American Studies made it to the pages of The Guardian this week. Polly Toynbee’s “A degree in bullying and self-interest? No thanks” (August 25) was written in response to declining American Studies applications to universities this year and the prevalence of American Studies places available in clearing. There seems little doubt that American Studies is undergoing one of its cyclical dips in popularity, but whether, as Toynbee suggests, this is down to a more general anti-Americanism driven by Bush’s presidency, and in particular his foreign policy post-September 11, is open to question. After all, US foreign policy has hardly changed overnight. Vietnam? Nicaragua? Grenada? And might not the increased exposure of US politics and public awareness of US military campaigns actually provoke rather than deter interest in American society and culture? Rather than conservative American domestic and foreign policy, it might be conservative trends in UK secondary education that account for a reluctance to apply for American Studies courses. A bankrupt A-level system that teaches students how to pass exams in two or three narrowly defined subjects hardly stimulates an interest in the sort of interdisciplinary teaching and research that goes on in many American Studies programmes. The return of the traditional discipline (English, History and Politics have all seen increased applications over the past few years) is a trend that needs to be set alongside the drop in American Studies applications.
It’s also worth looking at some of the other subjects that have seen a decline in applications this year according to UCAS: Computer Science, down 18.1; Biology, down 2.4%; Genetics, down 13.2%. Should we apply Toynbee’s logic to these subjects: are students anti-computers or anti-nature? Hardly. And does it mean that the students applying to do American Studies are somehow pro-American, however that might actually be defined? Toynbee’s suggestion that the election of John Kerry might miraculously reverse the current American Studies trend is also a short-sighted one that labours under the belief that people in the UK are somehow the victims and unwilling beneficiaries of US and not UK domestic politics. The pro or anti-Americanism argument seems to me to unhelpfully perpetuate a way of thinking about America as potentially above, but almost always in reality, beneath contempt. People interested in American Studies should recognise this as an obfuscation that gets in the way of examining the kinds of education offered to A-level students in the UK and the educational choices they are presented with by the current system.
School of American & Canadian Studies
University of Nottingham
Nottingham NG7 2RD
BAAS Annual Conference: Cambridge University 2005, Call for Papers
We are now calling for papers for the 2005 BAAS conference. Papers can be presented on any subject relating to the study of the United States of America. Poster sessions will also be held and proposals for these are positively encouraged and welcomed.
Cambridge University hosted the first BAAS conference in 1955. The Association returned there for its 40th anniversary conference in 1995. The University is particularly pleased to welcome BAAS for its fiftieth anniversary conference. While delegates will have the opportunity to explore the historic university town, the conference will be held in the centrally located, but modern, Robinson College, situated just behind the University Library, which was purpose-built with conferences in mind.
Proposals for 20-minute papers should be a maximum of 250 words with a provisional title. These will be arranged into panel groups. Panel proposals by two or more people, sharing a common theme, are also invited. Postgraduates, as well as senior scholars, are encouraged to submit proposals. Proposals should be submitted by 31st October 2004 to:
Mrs Ann Holton
Secretary to the Mellon Professor
Cambridge, CB3 9EF
Tel: +44 (0)1223 335317
Fax: +44 (0)1223 335968
Enquiries, suggestions and comments about the conference should be made to:
Dr Sarah Meer
Cambridge, CB3 9DQ
BAAS Annual Conference: Manchester, April 15-18, 200
When I was first elected Chair of BAAS an immediate task was to respond to a QAA proposal to define American Studies as a sub-area of English. We worked together efficiently to prevent that error, and took a leading part in creating the Area Studies subject definition. Since then we have made sure that the Learning and Teaching Support Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies receives active input from American Studies. In its turn that has provided the opportunity to establish a new umbrella organisation, the UK Council for Area Studies Associations. This provides a valuable opportunity for American Studies to maximise its representation in the educational policy making process.
The Department for Education, and various bodies important to research and education, have indicated their interest in Area Studies, and the American Studies community can take full advantage of the opportunity to expand, and parallel, its independent efforts by participating fully in the Areas Studies section of the Learning and Teaching Support Centre and in UKCASA. As I leave the Chair of BAAS the planning for the next Research Assessment Exercise is getting underway, and once again it is clear that American Studies needs to be ready to defend it own position, and to work in co-operation with the Area Studies community, where common interests lie.
The membership of BAAS certainly does not consist solely, perhaps not even mainly, of colleagues working within American Studies teaching programmes, departments, or research groups. Americanists from many different contexts enjoy the meetings and communications made available by their membership of BAAS. The broad American Studies community does therefore have a virtual quality, and BAAS has actively expanded its use of new communications better to link together American Studies groups and individuals wherever they are. It remains my opinion that the continued existence of teaching and research centres in American Studies in about 50 universities and colleges in the UK is beneficial to the whole American Studies community, and to the pursuit of Americanist teaching and research initiatives nation-wide.
In the past year BAAS has represented the subject’s position in response to the national consultation on the Roberts Report; to the British Academy’s consultation on emerging and endangered subjects; to Hefce’s call for proposals on ring-fenced funds; and to the AHRB’s call for nominations to its Peer Review College. The closing date for the last of these has only just passed, but we trust that American Studies will be properly represented among the gatekeepers of AHRB funds. Our bid for ring-fenced funding was short-listed, but did not make the final awards; and initial indications of the next RAE arrangements suggest that the points made by BAAS were taken seriously, even if the proposed arrangements still need adjustment to serve the subject’s best interests.
