atmosphere which accompanied the day’s proceedings was the fact that almost thirty delegates chose to attend the post-conference dinner in a nearby restaurant, where the conversation flowed and the food was unanimously declared excellent. The speeches by Mr Godfrey Hodgson and Prof. David Greenberg (together with the Q&A session) were filmed and have been published on a news website, www.fora.tv, where they can easily be found by searching for ‘Rothermere American Institute’.
St. Anne's College, Oxford
Funding Report: Liberating Sojourn II
From Thursday 23 April to Saturday 25 April Dr. Alan Rice of the University of Central Lancashire, and Dr. Fionnghuala Sweeney of the University of Liverpool, organised a three-day symposium at the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Latin American Studies. The event focused on the legacy of the 150th anniversary of Frederick Douglass’s second tour of Great Britain and Ireland, along with similar tours made by other African American abolitionist speakers during the 1850s. Participants included academic researchers from institutions throughout Great Britain and Ireland and the United States and Canada, along with independent scholars and archivists. The keynote speakers were Professor Richard Blackett of Vanderbilt University and Professor Jean Fagan Yellin of Pace University (sponsored by the School of Journalism, UCLAN). Panels included ‘Teaching Slavery, Abolition and the Black Atlantic’(sponsored by the English Subject Centre); ‘Travelling Abolitionists’(sponsored by the Institute of Latin American Studies, Liverpool); ‘British Radicalism and Abolitionism’(sponsored by the British Association of American Studies) and ‘Latin America and Abolition’(sponsored by the Institute of Slavery Studies at the University of Nottingham). Additionally, there was a dynamic reading by Richard Bradbury of his new novel Riversmeet about the 184–47 Douglass visit (Sponsored by the Collegium for African American Research). A roundtable discussion involving representatives from the Black and Asian Studies Association, the Collegium for African American Research, MESEA, the British Association of American Studies, MELUS and the Society for Caribbean Studies debated the importance of Black British, African American and Caribbean studies in British schools and universities.
The workshop attracted over fifty delegates, including five postgraduate scholars and four undergraduates, and provided an invaluable forum for discussing the impact and legacy of visiting African American abolitionists, whilst also providing an opportunity to assess the study of slavery and abolition in the contemporary academy. Debates between academics and archivists provided fresh insights into the nature of slavery and the archive, and papers from exhibition curators underscored the challenges involved in finding innovative methods of presenting cutting-edge research on slavery to a wider public audience. In the spirit of engaging the public, the symposium concluded with a public lecture by Professor Blackett on the topic of Liverpool and the Transatlantic Abolitionists, delivered at the International Slavery Museum, and sponsored by, the Centre for the Study of International Slavery, Liverpool. The organisers would particularly like to thank BAAS for a conference award that helped an independent British scholar, Marika Sherwood, to bring her work on Transatlantic Abolition to the conference.
The University of Stirling
Reports from Eccles Centre Fellows
Matthew Jones, University of Nottingham
As an Eccles Centre Fellow during 2007, I was able to exploit the wide range of resources available at the British Library for the study of American foreign policy in its full, international context. My research project, which has now come to fruition as a complete book manuscript with the title After Hiroshima (to be published by Cambridge University Press), involved examining American nuclear history in East and South East Asia between the dropping of the first atomic bombs on Japan in 1945, and the so-called ‘Americanization’ of the Vietnam War in 1965. Alongside the more obvious explanation of the evolution of American strategic thought, and the place of nuclear weapons in containing the threats seen from Communist expansion in the region, that I hoped to offer in the book, I also wanted to see whether, and if so how, the accusation that the prospective use of the bomb against Asian peoples had a racist dimension affected the way Americans judged the political consequences of any resort to nuclear weapons in the various crises they faced. Moreover, there was the task of evaluating the evidence I could find that this allegation was indeed circulating around Asia in the years after Hiroshima. My overall aim was to shift the focus away from emphasising the strategic/military aspects of nuclear use, to considering the political damage that American nuclear policies caused to the US image in Asia.
For the ‘American-centred’ area of my work, the Library’s holdings of the Declassified Documents Reference System (DDRS) allowed me to access invaluable primary sources on American foreign policy which only many research trips to the presidential library system in the United States could otherwise produce. On microfilm, I could use the records of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the post-war years. Easiest to exploit of all, however, were the digital resources maintained in the series of National Security Archive document readers, including one covering US nuclear history between 1955 and 1968. Collections of Congressional hearings and other documents also allowed a wider appraisal of American opinion outside the ‘official’ realm. My sense of an Asian voice in these debates was enhanced by trawling through many of the Library’s newspaper holdings for countries such as India, Burma, Malaya, and Sri Lanka; though I was restricted to English-language sources here, I was at least able to glean an idea of how nuclear issues were being reported in the region itself. My book will be incomparably richer for the opportunities opened up by a prolonged period of work at the Library
My growing familiarity with the Library’s holdings through the Fellowship also allowed me the chance to identify areas where the collections could be bolstered or improved. By working with the Social Science subject librarian, Jennie Grimshaw, we were able to procure an extra set of microfilm for the Joint Chiefs of Staff series (covering the years 1954–60 for the Far East), and also, more significantly, make a successful bid for the online version of DDRS. This considerable resource, far more accessible than the earlier microfiche version, represents a major enhancement of the Library’s provision in the area of post-war US foreign policy, and will bring considerable benefit to the wider community of scholars working on many aspects of twentieth-century American history (DDRS also produces many documents relating to domestic political issues, including, for example, FBI records).
