Book Review: The Good Occupation: American Soldiers and the Hazards of Peace by Susan L. Carruthers

Historical amnesia has created the impression that the reconstruction of Germany and Japan along liberal capitalist lines was a foregone conclusion in 1945. In reality, however, the decision to occupy was a contested question for both Washington’s decision-makers and for soldiers on the ground, many of whom would become reluctant participants in America’s project of democratic nation-building. Continue reading

Review: Special Relationships: Poetry Across the Atlantic Since 2000

The one-day symposium held at the Rothermere American Institute (RAI) at the University of Oxford on ‘Poetry Across the Atlantic Since 2000’ featured an arresting array of speakers from both sides of the Atlantic. Ultimately, the conference served to highlight not only the multifariousness of poetic production since the year 2000, but more importantly, how poets and literary critics from the U.S.A., Europe, the Caribbean, Asia, and Africa conceive of their evolving literary concerns and cultural relationships in a rapidly globalizing world. Continue reading

Anglo-American Isolationism: The Case for New Archetypes

Edward Luce recently wrote an article for the New York Times in which he argued that the ‘farce’ made of British governance by the current crop of Tory politicians is indicative of the parochial outlook of ‘post-internationalist’ Britain’s ruling elites. Whereas British politicians like Winston Churchill, Edward Heath, Denis Healy, and Margaret Thatcher demonstrated at least a modicum of understanding about the need for post-war European cooperation, people like Theresa May, David Cameron, and George Osborne seem never to have shown any particular affinity for international affairs. These politicians are not Little Englanders, but they have no serious internationalist hinterland. Continue reading

Review: Hardboiled History: A Noir Lens on America’s Past

‘Hardboiled’ refers to crime fiction, narratives usually focalised through tough or cynical detectives and centring primarily on organised crime in prohibition-era United States. The genre of noir, however, categorises fiction that takes the perspective of a victim, suspect or spectator. While closely related to the Hardboiled genre, these differing perspectives are notable. Thus, the ‘Noir lens on America’s Past’ promised to interrogate these genres, the manner in which they addressed social anxieties, and their continuing legacy and influence. Continue reading

Book Review: Invisible Nation: Homeless Families in America by Richard Schweid

‘Fifty years ago’, Schweid points out, ‘the word “homeless” signified dysfunctional individuals – mostly men – who drank heavily and slept rough. Now it is more likely to mean a young single mother with small children and a minimum-wage job. In 1980 families with children made up only 1 percent of the nation’s homeless; by 2014 that number was 37 percent of the total.’ Continue reading

The Authoritarian Heroes of Liberal Individualism

The U.S. has long been known as a society of contrasts in which seemingly irreconcilable tendencies find a way to coexist. Unbounded belief in modern science versus conservative religious convictions, sober pragmatism versus utopian aspirations, deep-seated distrust of state authority versus ardent patriotism are only some of the juxtapositions that characterize the social climate. Recently, this gallery of American contrasts has been supplemented by yet another striking phenomenon: as a nation that celebrates radically individualistic values more than any other Western country, and is, therefore, extremely sensitive toward restrictions of personal freedom, Americans have voted in a president who placed the erosion of basic rights for large parts of the population based upon their race or religion at the center of his campaign. Continue reading

Review: Transatlantic Symposium, Transatlantic Literary Women Series

This final event of the Transatlantic Literary Women Series, a Transatlantic Symposium, brought together ongoing conversations which had developed throughout; on North American and European women writers, their transatlantic identities, and the importance of their work. It was heartening to see the series’ aims fully realised at this event. Continue reading

American Multiculturalism as Cultural Imperialism

In contemporary American society, being against “multiculturalism” is a lot like being against “baseball, apple pie, hot dogs, and Chevrolet.” It is as much of a part of American ideology as the rugged individualism of the American Cowboy or the self-sacrifice of the American citizen soldier. American institutions routinely celebrate America’s diversity and those who are brazen enough to challenge the merits of these celebrations are seen as being crude anachronisms from an America that no longer is. Continue reading

Book Review: Whiteness on the Border: Mapping the U.S. Racial Imagination in Brown and White by Lee Bebout

The work of Arizona State Associate Professor, Lee Bebout, in Whiteness on the Border is certainly topical. To date, the current U.S. administration plans to build a multi-billion-dollar border wall between Mexico and the U.S., solidifying a line in the sand across which ‘Mexican chaos south of the border must not cross’ (63). Those Americans supporting such a project are likely influenced to varying degrees by the very stereotypes about which Bebout writes. He suggests that theirs ‘is a fear not of military invasion per se but of cultural and biological influence and takeover’ (69). Continue reading