The media continued to approach BAAS for input. Enquiries dealt with by the BAAS executive, or passed to other BAAS members with expertise, came from The Chronicle of Higher Education, Newsnight, The Malay Straits Times, various BBC local radio stations, Radio Telefis Eirean, BBC 24, BBC Radio Four, various independent programme makers, BBC Online, Radio Five Live, THES, CNN, Newsweek, the Press Association, and local newspapers in the UK. Topics included the state of American Studies, the nineteenth century US/Canadian border settlement, the State of the Union address, the US presidency, and the 2004 elections, but the biggest flurries of media activity were to do with the fallout, respectively, from the election of Arnold Schwarzeneger, and the Superbowl exposure of Janet Jackson’s right breast.
The past year saw the first ever visit of a Congress to Campus programme to a location outside the USA. School students in London and the Midlands, and university students from De Montfort, Leicester and Northampton, met two retired Members of Congress during a four-day long programme of events in London and Leicester. A new American Studies postgraduate conference was added to the growing list of successful postgraduate meetings, when the Institute of US Studies hosted a one-day event in October 2003, which was also attended by one of the visiting Congressmen. The Scottish Association for the Study of America continued to develop its programme of events, and certainly the one meeting that I managed to attend was a very well-attended and positive day. At this conference in Manchester plans are being made to re-launch the Northwest branch of BAAS, which will be another source of initiative in the subject.
BAAS nurtures American Studies in many ways. In 2002 the BAAS conference hosted the executive committee meeting of the International American Studies Association, which went on to hold a very successful conference in Leiden, Holland, in 2003, and has already announced a 2005 conference in Ottawa. In 2003 the BAAS conference hosted a series of panels organised by the Trans-Atlantic Studies Association, which has since advertised a good-looking programme for its own independent conference in the summer of 2004.
Not all of the news was good. While the total number of undergraduate and taught postgraduate programmes in the UK has remained stable around 50, this disguises changes. The growth of American Studies in new locations has been balanced by decline at others, and the subject remains fragile in some places. The publicity generated by the imminent merger of the Institute of United States Studies into a new Institute for the Study of the Americas was not positive, but the appointment of new US Studies faculty into that new Institute signals real potential for the future, and we must look forward to the completion, shortly of the appointment process for the new positions. Certainly the American Studies Research Portal, generated by the IUSS, is a valuable project for the whole of American Studies.
Our colleagues have had considerable success in the past year. Richard Godden has taken up a Professorship at the University of Sussex, Edward Ashbee has become Associate Professor of American Studies at Copenhagen, Deborah Madsen has taken up a Chair in Geneva, Matthew Jones has been appointed to a Chair at Nottingham, Liam Kennedy has was chosen to fill the Chair in Dublin, Peter Stoneley is now Professor at Reading, John Dumbrell has moved to a Professorship at Leicester University, Tim Woods has been elevated to Professor at Aberystwyth, and Heidi Macpherson has been promoted to Reader at Central Lancashire. Given that John and Tim are recent BAAS conference organisers, perhaps their success should encourage future conference volunteers, or, since John has moved locations, perhaps it means we should ask him to do it again.
Des King has been elected a Fellow of the British Academy, Janet Beer became Chair of the Council of University Deans of Arts and Humanities, Philip Davies was elected to the Pilgrims, and to the chair of the UK Council of Area Studies Associations, and Esther Jubb and Andy Wroe became the new Chair and Vice Chair of the American Politics Group.
Richard Carwardine became the first UK scholar to win the Lincoln Prize, America’s most generous award in the field of US history, for his book Lincoln. Richard is unable to be with us this year, but I promised him that many of his colleagues would celebrate his win joyfully, and repeatedly, during this meeting. Simon Newman’s book Embodied History shared the 2004 American Studies Network prize for the best American Studies book published in Europe, with Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones’s Cloak and Dollar picked out as another excellent entry in this year’s competition.
Some colleagues left us this year. Kate Fullbrook, Richard Maidment and Philip Taylor had all made serious and committed contributions to the field. Esmond Wright was one of the great American Studies pioneers. He was there at the beginning of BAAS, he authored works that influenced a generation of students and impacted on the general public, and he kept generating work that showed his love of this subject, and its source. In recent years he advised callers to let the phone ring for a long time because he could not move very quickly, but his writing showed him as lively as ever. I first met Esmond when he was great and I was new. I did not know that he was there until he identified himself to ask a question. I had given few, if any public lectures, had worked hard on this one, and was very anxious. A small group hung around afterwards to talk further, and I only knew someone was behind me when Esmond’s voice whispered ‘tour de force’. I still feel warm with gratitude at the memory.
