The U.S. Studies Online 60 Seconds interview feature offers a short and informal introduction to a postgraduate, academic or non-academic specialist working in the American and Canadian Studies field or a related American and Canadian Studies association.
Jennie O’Reilly is a PhD candidate at Liverpool John Moores University and the new USSO Event Reviews Editor for 2018-2020.
Where are you right now?
I’m at my desk in my apartment in New Haven.
If you could time-travel to observe one moment in the history of America, where would you go?
1920s New York – a decade counts as one moment, right?
Who would you invite to your fantasy dinner party?
I couldn’t have one. I would almost certainly be too star struck to hold any kind of conversation with my fantasy guests!
You’re stranded on a desert island, but luckily you pre-empted it. Which book do you take with you?
Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God.
What has been your most memorable career moment so far?
This last year living in the U.S. has had a huge impact on how I see my research, myself as an educator, and what I want in my future.
What advice would you give to your younger self (or younger scholars)?
Make your life bigger than your Ph.D. or your research project. Realise that it is one aspect of your life and that it does not equate to the value of you as a person.
What is the most exciting thing you have planned in the next six months?
I’ve been living in New Haven for almost a year now and I’m coming back to the U.K. for the month of July so I’m really looking forward to that.
How did you come to your current area of research?
My undergraduate degree was in English and History and was comprised of mostly American Studies modules. I became interested in the relationship between history, literature, and popular culture. When I was working on my MA, I began noticing lots of references to African American folklore and Voodoo in TV shows and films and I just wondered what those representations were based on.
What’s your favourite archive or library?
The John Rylands Library in Manchester.
What profession other than academia would you like to attempt?
I would love to work in a different type of student support role in higher education. One of my favourite parts of teaching is building relationships with students so I would be very happy to have a career that enabled me to continue doing that in some way or other.
What book is currently on your bedside table?
Tim Parrish’s Fear and What Follows: The Violent Education of a Christian Racist, A Memoir
Be honest; how long has it been there?
Around a week.