Book Review: Battle for Bed-Stuy: The Long War on Poverty in New York City by Michael Woodsworth

In recent years Brooklyn has become trendy. Young professionals have rushed to buy homes in neighbourhoods like Park Slope and Red Hook, while budding artists, writers, and musicians have flocked to Williamsburg and Green Point. Even those not looking to live in Brooklyn have been drawn to the hip new bars, restaurants, and shops that populate the borough’s newly fashionable neighbourhoods. While the intertwined forces of displacement and gentrification have reshaped only select areas of Brooklyn, there can be no question that the national and international reputation of New York City’s most populous borough has been thoroughly transformed. Continue reading

Overcoming Postmodernism

David Foster Wallace and a new Writing of Honesty

The end of postmodernism? Jesús Bolaño Quintero explores David Foster Wallace’s writing, searching for a new form of honesty in American literature after the age of irony. Continue reading

Hannah Murray: My Reflections on winning the 2016 USSO Keynote Competition

The competition posed a welcome challenge disseminating my research for different audiences. It encouraged me to write for an audience that, whilst sharing a broad base of knowledge, are not experts in my specific field of nineteenth-century literature. Furthermore, it challenged me to think beyond the narrow focus of my PhD thesis. Instead of the granular work I often present in a 20-minute paper, the keynote made me think of my work in much broader terms and make connections outside the thesis. 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

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

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

Judge Dredd’s Burger Wars: Intellectual property, self-censorship and new exceptions

‘Beyond the Graphic’ – Considering Violence, Sexuality and Obscenity in Comics

After years languishing in self-censorship due to fears of UK copyright law, a new EU directive has led ‘Burger Wars’ to re-emerge. Written by John Wagner (under the pen name TB Grover) and drawn by Mike McMahon in 1978, this ‘difficult tale’ of corporate America and the inherent crimes of the fast food industry finds the immutable Judge Dredd embroiled in a protracted war between the world’s biggest hamburger chains. The military operations commanded by the Burger King on one side and a familiar clown called Ronald – sporting a stripy top with familiar golden arcs ‘m’ logo thereon – who runs MacDonald (sic) City, on the other. Dredd and his team find themselves captured and force fed high-fat, high-sugar burgers and shakes. Continue reading

To Protect the Innocent: Does Comic Book Censorship to Prevent Youth Corruption Make Sense?

‘Beyond the Graphic’ – Considering Violence, Sexuality and Obscenity in Comics

nvoking the protection of youth as an excuse for censorship is nothing new, but it did reach now infamously ridiculous extremes in the movement to censor American comics in the 1950s. The polemical book Seduction of the Innocent, Fredric Wertham’s treatise on the influence of comic books on juvenile delinquency, was central to this movement and led to the comics industry imposing rigid self-regulated restrictions on all its content in the form of The Comics Code Authority, which only lost its grip totally on the comics industry relatively recently when DC Comics abandoned it in 2011. Continue reading