I also felt the need to bring some of the knowledge I had gained of the Library’s holdings during my time as a Fellow, and the tremendous opportunities for research they represented, to a larger group of younger scholars and graduate students. Hence, with the help of Phil Davies and his staff at the Eccles Centre, and along with Dr Steven Casey from the LSE, in November 2008 I organised and ran a special workshop at the British Library’s Conference Centre on the available sources for the study of American foreign policy and how they could be accessed and used. We had an excellent audience of PhD students for this event, many coming from outside London, and the feedback afterwards, reflected in the discussion we had on the day itself, was extremely positive. To me this was a fitting culmination of my experience as an Eccles Centre Fellow: by bringing together the knowledge I had gained during my work at the Library with contacts made with people in a position to enhance Library resources and those who could help disseminate the information, it was possible to spread some real benefits to younger scholars and encourage them to exploit the major research resources the Library has to offer.
Ellen McWilliams, Bath Spa University
I was very grateful to receive an Eccles Centre Visiting Fellowship in North American Studies and used my time in the British Library to work on my forthcoming book, Margaret Atwood and the Female Bildungsroman (Ashgate 2009).
In reading Margaret Atwood’s work in relation to the Bildungsroman, the book examines the coming of age of a writer, a genre, and a national literature. It is mainly concerned with Atwood’s reclamation of a colonised national and female identity and the effect of that reclamation on a subsequent generation of Canadian women writers. The idea of the Bildungsroman has developed as a literary concept from its eighteenth-century German origins and gained new currency amongst women writers in the second half of the twentieth century. While some writers were most concerned with appropriating a tradition that had previously excluded women, others – and I argue that Atwood is the best example of this – were less interested in perpetuating the genre in its traditional form than in contesting and renegotiating its problematic prescriptions of femininity and its investment in an ideal of exclusively masculine perfectibility. Margaret Atwood’s early fiction is the most striking example of this renegotiation, and shows how Atwood rewrites the traditional expectations of the genre.
The main interest of the later sections of the book is in providing a sketch of the directions taken by contemporary women writers who draw on the female Bildungsroman as a model in their work and this is where my time at the British Library proved to be invaluable. The range of texts surveyed includes novels by writers influenced by Margaret Atwood, and writers whose work makes for an interesting comparison to Atwood. It explores more recent developments in Canadian literature, focusing on the Anglo-Canadian tradition and the work of Gail Anderson-Dargatz, Sandra Birdsell and Ann-Marie MacDonald and also looks at Canada’s changing postcolonial identity, as defined and redefined in the work of writers such as Joy Kogawa, Dionne Brand and Native Canadian writers such as Jeannette Armstrong, Beatrice Culleton and Lee Maracle. This chapter clinches the main argument of the book: that Atwood’s engagement with coming of age narratives constitutes a key aspect of her writing and that it carved out an imaginative space within which other women writers could work. As the Canadian collection in the British Library holds the complete works of these authors and related criticism, having access to the collection for an extended period was hugely beneficial to the final stages of my research.
Michèle Mendelssohn, University of Edinburgh
As a small child in Montréal, I remember being filled with unadulterated joy when taken to our modest local library. The pure, heart-thumping excitement as I looked at all the books, neatly and enticingly arranged, just waiting to give themselves up to my curiosity.
The British Library improved on my childhood memory. My first experience of it came while writing a PhD on Henry James and Oscar Wilde. My mother had teased a younger me about being ‘un rat de bibliothèque’. As the older me sat in the happy silence of the BL’s reading room, glimpsing rows and rows of kindred spirits (fellow ‘rats’), she knew there was no better place to be.
Best of all, rather than sitting cross-legged on the library floor, my spine leaning on the books’ spines, I could sit comfortably at a clean, well-lighted desk while the books I had ordered would be fetched for me. Fetched. For. Me. Unbelievable. This seemed to me the height of luxury and, I’m glad to say, it still does.
Imagine my delight when I was awarded an Eccles Fellowship to spend a month at the BL to research my second book, A Race for Beauty: The Cultural Politics of Aestheticism. The book will offer a new vision of Aestheticism as a literary and cultural enterprise enmeshed in the national and racial politics of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century America and Britain. Using the double lens of race and transcultural analysis, the book will reveal the pervasive racial and national anxieties that gripped both sides of the Atlantic and demonstrate how they transformed and reformed art and literature – from Arnold and Bellamy to Whistler, Wilde and Zangwill.
My time at the BL was very productive. It enabled me to advance my project considerably. Thanks to arrangements made by Michael Boggen and Jean Petrovic at the BL, I was able to spend time with American newspapers and Wildeiana from the Hyde-Eccles collection. Looking over Wilde’s literary papers and scrapbooks helped me get a sense of the nuanced way in which Wilde used race, and was in turn racialised. I was also able to look at the Library’s extensive electronic holdings of American newspapers and periodicals. Moreover, having access to the vast (and very costly) American databases that my own university had not been able to purchase was very helpful.
As researchers, we so often work alone. One of the wonderful things about the BL is the sense of community that it fosters. Indeed, I encountered fellow researchers and old friends from near and far – from London and Birmingham, to Harvard and Stirling. In addition, being in London rather than Edinburgh allowed me to forge links with some of my southern colleagues and to discuss collaborative projects.
The unsung heroes of the BL community – the guards, librarians and cafeteria staff – were unstintingly friendly and helpful. By the end of the month, it was with some sadness that I showed the contents of my regulation BL plastic bag to the guard for the final time.
The fellowship enabled me to write a chapter of my book as well as a paper titled ‘Black on White: Reading Oscar Wilde's Body’ which I presented at University of Oxford in the autumn. I will have research leave in 2009–10. I plan to continue research for this project at the Tanner Humanities Centre at University of Utah.