At this conference BAAS is again supporting its members in many ways. The conference dinner sees the announcement of ten BAAS Travel Award recipients, two winners of BAAS Graduate Teaching Assistantships, the winner of the Arthur Miller Prize, the winners of the undergraduate and postgraduate Ambassador’s essay prizes, and the recipient of the BAAS postgraduate essay prize. The total value of these prizes amounts to between £45,000 and £50,000. After last night’s prizegiving I was approached by another enthusiastic potential US partner, and I hope that, as a result, BAAS will shortly be able to offer an additional Graduate Teaching Assistantship in the USA. Our field is full of talented individuals, and it is a privilege to be able to acknowledge this in part through these awards. I would like to thank all BAAS members who have donated to the Short Term Awards, and to encourage them to be ever more generous. Thanks are also due to the Arthur Miller Centre at the University of East Anglia; and to the Universities of Virginia and New Hampshire and Peter Boyle, whose sterling efforts have established and maintained the Graduate Assistantships.
This year the Eccles Lecture has joined the established Journal of American Studies/Cambridge University Press Lecture in recognising a scholar of special distinction. The sponsors of these lectures are valued members of the American Studies community. In addition this year a number of invited schoolteacher fellows have been able to attend the conference, supported by the US Embassy. The United States Embassy in London, led by Ambassador Farish, and former Ambassador Lader, along with their Minister Counsellors, Cultural Attaches, and the members of the Office of Public Affairs, have been good friends to BAAS, and to American Studies in the United Kingdom.
Over the past six years it has been a great pleasure to see BAAS develop so energetically. The annual conferences have expanded in terms of content and attendance. The website, the e-list, and American Studies in Britain have all grown in impact and quality. The Journal of American Studies has expanded in size, as well as getting a much more attractive cover. British Records Relating to America in Microform continues with a stream of new projects; the BAAS Paperbacks/Edinburgh University Press series builds strongly on its early foundations; and US Studies Online is a journal of quality. The Association has established a better membership database, and membership has grown to around 550 currently, with potential for further growth.
This growth has been achieved, and these initiatives have been led, by my colleagues:
Janet Beer, Celeste-Marie Bernier, Kasia Boddy, Hugh Brogan, Susan Castillo, Kathryn Cooper, Jude Davies, Dick Ellis, Mick Gidley, Paul Giles, Richard Gray, Richard Hinchcliffe,
Jay Kleinberg, Allan Lloyd Smith, Heidi Macpherson, Mike McDonnell, Vivien Miller, Catherine Morley, Simon Newman, Ian Ralston, Ian Scott, Nick Selby, Carol Smith, Douglas Tallack, Graham Thompson, Peter Thompson, Jenel Virden, Iain Wallace, Andy Watts, Karen Wilkinson, and Tim Woods—the thirty-one BAAS members who have served in the Executive Committee in the past six years.
In addition there were the conference organising teams in Glasgow, Swansea, Keele, Oxford, Aberystwyth, and those who, under the expert eye of Sarah MacLachlan, have given us this year’s conference in Manchester.
Others volunteer or allow themselves to be pressed to do work as subcommittee members, on editorial boards, as prize judges, and in the various ongoing efforts of the Association.
A large proportion of BAAS members at some time give their time and support in this way and they deserve the acknowledgement and thanks of everyone in the American Studies community.
The Association depends on that support, and I trust that BAAS will continue to build on this foundation in the future. For fifty more years, at least!
Philip John Davies
BAAS Database of External Examiners
The Secretary of BAAS, Heidi Macpherson, holds a growing list of potential external examiners. Individuals who would like to put their names forward for this list should email Heidi on firstname.lastname@example.org and include the following information, in list form if possible:
Name and title
Affiliation with complete contact details including address, telephone, fax, and email
Externalling experience (with dates if appropriate)
Current externalling positions (with end dates)
Research interests (short descriptions only)
Individuals who provide this information thereby agree to have it passed on to universities who are seeking an external for American Studies or a related discipline. Individuals who wish later to be removed from the list should contact the Secretary.
Any university representative interested in receiving the list should also contact the Secretary. BAAS only acts as a holder of the list; it does not “matchmake”.
Paper copies may also be requested by sending a letter to:
Dr. Heidi Macpherson
Department of Humanities (Fylde 425)
University of Central Lancashire
Preston PR1 2HE
Exhibition Review, Edward Hopper, Tate Modern, London, May 27-September 5, 2004
Emily Barker, University of Essex
My first encounter of the artist Edward Hopper was as an undergraduate beginning my course in English and American literature. I first approached the artist through a familiar route, that of Nighthawks (1942), an image that has undergone a variety of re-workings, situating different popular icons in the diner at night. These parodic reinterpretations have only served to contribute to the popularity and longevity of the image, and have contributed to Nighthawks becoming an American icon as much as the various representatives of popular culture situated in the scene. The popularity of the image, in itself or as a re-working has overtaken that of the artist and Hopper’s work as a whole has come to be represented by this particular painting.
For me, the image of three disconnected individuals in a diner at night seemed to conjure up everything I saw America to be represented by, a noir-esque time warp of the urban forties, of lonely diners, dark apartments and seedy motels, of dark suited men and richly dressed women. Shortly after finishing my degree, I made my own pilgrimage to America. I needed to see the reality of a land and people I had only built up from a world of imagination, but most of all I needed to understand why of all of them the Americas presented by Hopper was the one that took precedence over them all Our journey took us through the neon lit city streets and small town shop fronts rendered so richly in his work, sleeping in roadside motels, and sat dreamily in back street diners nursing coffee and watching passers by, becoming, it seemed to us, part of the mythology evoked by Hopper’s work, a mythology echoed in American literature and film that has produced a series of sustained images and motifs that remain etched on the imagination. Needless to say, the America of Hopper’s art, the America of my imagining and the American reality did not always fit together—and sometimes the closest we got to Hopper was in the various trips made to the major American galleries and the paintings themselves – but the pervasiveness of the images presented in Hopper’s work maintain their hold over my conception of America.
