Review: Transatlantic Studies Association Conference 2017

University College Cork

The ‘unofficial’ theme that permeated the conference was the future of the Anglo-American relationship in the age of Trump and Brexit. As concerns continue to grow on both sides of the Atlantic, scholars are attempting to gauge the wider repercussions of both developments and what this means for the role of the US and Britain in world politics. Continue reading

Review: Queer Subjects and the Contemporary United States

University of East Anglia

Queer Subjects and the Contemporary United States was a colloquium born of the present moment. Focused on discussions of what queerness means under the Trump administration, this conference set out to consider the ways queerness figures within a contemporary social, political, and cultural U.S. context. Continue reading

Review: Annual Meeting of the American Comparative Literature Association 2017

Utrecht University, Netherlands

The Posthumanist Modernism stream was prompted by two deceptively simple questions: What is modernism? And what is Posthumanism? The former question has been the subject of debate for years. The latter is the title of Cary Wolfe’s ground-breaking 2010 book on the subject. An international, comparative approach to these slippery concepts was a refreshing alternative to the often Anglo-centric focus of Modernist Studies in Britain. Continue reading

Review: Theorising the Popular 2017

Liverpool Hope University

Although assumptions persist regarding ‘popular culture’ as mass-produced, wholly commercial or vacuous, popular texts and practices are now so deeply embedded in western lifestyles that any supposed distinctions between ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture require persistent challenging. Continue reading

Review: Border Control: On the Edges of American Art

Tate Liverpool

Liverpool’s Merseybeat sound of the 1960s was influenced by American records brought in by the many US sailors arriving in the port each year. The Atlantic ‘border’ between Liverpool and the USA was wide but porous. Tate Liverpool was a particularly appropriate place, therefore, for the ‘Border Control’ conference. 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

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