I cannot emphasise enough how valuable the Eccles Fellowship was to me. This month was a gift of time for what I believe to be an important project. As we know, time is a very precious commodity in academic life. At a time when funding for the humanities is increasingly at risk, I am very grateful that the Eccles Centre and the BAAS remain committed to supporting original research.
In The Conduct of Life, Emerson writes of the world’s ‘marvellous balance of beauty and disgust, magnificence and rats’. I’m glad to say that, for this particular rat de bibliothèque, the fellowship that the Eccles and BAAS so generously offered me was both marvellous and magnificent.
Stephen A. Royle, Queen’s University Belfast
The Eccles Centre Visiting Fellowships in North American Studies at the British Library allow successful applicants to work in the British Library’s North American collections for a month – a period which can, as in my case, be taken in a series of shorter visits. I am based in Belfast and was able to fly cheaply to London on four occasions to conduct research on Vancouver Island in the mid-nineteenth century. My overall project is a book called Company, Crown and Colony: The Hudson’s Bay Company and Territorial Endeavour in Western Canada, to be published by the London house of IB Tauris. This is based largely on an interrogation of primary sources, so the Fellowship did not obviate the need for me to inspect the relevant repositories in Canada: the British Columbia Archives in Victoria and the Hudson’s Bay Company Archives within the Archives of Manitoba in Winnipeg. I also needed to make site visits, although there is little on the ground left from the period under study.
The BL houses four categories of material of interest to my study.
Vancouver Island was a British Colony, with its own independent administrative existence from 1849 to 1866, the first ten years of that period being under the supervision of the Hudson’s Bay Company under licence from the British Crown. The BL houses some important original documents such as Add MS 48547, a book of notes kept by Foreign Office officials regarding dealings with the United States in the 1840s over the territories on the west coast.
As a geographer, I need maps. The BL has a significant holding of historical maps of Vancouver Island. One set, entitled Vancouver’s Island Colony, is a series of sheets from 1859 on the populated or potentially populated districts of Vancouver Island Colony and was a particular joy to discover as I had come across descriptions of the surveys for these maps in the documentary records. Extracts from the maps will certainly be reproduced in the book.
The BL has a microfiche holding, Mic.F.232, which is an extensive collection of material on North America. I first asked for a record using just Mic.F.232, to be informed that there were many thousand entries under this number and I would need to refine my request! This is copied material, mostly from printed sources, but it had two uses for me. Some entries I never found anywhere else and the reference in the book will be to the microfiche in the BL. One was the card for a horse race meeting held in Victoria in 1861 – evidence for the maturity of a city that had started out as a Hudson’s Bay Company fort in 1843. Other material is available elsewhere, but to be able to inspect it in London meant that I did not have to spend short (and expensive) time on it in Canada, which was of great benefit. Some was better studied in the original, given that microfiche are not always easy to read or handle. One case here would be the many entries from the British Parliamentary Papers, a full set of which are housed in my own university’s library.
The book collection was of tremendous benefit to my study, of course. Reading some volumes again saved me time in Canada. These included the minutes of the Vancouver Island Council and the minutes and correspondence of the later-established House of Assembly. Inspection of these was made in the BL before my principal visit to the archives in Canada and informed me in advance of the key issues being discussed in the colony and aided understanding and interpretation of the documentary record there.
There were several contemporary books about the First Nations in the area, some with distinctly non-politically correct titles such as Sproat’s Scenes and studies of savage life. This actually displayed a rather sympathetic approach to the First Nations from a man who set up a settlement on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Indeed, he gave them a voice, one with pathos. One conversation was with a local chief:
‘They say more King-George men [i.e. British; Americans were ‘Boston men’] will soon be here, and will take our land, our firewood, our fishing grounds; that we shall be placed on a little spot, and shall have to do everything according to the fancies of the King-George men’.
‘It is true that the King-George men are coming—they will soon be here; but your land will be bought at a fair price’.
‘We do not wish to sell our land, or the water, let your friends stay in their own country.’
There were travellers’ accounts, especially upon, but not restricted to, the Fraser River gold rush on what became mainland British Columbia which had major impacts upon Vancouver Island; polemics against the Hudson’s Bay Company; reports from residents of this most remote of British colonies. Each had their merits, to be discovered only from their reading; the titles were sometimes misleading. Thus it was a disappointment to discover that in a volume called Perils, pastimes and pleasures of an emigrant in Australia, Vancouver’s Island and California Vancouver Island was mentioned in the title but nowhere else. By contrast, the unpromising presentation and flowery language of the 1928 volume The pioneer women of Vancouver Island, 1843–1866 concealed a properly conducted oral history largely based on interviews with elderly people who had been brought up on Vancouver Island and presented valuable detail about the lives of women in the colony not to be found in company and colonial records.
In sum, my weeks in the BL were very rewarding, and I would like to end by expressing my appreciation to the Eccles Centre, the British Association of Canadian Studies and the British Association of American Studies for their support.
Eccles Centre Postgraduate Award Reports
Adam Burns, University of Edinburgh
I am very grateful to BAAS and the Eccles Centre their generous postgraduate award, which helped me to carry out research for my PhD thesis for the whole of May 2008 at the British Library. My thesis explores the role of William Howard Taft in the debates over the nature of US imperialism in the Philippines during the first two decades of the twentieth century. As a student at the University of Edinburgh, I have access to a good selection of materials in both our university library and the National Library of Scotland. However, the British Library offers a selection of materials on American history unrivalled outside of the United States. Given that travelling from Edinburgh to London is an expensive and time-consuming business, the award allowed me to commute to the library daily while staying with family nearer to London and covered the costs of my travel.