Nighthawks seems to encapsulate the prominent themes of American life and art, of alienation and isolation, insular reflection and self-obsession but also seemed to be able to address more universal concerns, of the loneliness of modern existence and ultimately, its futility. I remain struck by the ability of the artist to capture the very essence of its subject and at the same time be able to transcend this. A picture such as Gas (1940) presents a familiar image of a gas station, an icon of modern civilisation, symbolic of our concentration upon movement but at the same time, defamiliarizes it, placing it as a frontier of civilisation itself as it stands against nature. This tension operates throughout his work, and the colour contrast and eye for composition that has come to be labelled ‘Hopper-esque’ only serves to emphasise this. Hopper’s art rediscovered the significance of these everyday symbols of modern American life and used them to create an art form that was peculiarly American, of a particular space and time, but paradoxically, Hopper’s art has a quality of being outside time, of unreality. The figures in his paintings embody the loneliness and alienation of the interwar period and yet in their solitariness seem to be exempt from time passing, fixed and static, they seem unaware of what is happening both inside the picture and externally, in the movement of history. The pictures, whilst being distinctly of their time also exist outside it, as snatched images from another world.
This major exhibition of Hopper’s work is timely, both for me personally and for European interest in American art, not only because this exhibition is the first in Britain for twenty years but because it allows the Hopper’s work to be viewed as a collective whole, not just single images. As I viewed the exhibition, most of the paintings were very familiar to me, as images and separate works of art in their own right, but viewing them as a collection, arranged in chronological sequence, alongside pencil studies and sketches further conceptualises Hopper’s entire career and attempts to ground the paintings, both as part of an artistic thought process and as a development of that process—from his early Parisian work to later American scenes. Through the structure of the exhibition itself and the programme of interdisciplinary events that accompany it, involving literature, film and photography, the exhibition attempts further assess the continuing importance of Edward Hopper’s influence, both as an American artist and as an artist. Hopper’s continuing relevance seems to be located in this ambiguity; his work is both of the time and outside it, at once American and universal. We embroider our own narrative in the scenes, see ourselves as the observed figures inside the paintings and yet are aware of our position as an observer, complicit in our position outside. Further, as the exhibition seems to suggest, in this new period of uneasy watchfulness in American history, Hopper’s paintings seem to take on even greater significance; the figures in his paintings watch and wait endlessly, in lonely reflection, temporarily situated in the waiting room of modern existence, the action distant and far away.
Kasia Boddy, University College, London—“The Sex Comedy of Edward Hopper’s Office at Night (1940)”
Office at Night was, Hopper later recalled, ‘probably first suggested by many rides on the ‘L’ train in New York City after dark glimpses of office interiors that were so fleeting as to leave fresh and vivid impressions on my mind.’1 By 1940, the glimpse – Virginia Woolf’s ‘match struck in the dark’ – was the well-established modernist route to truth.2 That moment out of time was also, of course, as many critics have observed, like a frozen frame from a movie. Hopper was a keen movie goer. ‘When I don’t feel in the mood for painting,’ he once said, ‘I go to the movies for a week or more. I go on a regular movie binge.’ Although Hopper ‘hoped [the painting] will not tell any obvious anecdote, for none is intended’, most critics and several fiction writers have provided a back-story to ‘the glimpse’ constituted by the painting.3 After considering some of these interpretations, I want to make a case for reading Office at Night as a comedy.
In 1924 Hopper married Josephine Nevison, who subsequently became his most frequent model. The couple worked together in creating scenes, with Jo often adopting a name as well as a costume for her character. The secretary in Office at Night was called Shirley, and Jo remembered her as wearing ‘a blue dress, white collar, flesh stockings, black pumps & black hair & plenty of lipstick.’4 The preliminary drawings for the painting show Hopper presenting her in an increasingly voluptuous manner, which some have associated with the femme fatale of film noir, and others with ‘the organisation of sexuality’ within, and for, capitalism.5
In 1985, as part of a series of works ‘re-viewing’ familiar paintings ‘through a prism of contemporary concerns’, the English conceptual artist Victor Burgin turned his attention to Office at Night. Hopper’s painting became the ‘pre-text’ for Burgin’s textual and pictorial exploration of the Lacanian ‘conflict of “Desire” and “Law”‘.
The ‘secretary/boss’ couple in Hopper’s painting is at once a picture of a particular, albeit fictional couple and an emblem, ‘iconogram’, serving to metonymically represent all such couples – all links in the chains of organisation of the (re)production of wealth.
