Book Review: Awakening: How Gays and Lesbians Brought Marriage Equality to America by Nathaniel Frank

In this book Nathanial Frank traces how marriage became a key debate of the culture wars in the late twentieth, and early twenty-first, centuries. He explores the conflicts within the gay rights movement, conservative resistance, and changing public attitudes towards marriage equality in the United States. Continue reading

The Stettheimer Dollhouse: A Life and Salon in Miniature

Winner of the BAAS Postgraduate Essay Prize

For twenty years, the Stettheimer salon (1915-1935) reigned as one of the central cultural hubs of 20th-century New York. Led by sisters Florine, Ettie, and Carrie, the salon cultivated an influential network of modernist artists, writers, and musicians, which would inspire and facilitate most of the sisters’ creative endeavours, including Carrie’s dollhouse replica of the salon: the Stettheimer dollhouse. An amalgamation of both Stettheimer salon locations, the dollhouse functions as a microcosm of the Stettheimer salon. Notable salon guests contributed a number of miniature paintings and sculptures to the dollhouse, whilst also providing Carrie with encouragement to persevere with the project. Continue reading

‘Urban Comix’: Collaboration, Reconstruction and Resistance in the Divided City

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

On Sunday 25th October 2015, commuters passing through downtown Cairo’s Ramses Martyrs and Shohadaa metro station discovered large, sequential images plastered to the walls of the platforms. Blown up so that they ran almost ceiling to floor, these graphic interventions in urban space began to receive a great deal of attention from Cairenes waiting for their next train. The comic tackled a pervasive form of urban violence experienced by many women living and travelling in Cairo. The UN records that a 99.3% of women in Egypt are victims of sexual harassment and, perhaps unsurprisingly, 91% of Egyptian women feel unsafe in the streets of the city. Continue reading

Beyond the Refrigerator: Superheroines and Sexual Trauma as Disability

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

First published in 1988, Batman: The Killing Joke is regarded as one of the most controversial graphic novels of all time. Much of the criticism revolves around the violence inflicted upon superheroine Barbara Gordon/Batgirl, who is shot and sexually assaulted by the Joker. According to writer Alan Moore, the decision to paralyze Gordon received little pushback from editor Len Wein, who approved it, saying, “Yeah, okay, cripple the bitch”. (Figure 1) Although Moore has distanced himself from the story in recent years, the controversy surrounding his graphic novel remains. A 2016 animated film adaptation received mixed reviews, with many criticizing the role of Gordon as a sexual object, disabled at the hands of the Joker. 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

Disavowal of the Innocent: ‘Sally the Sleuth’ and the Survivor Narrative

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

For comic scholars who recognize this quote, it might elicit a reluctant smile and almost certainly an exasperated sigh. For those unfamiliar, it is the dialogue from a single panel reproduced in Frederic Wertham’s exposé on the dangers of comics, Seduction of the Innocent. An unsuspecting milkman discovers a woman’s corpse seductively prone on her front lawn. A trickle of blood from her temple and her torn and disheveled dress lead Wertham to the simple caption, ‘A girl raped and murdered’. To Wertham, this out-of-context image was indicative of the glamorization of sex and violence in 1950s comics. He believed comics both provided a ‘blueprint’ for juvenile delinquency and conditioned children to yearn for the thrill of a life of crime. While we may have progressed beyond his xenophobia towards the medium, we may be inadvertently repeating his mistakes. Continue reading

“The most invisible and outcast group”: Discovering Gay Youth in the Archives

In 1989 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services described young lesbians and gay men as “the most invisible and outcast group of young people with whom you will come into contact.” Psychologists studying these youths around the same time came to a similar conclusion. Unfortunately, historians have identified that when studying the history of sexuality we have to deal with ‘silences’ in the historical records. Continue reading

60 Seconds with BAAS 2017 Conference Organisers

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.
Dr. Lydia Plath and Dr. Gavan Lennon are the organisers of the 62nd Annual British Association for American Studies conference, to be held at Canterbury Christchurch University, 6-8 April, 2017. Continue reading

Review: Bowie’s Books Conference

Few musicians, perhaps, have been so closely identified with literature than David Bowie. Marking just over a year since the artist’s death ‘Bowie’s Books’, organised by Professor Richard Canning and Dr Sam Reese, gathered scholars from a variety of backgrounds for an interdisciplinary conference on Bowie’s relationship with literature. Continue reading

Review: HOTCUS Postgraduate Conference, ‘Leonard Matlovich: Military Heroism and the Making of a Gay Icon’

Megan Hunt Introduces the HOTCUS Postgraduate Conference Review Series On September 9th 2016, Northumbria University hosted the annual Postgraduate Conference for Historians of the Twentieth-Century United States (HOTCUS), around the theme of ‘Winning Minds and Hearts: Constructing National Identity in US History.’ With traditional academic panels, developmental roundtables, and a … Continue reading