In terms of particular resources that the British Library holds, the William H. Taft papers on microfilm are a truly invaluable resource for me, as well the papers of Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, which are also available. The American history secondary resources at the library that are of particular use to me are also extensive, including various bills and committee reports concerning the Philippine Islands. In addition to these, there are a number of rare and difficult to obtain books relating to key thematic concerns within my research such as the history and theory of race, imperialism and immigration. Finally, there are the extensive online resources available at the library, providing access to a number of useful databases, digital publications and online documents. The library’s reading rooms certainly provide the perfect scholarly environment for a sustained period of research.
My period of research at the British Library contributed substantially to my early thesis chapters and also, importantly, provided me with a good knowledge of the scope of the resources in my field. This was particularly useful when I carried out a further three-month period of research later in the year at the Library of Congress in Washington DC. For any Americanist, a research trip to the British Library could not be anything other than a very useful addition to their studies, and I would definitely recommend that postgraduates in any field of American and Canadian Studies think about applying for this award.
Matthew Carter, University of Essex
I wish to express my gratitude to the Eccles Centre and BAAS in turn for their generosity in awarding me one of the travel scholarships. As a PhD student, research trips to London tend to fall on the ‘too-expensive’ side of things, but thanks to the Eccles Centre I was able to make a number of trips to the British Library during the formative months of my thesis. These trips proved extremely useful in collating the vast wealth of academic and popular literature produced in relation to my research topic: ‘Presentations of the Hero in Post-Cold War Hollywood Westerns’. The numerous journal articles available at the library on the history and mythology of the American West contributed to my earliest chapter drafts, providing a solid foundation of background information leading into Hollywood’s use and exploitation of frontier mythology in the twentieth century.
Generally speaking, my thesis concerns those Westerns produced after the Cold-War period – specifically 1992 onwards. Beginning with Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven, I go on to outline the role of the gunfighter as ‘hero’ in the wake of the revisions both from within the genre itself and in historiography from the school of New Western History. My thesis places the lone hero against such notions of tradition and ‘generic evolution’, critically assessing these notions through a contextual analysis of the wealth of Westerns being produced in the twenty-first century, together with their relationship with such political-cultural issues as gender, sexuality, and race.
I have to say that the British Library’s North American collections were extensive and insightful and the staff both polite and accommodating. Without the generosity of the Eccles Centre travel scholarship, it is highly unlikely that I would have been in the financial position to undertake any such research trips. In short, I would like to think that these awards will continue to be offered for suitable candidates in the future so that other students can benefit, as I have, from valuable and sustained research trips to the British Library.
Michael J. Collins, University of Nottingham
Owing to the generous support of the Eccles Centre Postgraduate Fellowship Award in North American Studies I was able to spend three weeks at the British Library in May 2007 researching my PhD Thesis: ‘“A Multitude of Gaudy Appearances”: Ritual, Transatlantic Performance and the Melodramatic Mode in the Nineteenth-Century American Short Story’. As I am a graduate student living in Nottingham (with an equivalent research student’s budget!) sustained visits to London to use the British Library’s North American Collections can often be prohibitively expensive. The Eccles Centre Postgraduate Fellowship helped immensely by covering all accommodation and travel costs for this period.
My thesis concerns the rise of the transatlantic theatre circuit in the antebellum period and its impact upon Irving, Hawthorne, Melville and Poe’s treatment of ritual and performance in their short fiction. I show how the formal and theoretical influence of melodrama, in both its incarnations on the stage and in fiction, alters the relationship these writers have to other dominant genres, namely romanticism and sentimentalism. I argue that the presence of a melodramatic mode in their work articulates an increasing interest in the power of ritual performed in the public sphere as a means to repair political and social divisions between Britain and America following the War of 1812 and conflict over ownership claims to the Oregon Territory. I show how this focus on performance, ritual and Anglo-American solidarity questions the ‘romantic nationalist’ literary claims of the Transcendentalists and other movements.
In the North American Collections at the British Library I found numerous resources that have helped to support this claim. Since my research focuses on how short fiction participates in a wider culture of the transatlantic public sphere, the collection of ‘Little Magazines’ held on microfilm was invaluable. In addition to copies of the Broadway Journal edited by Edgar Allan Poe I was easily able to locate long-forgotten magazines and collections of short fiction that cast new light on the work of canonical writers, such as The Masonic Review and others. Being able to gain access to these materials alongside the collections of British literature held at the British Library has enabled my project to develop a stronger comparative dimension than would not have been possible without the support of the Eccles Centre.
Clare Elliott, University of Glasgow
I wish to thank the Eccles Centre for the 2007 Award in North American Studies for Outstanding Proposal of Research in American Literature. I am deeply grateful to the Eccles Centre for granting this award in the final year of my PhD. My thesis, entitled ‘William Blake’s American Legacy: Transcendentalism and Visionary Poetics in Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman’, explored Emerson’s and Whitman’s early interest in Blake’s poetry. At that stage in my research it was crucial that I examined a number of sources held by the British Library in order to develop important aspects of my main argument.
The Eccles Centre Award allowed me to conduct research on the influence of William Blake on Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman. I spent several days in the British Library consulting 1830s editions of The Harbinger and a particular edition of The Dial in which Emerson had included marginal notes during his trip to England in 1857/8. Quite inspiringly, I was also able to consult Emerson’s Library, by Walter Harding (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1967), which includes notes Emerson made in his copy of Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience. Various sources consulted contributed, by and large, to the final chapter of my doctoral thesis and doubtless strengthened the historical and analytical case made there. I was also able to finalise my bibliography by consulting some recent criticism on Emerson and Whitman.