For Burgin, the painting represents a moment when this economy is momentarily threatened (desire challenging law). He notes that the secretary’s body is twisted ‘impossibly, so that both breasts and buttocks are turned towards us’ and that her dress is ostensibly ‘modest’ but clinging and stretching ‘like latex rubber’. But, thankfully, a ‘moral solution’ is provided. The fact that man does not look at her but rather fixedly at ‘the strangely rigid piece of paper in his hand’ is intended to suggest that ‘if any impropriety were to take place here, then it would not be his fault’.6
Burgin’s series of seven photographic re-viewings position a woman model, dressed in a 1940s suit, in various poses, sometimes with Hopper’s painting visible in the background. In one, she stands next to a filing cabinet. The pose is presumably supposed to be more ‘natural’ – her body is not twisted, and her breasts are concealed by the open drawer of the filing cabinet. The model is not looking down, as she is in the Hopper painting, ‘conventionally connoting modesty’, or ‘directing a seductive or predatory look towards the man at the desk’. Rather she is gazing rather blankly into the middle distance in a manner reminiscent of Greta Garbo in the final shot of Queen Christina (1933), when she was reputedly told to think of nothing.7 Tits and bums have been replaced by Scandinavian severity and shapely legs in high-heeled shoes. If Hopper’s movie featured Jean Harlow, Burgin’s stars Garbo, or is it Lois Maxwell (aka Miss Moneypenny)?
Brian O’ Doherty, on the other hand, groups Office at Night with Hopper’s Conference at Night (1949) and New York Office (1962) as paintings of interiors which are ‘recognisably film noir’.8 Noir’s characteristic claustrophobia and chiaroscuro certainly seem to inform the later two paintings. Conference at Night positions its figures enigmatically among columns of light and shadow, while New York Office presents an almost abstract arrangement of blocks of colour, in which we look through a window (like a cinema screen) at a highlighted woman absorbed in her own drama.9 Perhaps Hopper was thinking of movies such as Phantom Lady (1944), where the secretary joins forces with the detective to find out who killed her boss, or The Dark Corner (1946), where Lucille Ball plays the secretary of a private eye framed for the murder of his ex-partner. We can easily imagine Hopper’s later paintings as stills from either of these films.
But Office at Night is different, and that difference becomes apparent when we try to insert the ‘glimpse’ into a narrative. The only movement in the painting comes from the swelling window blind. This suggests a breeze which, we surmise, has caused a piece of paper to fall on to the floor. Linda Nochlin, in an article on Hopper’s ‘imagery of alienation’, gives the conventional view. Modern commerce is ‘hollow’, the figures are ‘self-contained’ and ‘may never come together to talk, to make contact’. Nochlin argues that the question ‘whether the woman will stoop over to pick up’ the piece of paper is ‘unasked and unanswerable’.10 The paper, Rolando Perez maintains, will ‘stay on the floor halfway between his desk and her cabinet, timidly undisturbed, in this wounded and frozen intimacy.’11
But do such these interpretations really capture the mood of Office at Night? If Hopper had wanted to signify a chasm of ‘frozen intimacy’ or ‘impending nothingness’, surely he would have left the space empty. The paper invites action. Is it so hard to imagine the secretary bending over and picking it up, perhaps while the boss peeks at her disarranged clothes? Or, perhaps they will both bend down at the same time, and there will be an awkward bumping of heads or fumbling of hands.
The boss sneaking a glance at his secretary as she bends over or reaches up (indeed the boss contriving such a scenario) was a recurrent joke in the Hollywood comedies of office life that were popular in the 1930s. These included Behind Office Doors (also known as Private Secretary, 1931, dir. Melville W. Brown), starring Mary Astor and Robert Ames; His Private Secretary (1933; dir. Phil Whitman), starring John Wayne and Evalyn Knapp; The Private Secretary (1935; dir. Henry Edwards), starring Judy Gunn and Barry MacKay; After Office Hours (1935; dir. Robert Z. Leonard), starring Clark Gable and Constance Bennett; and Wife vs Secretary (1936; dir. Clarence Brown), starring Clark Gable, Jean Harlow and Myrna Loy. Other sexy 1930s secretaries were played by Joan Crawford in Grand Hotel (1932), Bette Davis in Three on a Match (1932), and Glenda Farrell in Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935). In creating Shirley, was Jo Hopper, a keen amateur actress, basing her performance on any of these?
As many of the above titles suggest, Hollywood’s interest lay in working late and private secretaries, rather than in the girls in the typing pool. In Behind Office Doors, society girl, Ellen (Catherine Dale Owen) cannot believe that her fiancée, Jim (Robert Ames) is unaware that his private secretary, Mary (Mary Astor) is in love with him. This is partly because Mary does not dress in a sexy way, like ‘the other girls’ do to ‘make you notice’. ‘They can’t all crave me,’ Jim tells her. ‘No,’ she replies, ‘they just crave raises in their salary.’ Since Mary dresses plainly, he thinks of her only as ‘a machine’, until Ellen reminds him, ‘you did a lot of night work’.
In His Private Secretary, meanwhile, interviews are conducted for a new secretary in an office not unlike that in Hopper’s painting (it is wood-panelled with heavy furniture and a banker’s lamp on the desk). When an aggressively flirtatious candidate leans over the desk, and, with a knowing look, says, ‘I’m a very experienced secretary’, the chief clerk is shocked. ‘A little too experienced, I’d say. Aren’t there any ladies left in the world?’ His boss, Wallace (Reginald Barlow) goes on to hire a preacher’s granddaughter, who, unknown to him, is his estranged son’s wife (Evalyn Knapp). She behaves in a manner that he finds more appropriately wifely, gently scolding and cajoling him, and intuitively knowing when he has a headache. When Wallace asks her to work late, she calls her husband (John Wayne) and jokes, ‘I have a date with my new boyfriend, the boss!’
