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.
Last month you spent 60 seconds with the U. S. Studies Online Editorial team. This month we have invited the Executive Committee of the British Association for American Studies, our parent organisation, to tell us a little bit more about themselves, their interests, the way they made it into academia and, crucially, their top advice for new academics.
His research interests span US cultural and intellectual history, twentieth-century and contemporary American literature, American film after 1945, the history of medicine and psychology, critical theory, and avant-garde culture. He has published work on the history of ideas, transatlantic literature and culture, American and European modernism, religion, psychoanalysis, medicine and psychiatry, film, and popular music. He is the author of eight books and two edited collections.
Where are you right now?
In my living room, reading some rather tedious paperwork.
If you could time-travel to observe one moment in the history of America, where would you go?
I’m working on a book on Neil Young and travel so I’d like to transport myself to Los Angeles in April 1966 when the Buffalo Springfield formed: certainly on the Pacific Coast the year before the Summer of Love. That would be cool.
Who would you invite to your fantasy dinner party?
Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young – and a couple of close friends to bang their heads together if they fell out.
You’re stranded on a desert island, but luckily you pre-empted it. Which book do you take with you?
William James’s The Principles of Psychology – it is over 1000 pages long in two volumes and would keep me going for a while. I think it’s the scientist’s answer to Moby Dick but has its own poetry. I’m not sure it would get me off the island though.
What has been your most memorable career moment so far?
Chairing BAAS from 2010-2013. I was very proud to represent an association that nurtured me as a postgraduate in the early and mid-1990s. I have had other highlights – the publication of my book on Reinhold Niebuhr and my professorship at Leicester, both in 2005 – but my years as BAAS Chair stand out.
What advice would you give to early career academics?
Stay alert to possibilities; think round corners; take advice.
What is the most exciting thing you have planned in the next six months?
A US trip (to the Midwest and East Coast) in August – although my recent trip to Seoul with work was pretty exciting.
How did you come to your current area of research?
It crept up on me. Well, I’m working on what is a two-volume project (although it might become a three-volume project): a cultural history of medicine and psychology in the US since World War II. After publishing the first volume last year (1945-1970), I’m now working on the second volume (1970-2000), and I may or may not write a third when it comes to it (2000-c.2025). I focused my PhD research on a transatlantic intellectual history of psychology so to return to the field with a much stronger historical and archival sense has been very rewarding. I’m also writing a shorter book on Neil Young (my second music book) and I have started on a co-edited volume that reassesses the legacy of 1968.
What profession other than academia would you like to attempt?
I wish I hadn’t given up cricket as an undergraduate. I went back to it in my late 20s and was club secretary for five years, but then gave it up again in my mid-30s. I’m back playing nets a little now, but would like to have played through without breaks. That’s not really a profession, but it’s a kind of answer. Some days I think I would enjoy working in a carwash or as a songwriter, but, fantasies aside, I really like my job and often find it hard to think outside it.
What book is currently on your bedside table?
India Grows at Night and Neil Young’s Waging Heavy Peace.
Be honest; how long has it been there?
1 week and 1 day.