Although not used directly in the thesis, further material examined during the trip was subsequently important to research for a journal article which has since been published, ‘William Blake and America: Freedom and Violence in the Atlantic World’, Comparative American Studies 7, 3 (2009). Having now successfully completed my PhD, and begun to publish my research, I would like to register my gratitude here for the valuable support I received. In future, I would be delighted to present my research at an Eccles Centre or British Library seminar or conference.
James McAteer, University of Ulster
Having begun my research as a mature, part-time, PhD candidate I was delighted to learn of the Eccles Centre Post Graduate Award in North American Studies which I applied for and received in 2007. I discovered early on in my research that researchers need access to people and documents and the Eccles Award provides just that. I am grateful for this prestigious award which enabled me to travel to, and study in the British Library in London – something I otherwise could not have done.
At that time I had just started my research into the policy development process in the social economies of Quebec and Northern Ireland. Although Quebec and Northern Ireland may seem unlikely comparators due to, for example, the number of jurisdictions each region enjoys within its devolved administration, population size and the number of people employed in the social economy, many similar issues have been raised in relation to policy development in both regions. In my research I am examining policy development in the social economy with a view to developing a framework from which future approaches to policy development may be analysed. Using findings from policy document analysis, key informant interviews and comparisons between policy developments in both regions, this research will use existing theories in a new way, to arrive at a framework within which theory, policy and practice in the social economy may become more closely integrated.
In facing the challenge of research the Eccles Centre Post Graduate Award in North American Studies facilitated my use of the British Library and made me aware of the Eccles Centre’s important documents and website. Using the award I was able to spend several days working with the British Library’s extensive resources, examining, for example, House of Commons papers in relation to social policy and the social economy. I also made good use of the Community Development Journal and the Journal of Global Social Policy. I was particularly interested in the work of Graefe (2006) ‘The Social Economy and the American Model: Relating New Social Policy Directions to the Old’ in which he uses Quebec as a case study to outline views, from several quarters, on how the social economy should be developed, and how these views relate to neo-liberal welfare policies. During my visit I was also able to view some of the British Library’s superb exhibitions.
This award has benefited me greatly by not only providing access to a wonderful resource but by giving me the confidence and knowledge that crucial back up is available in the form of the Eccles Centre and its staff. I would like to thank the Eccles Centre for this award.
Mark Storey, University of Nottingham
In 2007 I was the fortunate recipient of an Eccles Centre Postgraduate Award in North American Studies, which enabled me to spend an extended visit at the British Library. Working mainly in Special Collections, the purpose of my visit was to consult primary materials relating to my PhD in late nineteenth-century American literature. In this respect the British Library’s holdings are impressively comprehensive, and in addition to the specific works I had gone to consult I also stumbled upon some unexpected finds.
My research focuses on the impact of urban modernity on representations of rural life in postbellum fiction. My particular interest whilst I was at the British Library was to examine texts from the period that revealed contemporary attitudes and sentiments towards urban and rural life, especially in non-fiction writing. I managed to get hold of numerous texts that were unavailable elsewhere in the UK, and the library’s extensive collection of nineteenth-century American books and periodicals enabled me to examine a range of works that would have been impossible to gather together anywhere else in the country. Amongst the works I was able to consult was a first edition of Matthew Hale Smith’s celebrated social commentary on New York life, Sunshine and Shadow in New York (1868). Long before Jacob Riis and Stephen Crane exposed the conditions of slum life in the city, Smith’s sensationalist tract revels in the seedier aspects of urban living (he reserves his most outraged tone for his detailed exposé of the city’s sex industry), and from this perspective is a classic example of anti-urban feeling in the nineteenth century. In a similar vein I was able to examine a number of rare but socially important texts, including sermons by Orville Dewey and Henry Penciller’s highly romanticised and popular account of country living, Rural Life in America (1836). The library also holds a number of important periodicals, so I was able to productively browse through the back catalogue of the Atlantic Monthly – an important publisher of many now-forgotten American writers.
These and many other original sources I worked with in my time at the library have provided invaluable social context to the wider concerns of my thesis. As a source of American material, the British Library proved to be an immensely fertile field and I am very grateful to the Eccles Centre for their generous support that made this pleasant discovery possible.
Rafael Torrubia, St Andrews University
‘Maybe it is the Harlem resilience. The Harlem bounce-back.’ This quote from Black Arts movement luminary Larry Neal first came to my attention in the reading room of the Schomburg Centre for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, New York. Three thousand, four hundred and seventy one miles away, and four months earlier, I had already seen the evidence to back up Neal’s claim. The research which I undertook at the British Library has now provided a vital component of my current PhD thesis which seeks to develop a more sophisticated view of the Black Power movement in twentieth-century America by analysing the movement’s cultural legacy.
A central aspect of the PhD is the necessity of presenting a clear continuity between forms of African-American cultural development throughout time, and the importance of these forms in fostering individual self-definition, and by extension, militancy and ‘empowerment’. The British Library’s bountiful resources on the Harlem Renaissance were essential to fully analysing an exceedingly important link in the cultural changes experienced by African-American society, representing as they do a period which saw the genesis of a great deal of defining cultural and militant thought. The collection was particularly valuable in that the disposition of the sources available not only provided cultural links to the Black Power movement but elucidated its militant antecedents in the plantation period via several collections of folklore compiled during the Renaissance.
The composition of the collection enabled me to bring a truly international range of sources to bear on the thesis, as the items in the Library’s possession reinforced the significance of those resources in the United States, particularly the Larry Neal papers held in the Schomburg Centre, Harlem. The month of access to the collection provided by the award enabled a synthesis of these previously disparate sources in a manner that has provided the PhD with a transatlantic research base which immeasurably enriches and deepens the historical analysis.