In this film, the secretary is not too pretty or too flirtatious to be discounted as a lady. She is also just deferential enough to allow her boss to think he is running the business. He admires her ‘initiative’, and indeed through her careful management, he is reconciled with his son and decides to invest $1 million in their future. She is not a conventional gold-digger (the film dismisses quite a few of those) but she is financially and socially astute. It is not clear who is in control. Behind Office Doors proposes that the company president and his private secretary constitute an equal partnership. When she leaves, he quickly finds that the business is falling apart. They reconcile and after a particularly good day’s work, marry.
Ellen Wiley Todd argues that the power relations in Office at Night are also slippery: although clearly following her boss’s orders, the secretary physically towers over him in the painting.12 For Vivien Green Fryd, such confusion should be understood by reading the image in the context of changing working relationships in the 1930s. As ‘women in the middle classes gained greater control over their sexual interactions’ with men, she maintains, men admitted ‘that they could no longer easily tell a “loose” woman or a prostitute from a virtuous middle-class woman, who rouged her face, bobbed her hair, and dressed provocatively.’ The boss in Office at Night, she concludes, ‘understandably might be confused about her status, given her dress and demeanor – is she a hardworking employee or a femme fatale?’13 This confusion could be taken as part of an analysis of social changes, but, in Behind Office Doors and His Private Secretary, and perhaps also in Hopper’s painting, it was also a stimulus to comedy.
Sex comedies and film noir do not merely have very different moods, they also inhabit very different physical spaces. While Hopper’s later (noir) paintings present their offices as sparse, modern spaces, where high drama is possible and alienation likely, Office at Night depicts a cluttered room full of old-fashioned furniture.
In 1915 Vachel Lindsay published one of the first books of film criticism, The Art of the Moving Picture, which, as was common at that time, sought to compare film to other more established arts. One of these was sculpture. In a chapter entitled ‘Sculpture-in-Motion’, Lindsay conducted an experiment in which he cut up illustrations from moving picture magazines. One involved ‘as scene of storm and stress in an office where the hero is caught with seemingly incriminating papers’.
The table is in confusion. The room is filling with people, led by one accusing woman. Is this also sculpture? Yes. The figures are in high relief. Even the surfaces of the chairs and the littered table are massive, and the eye travels without weariness, as it should do it sculpture, from the hero to the furious woman, then to the attorney behind her, then to the two other revilers, then to the crowd in three loose rhythmic ranks. The eye makes this journey, not from space to space, or fabric to fabric, but first of all from mass to mass. It is sculpture, but it is of the sort that can be done in no medium but the moving picture itself.14
The scenario described by Lindsay is obviously very different from that which is presented in Office at Night, but Lindsay’s emphasis on the solidity of the furniture and his final description of the eye’s movement ‘first of all from mass to mass’ is suggestive of Hopper’s painting. In 1948 Hopper wrote that he had wanted ‘to try to give a sense of an isolated and lonely office rather high in the air, with the office furniture which has a very definite meaning for me.’ Gail Levin interprets this last remark as biographical – Hopper, she says, was remembering 1913-14 when he worked as an illustrator for System: The Magazine of Business.15
But perhaps he meant more. The office is notable first for its enclosed, claustrophic feel. The spectator/painter seems to be observing the scene from an impossible position, somewhere half way up the wall opposite to where the man and woman are. Hopper (and we) look down on the action rather uncomfortably. Only part of the desk on which the typewriter sits can be seen; the perpendicular wall is invisible with only its heavy wooden door visible; even the corner of the man’s desk is cut off. As in the case of Lindsay’s movie still, our eyes move from one heavy object to another. The sense of solidity is emphasised by the geometry of the painting. It consists largely of a series of rectangles, some of which overlap or interlock. These include the different planes of the desk, the panels on its front, the blotter and the papers and envelopes on it, the door (and the panels within it and on either side), the filing cabinet, its drawers and the labels on the drawers, the window frame, the blind, the umbrella stand and the rectangle of light upon the wall. Within this structure, a triangular structure is also apparent, as Burgin notes, ‘its base the bottom edge of the frame and its apex in the head of the woman’. In addition, the painting supplements the woman’s curves with a series of curving objects. The shape of her bottom is echoed in the curve of the chair and the umbrella handle, as well as the typewriter roller and the telephone receiver. The man at the desk is largely rectangular. His hairline and shoulders are aligned to the top of the lamp. The only suggestion of a curve comes at either end of his body: the top of his head and a rounded toe (highlighted) which peaks out from under the desk.
Our first glance at the painting (equivalent to Hopper’s ‘dark glimpse’ from the ‘L’) latches on to the woman’s sexiness and the way she dominates the room. Our subsequent attention, however, (what we would miss if we were on a passing train), explores the room which she inhabits. Our eyes move slowly around the room, gradually taking an inventory of its objects and noting their positions and different shapes (all those rectangles and curves). These two different ways of looking yield two separate narratives: an ambiguous narrative played out by the woman and man, and what I would suggest is a comic subplot concerning the furniture.
