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

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

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

Review: Borders vs. Bridges: Nationalism and Transnationalism in the Americas

Centred on the contentious—and arguably diametrically opposed—concepts of borders and bridges, this two-day conference brought together forty-eight postgraduate and early career researchers from Europe, Asia and the Americas. National identity and transnational relations remained the presiding theme of the event, yet the broad scope of panels attracted scholars from a diverse range of disciplines; interweaving historical, ethnographic, literary and sociological approaches into a holistic Pan-American perspective. Continue reading

Review: ‘Untold Stories of the Past 150 Years’: Canada 150

The conference called for counter-narratives to the official record that ‘nuance and complicate’ received histories, attending in particular to the gendered and racialised omissions that often characterise state-sanctioned narratives. In this, the event took up a task that has been resonating with many scholars and intellectuals throughout the #Canada150 celebrations: reframing the sesquicentennial not as a moment of blind nationalism but as an opportunity for re-evaluation and re-envisioning. Continue reading

Review: Transatlantic Women in the Trenches, Transatlantic Literary Women Series

The day’s discussions were thought-provoking and engaging, in a time when coverage of senseless conflicts and rampant inequality still dominate the media. In the centenary of America’s entry into a war which opened wide the once unassailable values of Western civilisation, the event was a welcome engagement with women’s contributions to this period, and how these experiences were represented in their works and their lives. From unique perspectives on gender to wavering sentiments of nationhood, the event set the stage for a number of exciting new projects. Continue reading

Review: Historical Fiction in the United States since 2000

Historical fiction is sometimes characterized as genre fiction—not serious enough to be considered literature—yet the discussions throughout the day demonstrated that this dismissal is an unjust generalisation. Much of the work discussed at this symposium has been both commercially and critically successful. Panels reflected ongoing debates about cultural memory, race, futurity and the self-reflexivity of postmodern representation in historical fiction. By twisting or revising facts, many of these texts ask readers to consider how history is told, which stories are privileged and how the traumas of the past continue to inform our contemporary moment. Continue reading

British Association for American Studies Annual Conference 2017, Day Two

Following Thursday’s schedule, reviewed by Coco d’Hont, the second day of the annual British Association for American Studies conference engaged with some of the most pertinent questions facing the United States today, concerning marginality and oppression in terms of race, class and gender from a range of disciplinary perspectives. Continue reading

British Association for American Studies Annual Conference 2017, Day One

While the programme jokingly suggested ‘Trump group therapy’ as a potential feature of the conference, a more serious assessment of the value of American Studies research suggests that multidimensionality and critical interrogation of cultural myths are more important than ever, given the current political climate in the US. The conference demonstrated the value of transnational and transcultural perspectives which do not uncritically accept a limited definition of ‘Americanness’, and instead acknowledge, explore and celebrate the crossing of borders through interdisciplinarity. Continue reading