My studies of the collection held at the Library also enabled the construction of a much clearer historical linkage between the works, ideologies and personalities of the Harlem Renaissance, and their influences upon the militancy and cultural expression of the Black Arts movement, the Black Power movement and militant cultural protest as a whole. What I uncovered, through the wealth of manuscripts and first editions made available to me, was not merely a Renaissance, but as Neal noted, a militant Resilience, a vibrant bounce-back, which has enriched my PhD beyond what I could have hoped for. For this, I can only tender my most sincere thanks to the library staff, the Eccles Centre and BAAS for their support and generosity.
Mei-Chuen Wang, Cardiff University
My doctoral thesis focuses on several works of postmodern Canadian historical fiction, exploring how they employ narrative strategies to launch epistemological and ontological questioning of history and to expose the power politics involved in historical representation. I also investigate how these works make use of historical events in order to challenge or reinforce certain Canadian national myths. These works have to be understood in the broader context of the proliferation of Canadian historical fiction since the 1980s, a phenomenon which I believe is closely related to the unsettled postmodern and postcolonial condition of Canada. From the very beginning, my research project has depended heavily on the Canadian holdings in the British Library. With the help of the Eccles Centre Postgraduate Awards in North American Studies, I was able to spend one month in the British Library reading through the materials necessary for my research. Even though I can try to get hold of them through inter-library requests, there is still one major difficulty that cannot be overcome. My research relies very much on journals, such as Canadian Literature, Essays on Canadian Writing, and Studies in Canadian Literature, but not all the tables of contents of these journals are available online. Inter-library loans are helpless if I cannot provide the details of articles I need to refer to. As a result, a research visit to the British Library was indispensable since it has a rich collection of these materials.
I am very honoured and grateful for being given one of the Eccles Centre Postgraduate Awards in 2008, which allowed me to finish the research visit essential to my thesis programme. I had unlimited access not only to the academic journals mentioned above but also to literary magazines that publish new Canadian writing. Together with books in the collection of American Studies, they allow me to become more familiar with the newest research results on Canadian literature and to gain a general idea of what tendencies and changes are taking place in this field. They also help me catch up with what new historical fictions are emerging and understand how they will affect my current research and help formulate my future research projects. This research visit enabled me to collect large research data in a short period of time and to make good progress in the writing of my doctoral thesis. Thanks to the Eccles Centre for their kind sponsorship.
Daniel Wood, University of Reading
In 2008 I was incredibly fortunate to be a recipient of the Eccles Award which funds research undertaken at the British Library. Whilst I had used the voluminous resources at the library on numerous occasions before, I was delighted to have received funding to permit me to make much more extensive use of the materials at the library. The award was particularly useful in allowing me to spend significant time with the Congressional Record – now readily accessible in electronic form, which makes hunting for vital information incredibly efficient and rewarding – from which I have augmented existing arguments and developed new trains of thought that have added to the richness and diversity of my PhD thesis on the Brannan Plan. Having chosen such an obscure topic, the British Library has proved to be a veritable godsend as its wealth of books and articles continually surprises me, to the extent that I discovered resources that even the towering National Agricultural Library in the United States did not house.
My thesis is constructed around the premise that a deep and involved understanding of the nuances and political and social pressures that helped to shape American agricultural policy in the late 1940s and early 1950s has the ability to alter our current perceptions of the Fair Deal. The journey to provide evidence for such an assertion has encountered numerous dead ends and a proliferation of ideas and assumptions that have been forcibly rejected by historical documents. Such trials, though, have only added to the scope and diversity of documents that I can call upon to support, deny or re-evaluate my arguments and ideas. The British Library has played a huge part in allowing me to write such a statement: it is an easily accessible and endlessly rewarding source from which to probe even the most fledgling of ideas that have yet to take on any discernible shape or structure.
I am in the process of writing my thesis now, and am constantly overwhelmed by the wealth of material that I have amassed over the previous two and a half years, both from resources on these shores and in America. It is no exaggeration to say that without the Eccles Award my thesis would be devoid of a substantial amount of material, and would be much less compelling for it. I hope that future recipients of the award will find it as beneficial as it has been to my work and that it will alert them to the helpful and informed staff and the seemingly endless resources that are housed with the walls of the British Library.
Call for papers: European Association for American Studies Conference, Dublin, 2010
The call for papers for next year's EAAS conference can be found in the latest issue of the EAAS Newsletter, http://www.eaas.eu/newsletter/ASE62min.pdf, pages 12–23. A total of 24 workshops are calling for participants. The deadline for making proposals to workshop chairs is 15 October 2009.
Conference and Seminar Announcements
The NAACP: A Centennial Appraisal Conference
Marcus Cunliffe Centre for the Study of the American South, University of Sussex, 24–25 September 2009
This year sees the one hundredth anniversary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the United States' oldest, most durable and arguably most effective African-American civil rights organisation. From its inception, it has contributed consistently to the ongoing black freedom struggle in America through its hard-fought campaigns against lynching, discriminatory housing, disfranchisement, unequal employment and, most famously, segregated public schools. Until recently, however, the NAACP has followed a stranger career in the historiography of the civil rights movement. Scholars have paid less attention to the organisation than they have to the non-violent direct action of Martin Luther King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference or the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee's emphasis on grassroots organising.
Hosted by the Marcus Cunliffe Centre for the Study of the American South at the University of Sussex, the two-day ‘NAACP: A Centenary Appraisal’ conference will explore the organisation's complex, evolving and always surprising history by bringing together leading scholars from the United States, United Kingdom and Germany. Working at the cutting edge of civil rights historiography, these scholars will discuss and debate the NAACP's first hundred years and map out new areas for study beyond 2009. Speakers will include: Professor David Garrow (Cambridge), Professor Manfred Berg (Heidelberg), Professor Carol Anderson (Emory), Professor Peter Ling (Nottingham), Professor Greta de Jong (Nevada-Reno), and Dr. Stephen Tuck (Oxford). For a full list of presenters and paper titles, please see the programme listing on the conference website.
