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British Association for American Studies


Issue 14, Spring 2009: Article 1


Issue 14, Spring 2009: Article 1

U.S. Studies Online: The BAAS Postgraduate Journal

Issue 14, Spring 2009

‘America: Real and Imagined’: A Report on the British Association for American Studies Postgraduate Conference, University of Exeter 2008

Gareth James
© Gareth James. All Rights Reserved

On Saturday 15th November 2008, Exeter University’s School of Arts, Language and Literature (SALL) hosted ‘America: Real and Imagined’, the sixth annual Postgraduate Conference of the British Association for American Studies (BAAS). Organised by SALL postgraduates Adam N. Hallett, Gareth James, Andrew Nelson and Lewis Ward, the conference received funding from both BAAS and the US Embassy, while attracting over 50 postgraduate delegates from Seattle to Berlin, with SALL staff also chairing panels during the day.

‘America: Real and Imagined’ invited papers on ideas of the American West across a range of disciplines and historical periods. The keynote was provided by Professor Judith Newman, Head of the School of American and Canadian Studies at Nottingham University, who gave a speech titled ‘Blowback: Andre Dubus III’s House of Sand and Fog‘. Newman covered the reception of the Iranian-American book in the context of ‘not knowing’ and multiplied perspective within the novel as an extension of the miscommunication between America and the world. Subsequent panels then dealt with topics as diverse as migration and assimilation in Laverne and Shirley, American heroism, spirituality, and issues of myth and political ideology across a range of historical and formal contexts, as well as touching on more eclectic topics such as the gentrification of the San Francisco Mission District and the American Girl Scouts. The 25 papers presented provided a fascinating cross-section of current postgraduate research within American Studies around the world, reflecting the thriving interdisciplinary approach to the field. Since November several of the conference’s papers have been selected for publication in the Spring edition of US Studies Online, including:

Adam N. Hallett: ‘Occidental Odysseys to Niagara, the Prairies and the Mississippi River: British and American Views on the Three Landscapes of the West’. Adam is a PhD candidate at the University of Exeter working on a thesis on British and American travellers in America. His research interests cover the nineteenth century American landscape, the travel writing genre, frontiers and transatlantic relations. Adam has also recently been awarded a place at the Special Summer Institute Programme organised by the Cultural Attaché’s office of the US Embassy at New York University that will focus on the Reconciliation of American Diversity with National Unity, to be conducted through July 2009.

Christopher Young-Kramaric: ‘Live and Let Li(v)e: the Reduction of the American Dream and the Destruction of Queer Bodies in Laramie and Beyond’. Christopher Young–Kramaric is pursuing an MA in English Literature and Theory at the University of Freiburg, Germany. He completed a graduate fellowship with the Center for Interdisciplinary Gender Studies at Humboldt University, sponsored by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) on completion of his BA at Boston College. He focused on the development of homosexuality in Germany in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. His article on the history of gay emancipation movements in Germany was published in Blackwell’s International Encyclopaedia of Revolution and Protest in earlier this year. He plans to pursue his PhD in Germany upon completion of his MA.

Jayme Yahr: ‘The Illustrated Press: Richard Watson Gilder and the American Frontier’. Jayme Yahr is an Art History PhD student and 2008-2009 Kollar Endowed Fellow in the Humanities at the University of Washington in Seattle, USA. Art collectors and myths of the American frontier are Jayme’s main areas of research. Her dissertation will examine New York’s artistic circles and America’s Gilded Age. Jayme has worked in the curatorial departments of such museums as the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Crocker Art Museum and the San Diego Historical Society. Currently, Jayme is a curatorial assistant at the Frye Art Museum in Seattle and co-curator of Transatlantic: American Artists in Germany, a Frye Collection exhibition that opened in January 2009.

Dawn-Marie Gibson: ‘A Nation Prepares for Change: Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam at a Crossroads’. Dawn is in the final year of her doctorate at the University of Ulster. She is currently completing her thesis on the history of the Nation of Islam, and her research interests include African American religious and cultural history. She is a member of the British Association for American Studies, the Institute for Research for African American Studies and the Association for the Study of the World African Diaspora.

Nicholas Witham: ‘Rambo America’ Resisted: Intertextual Politics in Oliver Stone’s Salvador (1986) and Platoon (1986)’. Nicholas Witham holds an undergraduate degree in History and Politics from the University of Warwick, and an MRes in American Studies from the University of Nottingham. He is currently working on a PhD thesis at Nottingham examining the intellectual and cultural history of anti-imperialist radicalism in late Cold War America.

On behalf of the organisers of ‘America: Real and Imagined’, I would like to again thank all those involved in the planning, financial aid and running of the conference, as well Professor Newman and the speakers involved in what was a lively forum for current U.S. Studies, continuing the event’s role in developing and showcasing upcoming research within the postgraduate community.

University of Exeter