U.S. Studies Online: The BAAS Postgraduate Journal
Issue 11, Autumn 2007
‘America(s): Representations and Negotiations’: A Report of the British Association for American Studies Postgraduate Conference, University of Nottingham 2006
© Ceri Gorton. All Rights Reserved
On the 18th of November 2006, the University of Nottingham welcomed delegates from Harvard, Bergamo, Dublin and various institutions across the United Kingdom to the 51st Postgraduate Conference of the British Association for American Studies.
The conference appealed to a broad range of postgraduate interests. In all, sixty-seven people attended to participate in six panels convened around the diverse themes of Negotiating the Nineteenth Century, Contemporary Regional Literatures, Sexuality and Violence in American Memoirs, Exploring the Sixties, Immigration and Identity, and (Trans)National Influences. Papers were offered on topics ranging from studies of Washington Irving and Stephen King, to International Relations in Weimar Germany, and Drag and Identity in the work of Mark Doty and Michael Tremblay.
Professor Liam Kennedy, Director of The Clinton Institute, University College Dublin, explored the idea of a ‘New’ American Studies in an informative and interesting plenary session. Drawing together the interdisciplinary strands of the day’s panels, Professor Kennedy’s lecture was well received by delegates and provided a focus for the conference’s wide-ranging subject matter.
Later in the day, the buffet lunch and wine reception allowed postgraduates, delegates and speakers to mingle freely and discuss the issues explored during the day in an informal and relaxed manner. This stimulated debate and created a friendly and positive forum for postgraduates.
The final formal session of the day was a Roundtable Discussion on ‘Getting Published’. Panellists included Professor Nahem Yousaf, editor of Contemporary American and Canadian Writers at Manchester University Press; Dr Julian Stringer, editor of Scope: The Online Journal of Film Studies; former Nottingham PhD student and published author, Karen McNally; and Elizabeth Boyle, editor of U.S. Studies Online, the BAAS Postgraduate Journal. This discussion was greeted enthusiastically by delegates, who asked questions on all aspects of the publishing process, and benefited from the experience of a panel representing a variety of publishing interests.
Building upon the premise of the Roundtable Discussion, four papers delivered by postgraduates on the day were selected for publication in U.S. Studies Online. The papers chosen for publication were by Rebecca Janicker (University of Nottingham/University of Portsmouth), Madeleine Lyes (University College Dublin), Jenny Woodley (University of Nottingham) and Thomas Wright (Cambridge University).
Rebecca Janicker’s paper, entitled ‘The Horrors of Maine: Space, Place and Regionalism in Stephen King’s Pet Sematary’, focuses on the impact of King’s affinity with New England upon his work. Offering a bold regionalist reading of his 1983 novel Pet Sematary, Janicker explores the author’s use of space and the apparent binaries of urban/rural and civilisation/wilderness. A student of the University of Nottingham, Rebecca Janicker is working on a doctoral thesis exploring the haunted house motif in American horror fiction, entitled ‘Half-way Houses: Liminality in the Haunted Spaces of Popular American Gothic Fiction’.
Working on a PhD at University College Dublin, Madeleine Lyes’s thesis is entitled ‘The Resurrection of Urban Thought: Urban Literature and Theory during the Golden Era of the New Yorker’. Her conference paper, which appears in modified form in this issue of U.S. Studies Online, analyses the epistolary narratives of New Yorker columnist and self-confessed ‘long-winded lady’ Maeve Brennan, and the work of urban theorist Jane Jacobs. Entitled ‘“Speaking of Survival and of Ordinary Things” – The Emergence of an Urban Philosophy in the 1960s New York Writing of Jane Jacobs and Maeve Brennan’, Lyes’s paper unpacks Jacobs’s assertion of the uniqueness of an urban existence determined by the presence of strangers. It goes on to explore the intersection of Jacobs’s The Death and Life of Great American Cities and Brennan’s journalistic representations of a city in constant flux.
Jenny Woodley, a doctoral student at the University of Nottingham, is working on a doctoral thesis exploring the cultural work of the NAACP between 1910 and 1950. Stemming from research conducted at the Library of Congress in Washington DC, Woodley’s paper is entitled ‘The Hollywood Front: the Battle over Race in the Movies during World War II’. It analyses the representation of race in America during World War II and the extent to which African Americans used this opportunity to fight for better treatment in motion pictures.
Cambridge PhD student Thomas Wright’s research interests centre on US urban history, nineteenth-century literature and transatlantic literary relations. His paper is entitled ‘The Port of Liverpool in the American Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination’ and explores the apparent ‘problem of Liverpool’ in nineteenth-century American travel writing. Focusing in particular on the responses of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville to Merseyside, Wright’s paper suggests that these representations of the city help to reveal American attitudes to urbanism, globalisation and modernity.
The organisers would like to thank all those who participated in making the day a success and extend congratulations to the students whose papers were chosen for publication. Particular thanks also go to the British Association of American Studies and the US Embassy in London for the financial support which made the conference possible.