Conference venue is the White Hart Hotel, 55 High Street, Lewes BN7 1XE
Fee: £50 (£30 postgraduate) conference day rate (accommodation not included)
Registration forms and further details about local accommodation are available on the conference website:
Call for papers: International Dickinson Conference
Rothermere American Institute, University of Oxford, 6-8 August 2010
Call for papers: Transatlantic Exchanges International Conference
University of Plymouth, UK, 14–17 July 2010
Separateness and Kinship : Transatlantic Exchanges between New England and Britain 1600–1900
Keynote speaker: Lawrence Buell
This three-day conference will explore issues arising from the relationship between Britain and New England in the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, in the light of recent developments in the reading of transatlantic connections. In the run up to the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower, and in the context of new critical perspectives on transatlantic studies, such as postcolonial theory with its emphasis on the whole Atlantic rim, feminism, discussions of displacement and debates about national identity, what does it mean in the early twenty-first century to revisit with an interdisciplinary perspective the cultural and ideological exchanges between Britain and New England 1600–1900? The conference will include contributions from literary scholars, art historians and specialists in the history of architecture.
The conference organisers invite submissions of proposals for panels or individual papers. Proposals for entire sessions should include (1) a paragraph describing the session as a whole; (2) a one-page abstract of each paper; (3) a one-page CV for each participant. The conference prefers four presenters per session, excluding the chair, although submissions for panels of three will be considered. Proposals for individual papers should include a 300-word abstract and a one-page CV.
Submissions deadline: 1 March 2010.
Correction: Kevyne Baar Apologies for inadvertently reassigning Kevyne Baar’s gender in this section of the spring 2009 issue. Kevyne is in fact female, not male.
Stefanie Albers is a lecturer in English literature at the Univeristy of Duisburg-Essen in Germany and is completing her PhD on aesthetic discourses in contemporary Anglophone fiction. Her research interests include modernism and postmodernism, Victorian literature, literary theory and popular culture.
Torsten Caeners studied English and American studies and computational linguistics at the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany, and has worked as a lecturer there ever since. His research interests are in popular culture, especially TV series as a means of cultural commentary.
Martin Dines is a lecturer in suburban and cultural studies at Kingston University. His research interests focus on representations of suburbia, and LGBT writing and politics. He is author of Gay Suburban Narratives in American and British Film and Fiction: Homecoming Queens (forthcoming 2010). He is currently working on the relationship between suburbia and constructions of white ethnicities in postwar fiction.
Emma Dodds is a PhD student at Loughborough University, researching the transatlantic connections within the American literary response to industrialisation and mechanisation.
David Eldridge gained his PhD in history from Cambridge University, for a thesis on Hollywood’s representations of the past and the intellectual understanding of history among 1950s filmmakers (since published as Hollywood’s History Films (2006)). He has been a lecturer at the University of Hull since 2000, and Director of American Studies since 2007. He is author of American Culture in the 1930s in Edinburgh University Press’s Twentieth-Century American Culture series, and is currently working on two projects – one concerning the impact of censorship on historical films, the other examining cultural representations of Pearl Harbor.
Joanna Freer is a PhD student in the Department of American Studies at the University of Sussex. Her thesis deals with Thomas Pynchon and his relationship with 1960s counterculture and its literature.
Gabriela Astrid Frei is a DPhil candidate in history oat the University of Oxford. She works on the influence of Alfred T. Mahan on British naval strategic thinking at the end of the nineteenth century. More generally she is interested in perceptions of sea power in the context of the theory of war and how this influenced war planning before the First World War.
Euan Gallivan is a doctoral candidate in the School of American and Canadian Studies at the University of Nottingham, writing a thesis on the relationship between the literature of the US South and the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer. His research focuses on the fiction of William Faulkner, Ellen Glasgow and Cormac McCarthy. An article on McCarthy’s The Road and Schopenhauerian ethics is due to appear in the forthcoming issue of the Cormac McCarthy Journal.
Maya Heller is a doctoral candidate at Goldsmiths College, University of London. Her field is William Faulkner and visual art. Her interests cover literature and film, twentieth-century American literature and aesthetics.
Nick Kitchen is a PhD candidate in the Department of International Relations at the London School of Economics. His doctoral thesis focuses on United States grand strategy debates in the 1990s and is supervised by Professor Michael Cox. His research interests lie primarily in the fields of contemporary American foreign policy and neoclassical realist theory. Nick is a founding fellow of the LSE IDEAS Transatlantic Project and teaches in the International Relations Department at LSE. He has an MRes in International Relations from Keele University and an MA in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from Oxford University.
Katrin Korkalainen holds an MA from the University of Oulu, Finland. Her master’s thesis, ‘Reconstructing History Through Fiction: Realism and the Historical Imagination in Anzia Yezierska’s Bread Givers and Hungry Hearts’, won the award for the best thesis in English philology in Finland 2006–7. She is now a doctoral candidate at the University of Oulu, conducting further research in the same field. Her interests include realism and reality in literature and history; the use of literature in historical research; American realism; literary history; early American immigrant literatures; imagology; the five senses; time and space.
Antonia Mackay holds an MA from Oxford Brookes University, where she has applied to do a PhD. Her masters thesis focused on gender identity in 1950s American literature, poetry and culture. Her proposed doctoral research will assess the ways in which Cold War spatiality is affected by feminist corporeality to encompass city spaces and marginal identity formation; suburban spaces and gender as proscribed through technology; and pastoral spaces and Southern and utopian identities and architecture.
