Promoting, supporting and encouraging the study of the United States since 1955

British Association for American Studies


Issue 12, Spring 2008: Article 1


Issue 12, Spring 2008: Article 1

U.S. Studies Online: The BAAS Postgraduate Journal

Issue 12, Spring 2008

‘Identities and Encounters’: A Report of the British Association for American Studies Postgraduate Conference, University of Manchester 2007

Jennie Chapman and Josephine Metcalf
© Jennie Chapman and Josephine Metcalf. All Rights Reserved

On the 17th of November 2007, the University of Manchester welcomed delegates from Bangor to Edinburgh, Sussex to Northumbria, as well as Germany, the Czech Republic and the USA to the 5th official annual postgraduate conference of the British Association for American Studies.

The conference appealed to a broad range of postgraduate interests. In all, over eighty people attended to participate in nine panels convened around the diverse themes of American History of the 1930s; Memory and Testimony—Historical Fiction or Fictional History?; Women in America—Twentieth Century Case Studies; Documenting America—Recording War, Travel and Communities; Postmodern Fiction—The Techniques of Vonnegut and Pynchon; Visual Representations of Ethnicity; American Politics from the Second World War to the Cold War; Religion in Twentieth Century Literature; and Representations of New York from the 1990s to the Present.

We felt very privileged to welcome Professor Lizabeth Cohen as the day’s plenary speaker. As a multi-award winning historian at Harvard, who has been appointed as this year’s Harmsworth Professor at the prestigious Rothermere Institute at Oxford, Professor Cohen is one of the most eminent scholars of American urban history working in the field today. Her insightful plenary talk—‘Do powerful white men need gendered biographies? The case of city builder Ed Logue’—was a perfect close to a fascinating day.

We feel compelled to highlight that the funding kindly donated by the US Embassy provided the chance for four high school pupils and their teacher to attend the day’s proceedings. American Studies obviously competes with a whole host of other cutting-edge subjects for the attention of UCAS applicants. We welcomed these sixth form students and hope the conference will encourage them of the wonderful opportunities available in the field of American Studies at university level.

We are thrilled that a selection of the best presentations was invited to publish their papers in the Spring 2008 issue of the BAAS postgraduate journal, US Studies Online. We hope that these will reflect the very high standard that was witnessed in all the panels, as well as the diverse extent of topics available. These publications include:

Robin Whear’s ‘“Heartless Exhibitionist or Brave New Chronicler of the Age of Terror?” Don DeLillo’s Mao II, Falling Man and Making Art from Terror’. Robin is a second year PhD student in the English Literature department of the University of Sheffield. His subject area is postmodern realism, terror and capitalism. This paper examines Don DeLillo’s rendering of the World Trade Centre attacks these two novels.

Henry Knight’s ‘Savage Desert, American Garden: Citrus Labels and the Selling of California, 1877-1929’. Henry is in the process of completing an MPhil in American History at the University of Sussex. He is shortly due to commence his PhD, a comparative study of the promotional imagery used to sell California and Florida in the period 1865-1929, from which his unusual and captivating paper sprung.

John Matlin’s ‘Missouri Muckrakers? The Press, Corruption and the Senator for Pendergast’. John is a former solicitor who returned to study American Studies as a mature student at Brunel University. He is now in his second year of a PhD at the University of Birmingham, and the editorial assistant of the Journal of American Studies. His paper focused on the spectrum of reporting by five local Kansas City newspapers of the 1934 election contests for the vacant Missouri Seat in the US Senate which led to Harry Truman’s victory.

We would like to thank all those who participated in making the day such a wonderful success—not merely those who gave papers but those who attended and sparked some thought-provoking discussions. In particular we would also like to thank the British Association for American Studies, the US Embassy, and the University of Manchester SAGE programme for the financial support which made the conference possible. We look forward to attending the same event at the University of Exeter in November 2008.

University of Manchester