Hopper often used colour as well as shape to make connections between different objects (in Automat, 1927, for example, he linked the fruit in the bowl with the woman’s hat). Here the blue of the woman’s dress is picked up (and not far away) by a dash of blue in the umbrella stand. Is this her umbrella? If so, we then note that it is nestling up close to another one – a taller, black umbrella with a curved wooden handle (the handle whose shape links to her bottom, breast, shoulder and hair, and to his peeping toe). The man and women do not look at each other, but their umbrellas, it seems, are intimate.
Like many of his contemporaries, Hopper was interested in Freud, and in a letter written the year before painting Office at Night, he wrote that ‘so much of every art is an expression of the subconscious that it seems to me most of all the important qualities are put there unconsciously, and little of importance by the conscious intellect.’16 In his placing of the umbrellas here, however, Hopper seems to be working quite consciously, indeed humourously. Freud’s interpretation of the meaning of umbrellas is unsurprising. Along with other ‘elongated objects’ that are ‘up-standing’, such as ‘sticks’, ‘posts’ and ‘tree-trunks’, umbrellas are ‘symbolic substitutes’ for ‘the male organ’; furthermore, the opening of umbrellas is ‘comparable to an erection’.17
Early twentieth-century culture, newly alert to Freud, was full of umbrella references and jokes. In E.M. Forster’s novel, Howards End (1910), Leonard Bast, a clerk ‘at the extreme verge of gentility’, attends a concert with an umbrella that is, embarrassingly, ‘all gone along the seams’. Middle-class Helen Schlegel takes it by mistake, although she later describes it as ‘appalling’, and the drama enfolds from there.18 Katherine Mansfield wrote in her journal that she could ‘never be perfectly certain whether Helen was got with child by Leonard Bast or by his fateful forgotten umbrella. All things considered, I think it must have been the umbrella.’19 If the umbrella is a substitute for the phallus, it is a rather inadequate one. An umbrella is not a tree-trunk (the natural phallus) or a sword (the heroic phallus); the umbrella is the phallus of the petit bourgeois, of the socially, and sexually, anxious white-collar worker.
In Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious, Freud gives an example of a slightly different umbrella joke: ‘A wife is like an umbrella. Sooner or later one takes a cab.’20 Boom boom. This is Freud’s explanation:
One marries in order to protect oneself against the temptations of sensuality, but it turns out nevertheless that the marriage does not allow of the satisfaction of needs that are somewhat stronger than usual. In just the same way, one takes an umbrella with one to protect oneself from the rain and nevertheless one gets wet in the rain. In both cases, one must look around for stronger protection: in the latter case one must take a public vehicle, and in the former a woman who is accessible in return for money.
The joke, he concludes, ‘has now been almost entirely replaced by a piece of cynicism. One does not venture to declare aloud and openly that marriage is not an arrangement calculated to satisfy a man’s sexuality . . . . The strength of the joke lies in the fact that nevertheless – in all kinds of roundabout ways – it has declared it.’21 An attachment to one’s umbrella, it seems, signifies both sexuality and a desire to be protected from that sexuality. In Office at Night, both the man and woman have brought umbrellas with them to work, to protect themselves from rain on the journey to and fro. In the painting, however, there is no sign of rain. It is presumably a hot night as the window is open wide. The umbrellas stand together in the stand, but even while they snuggle up, their very presence reminds us that their owners are not the kind of people to do anything reckless.
I want to finish with one last umbrella joke, from Howard Hawkes’s film, His Girl Friday, also from 1940. When sauve newspaperman Walter Burns (Cary Grant) meets his ex-wife’s fiancé, Bruce Baldwin (Ralph Bellamy), he reaches over and shakes his umbrella instead of his hand, accidentally on purpose. ‘You always carry an umbrella, Bruce?’ he asks. ‘Well, it looked a little cloudy this morning.’ ‘Rubbers too, I hope?’ Walter persists, checking Baldwin’s feet. ‘Atta boy,’ he concludes, ‘A man ought to be prepared for any emergency.’ Walter’s comic routine is intended, of course, to reveal to his ex what a poor marital substitute she is getting. Baldwin is ‘in the insurance business’, a business that, Walter suggests, he takes home. Could Hildy really prefer a man who carries an umbrella and wears rubbers (an obvious condom joke) to Walter, famous for his ‘dimple’?
And could it be that the ‘suppressed narrative’ of Office at Night is less a Lacanian analysis of desire in capitalism or a noir exploration of existential angst than a sex comedy complete with potential fumblings and Freudian jokes?
1. Edward Hopper, statement attached to 1948 letter to Norman A. Geske, director of the Walker Art Centre which had acquired the painting that year. Quoted in Gail Levin, Edward Hopper: An Intimate Biography (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995), p.324.
2. Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse (London: Hogarth Press, 1927), p.249.