Stephen E. Mawdsley studies American medical history, with particular attention to the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (March of Dimes) and polio. He holds an BA and an MA from the University of Alberta and is currently enrolled in a PhD programme at the University of Cambridge.
Wendy McMahon wrote a doctoral thesis about the exiled Cuban author Reinaldo Arenas, who moved to the United States in the Mariel boatlift of 1980. Her current work examines Cuban/American cultural relations and the literature of the various Cuban-American communities in the US.
Alys Moody is a doctoral candidate in English literature at the University of Sydney. Her thesis discusses the relationship between writing and the room in Paul Auster and Samuel Beckett. More generally, her research interests cover twentieth-century American and British literature, and some nineteenth-century authors. She is employed as an English language lectrice at the Université de Paris VII-Denis Diderot.
Nico Pizzolato received a PhD from University College London in 2003 with a thesis on labour migration and workers’ struggle in the car factories of Detroit and Turin in the 1960s, focusing on the experiences of southern Italians in Turin and African Americans in Detroit. His articles on this topic have appeared in a variety of journals. After teaching for some years in Italian universities he is now a lecturer in nineteenth-century American history and race relations in the United States at Queen Mary, London. His new research project is about peonage and civil rights in campaigns in the American South.
Laura Pollard is a PhD student at the University of East Anglia, researching American musical theatre 1957–1991 and commerical theatre production conditions during that period. Her articles have appeared in Studies in Musical Theatre and Journal of American Drama and Theatre.
Maureen Speller is reading for an MA in postcolonial studies at the University of Kent. Her interests are in early colonial settlement, immigrant experiences in nineteenth-century America, border studies and Native American literature.
Thomas Strange holds a BA and an MA from the University of Sheffield and is a postgraduate student at the University of Manchester. His PhD thesis focuses on the potentially revolutionary role of black preachers in the late antebellum South and he has further research interests in slave religion and the idea of religious resistance.
Linda Toocaram received a BA in American and English literature at the University of East Anglia, with a year at the University of New Mexico, and an MA from King’s College London, where she is now conducting doctoral research on the Mexican author Cherrie Moraga. Her main interests lie in the areas of literature as political activism, nationalism, postcolonialism, idigeneity and queer identities. She has published reviews for The European Legacy, Journal of American Studies and American Studies Today Online.
Corin Willis received a PhD in Film Studies at the University of Warwick in 2003 and is currently a senior lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University. His teaching interests include Hollywood, silent and contemporary African American cinema. His research centres around cinematic applications of blackface and crosses over into topics such as the minstrel show, jazz and African American history. He has written book chapters on The Jazz Singer (1929) and the use of blackface in Hollywood’s depiction of jazz.
BAAS member Dr Sam Edwards has been awarded a Fulbright Distinguished Scholar Award for the academic year 2009–10. Sam completed his PhD thesis, which examined American commemoration of the Second World War, at Lancaster University in 2008. He has also taught American Studies at Lancaster for the past five years. Sam will take up the award in January 2010, and he will be based at the University of Pittsburgh, where he will benefit from working with Dr Kirk Savage, a leading authority on the subject of American war memorialisation.
Lincoln Geraghty, University of Portsmouth, published American Science Fiction Film and Television (Oxford: Berg Publishers, 2009) and (as editor) Channeling the Future: Essays on Science Fiction and Fantasy Television (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2009).
Alison Kelly, editor of American Studies in Britain, published Understanding Lorrie Moore (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2009).
John Wrighton, Aberystwyth University, has published a new book exploring the interrelationship between ethical imperative and poetic practice in American poetry from the Ojectivists to e-poetry: Ethics and Politics in Modern American Poetry (London and New York: Routledge, 2009).
The American Studies Network (ASN) Book Prize
At the EAAS Conference in Dublin in 2010, the American Studies Network, a group of 18 European centres involved in the study of the United States, will again award its biennial prize for a remarkable monograph published in English in the field of American Studies.
The criteria are as follows:
Three review copies of the book should be submitted before 1 November 2009 to:
Dr. Axel R. Schäfer
David Bruce Centre for American Studies
Research Institute for the Humanities
Claus Moser Research Centre
The Parish Student Dissertation Prize, 2009
British American Nineteenth Century Historians (BrANCH) and the Peter J. Parish Memorial Fund are pleased to announce their annual student dissertation prize for the best pieces of work on American nineteenth century history.
The prize will be awarded for the best dissertation (up to 15,000 words) by a currently registered undergraduate or postgraduate student, or by a person who received his or her undergraduate or postgraduate degree in 2009, at a university or equivalent institution in the UK.
The word limits exclude footnotes and bibliography. The work should offer some originality, either in its research or approach or argument, relating to the history of the United States between roughly 1789 and 1917. The value of the prize will normally be £200.
Candidates should submit THREE copies of their dissertation by the closing date, and must include a letter from an institutional representative, tutor, teacher or supervisor attesting that the candidate is registered for an undergraduate or postgraduate degree, or received the appropriate degree in 2009. Candidate’s names should appear only on the covering letter and letter from the institutional representative. Please also include a full postal address.
All dissertations will be assessed anonymously by a sub-committee appointed by the BrANCH committee.
The closing date for submissions for the 2009 prize is 31 October 2009. The results will be announced in February 2010.
Please send dissertations and enquiries to:
Dr James Campbell (BrANCH)
School of Historical Studies
University of Leicester
Leicester LE1 7RH
Or see the BrANCH website: http://www.br-anch.org