3. Edward Hopper: An Intimate Biography, p.324. Rolando Perez, for example, imagines that although he has dreamt often of his secretary staying late, the boss is ‘held back’ from action by ‘having heard too many truths in the past’. The Lining of Our Souls: Excursions into Selected Paintings of Edward Hopper (New York: Cool Grove Press, 2002), pp.36-7. Laura Cummings proposes the story of a ‘stenographer who longs to comfort her unhappily married boss.’ ‘The Quiet American’, The Observer, 30 May, 2004, p.9.
4. Quoted in Edward Hopper: An Intimate Biography, p.325
5. Some of these preliminary drawings feature in Sheena Wagstaff (ed), Edward Hopper (London: Tate Publishing, 2004), pp.174-5.
6. Victor Burgin, Between (ICA/Basil Blackwell, 1986), pp.182-4; Passages (Musée d’Art Moderne de la Communauté Urbaine de Lille, 1988),p.79. For a discussion of the postmodernism of Burgin’s photographs, see Linda Hutcheon, The Politics of Postmodernism 2nd ed (London: Routledge, 2002), p.99, and Graham Clarke, The Photograph (Oxford University Press, 1997), pp.20-22. 204.
7. Rouben Mamoulian, interview with Kevin Brownlow, quoted in Barry Paris, Garbo: A Biography (London: Pan, 1996), p.288.
8. Brain O’Doherty, ‘Hopper’s Look’, in Wagstaff (ed), Edward Hopper, 83-97 (p.90). Lucy Fischer compares Office at Night to a scene in Douglas Sirk’s 1959 Imitation of Life. ‘The Savage Eye: Edward Hopper and Cinema’, in Townsend Ludington (ed), A Modern Mosaic: Art and Modernism in the United States (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000), 334-56 (p.337).
9. We might also include Office in a Small City (1953) in this group. For a discussion of the difference between Hopper’s later office scenes and Office at Night, see Rolf Günter Renner, Edward Hopper, 1882-1967: Transformation of the Real (Köln: Taschen, 1990), pp.53-6.
10. Linda Nochlin, ‘Edward Hopper and the Imagery of Alienation’, Art Journal (Summer 1981), 136-141 (p.138).
11. The Lining of Our Souls, p.37.
12. Ellen Wiley Todd, ‘Will (S)he Stoop to Conquer? Preliminaries toward a reading of Edward Hopper’s Office at Night’, in Norman Bryson Michael Ann Holly, and Keith Moxey (eds), Visual Theory: Painting and Interpretation (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1990), 47-53 (p.51). Todd compares the painting with Isabel Bishop’s depictions of office girls. The “New Woman” Revised: Painting and Gender Politics on Fourteenth Street (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), ch.7.
13. Vivien Green Fryd, Art and the Crisis of Marriage: Edward Hopper and Georgia O’Keefe (Chicago University Press, 2003), p.109. For more on the changing representation of secretaries, see Pamela Thurschwell and Leah Price (eds), Literary Secretaries/Secretarial Culture (London: Ashgate, 2004).
14. Vachel Lindsay, The Moving Picture (1915) (New York: Modern Library, 2000), pp.71-72. Peter Wollen notes that Hopper and Lindsay had been classmates together at the New York School of Art. ‘Two or Three Things I Know About Edward Hopper’ in Wagstaff (ed), Edward Hopper, p.77.
15. Edward Hopper: An Intimate Biography, p.324. See Gail Levin, Edward Hopper as Illustrator (New York: Norton, 1979), pp.17-22, and catalogue nos. 38-50, 53-67 and passim. One of the System drawing is reprinted ‘Two or Three Things I Know About Edward Hopper’, p.72.
16. Edward Hopper, letter to Charles H. Sawyer, Oct.29, 1939, quoted in Edward Hopper: An Intimate Biography, p.277. On Freud’s reception in America, see Nathan G. Hale, Freud and Americans: The Beginnings of Psychoanalysis in the United States, 1876-1917 (Oxford University Press, 1971) and The Rise and Crisis of Psychoanalysis in the United States, 1917-1985 (Oxford University Press, 1995).
17. Sigmund Freud, 1909 amendment to The Interpretation of Dreams (1900), in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud trans. James Strachey, vol.5 (London: Hogarth Press, 1953), p.354; Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis (1915-16), Standard Edition, vol.15, p.154. The Freud concordance lists 20 instances of the word ‘umbrella’ or ‘umbrellas’ in the psychoanalysist’s work.
18. E.M. Forster, Howards End (1910) (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1921), pp.42, 45.
19. Katherine Mansfield, Journal entry, May 1917, in Letters and Journals ed C.K. Stead (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1977), p.82. Robert K. Martin argues that Leonard’s umbrella should be read, in comparison with Tannhauser’s staff, and the sword that the Schlegel sisters inherited from their father, ‘as a sign of a reduced male potency’. ‘ “It Must Have Been the Umbrella”: Forster’s Queer Begetting’, in Robert K. Martin and George Piggford (eds) Queer Forster, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997), 255-275 (p.270).
20. Sigmund Freud, Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious (1905), The Standard Edition vol.8 (London: Hogarth Press, 1960), p.78
21. ibid, p.111.
R. J. Ellis, University of Birmingham—“Half Full or Half Empty: the Canvases of Edward Hopper at Tate Modern”
From the start, you know pretty well what you are in for in terms of how this exhibition has been curated (by Sheena Wagstaff of Tate Modern). The free mini-catalogue (text by Jane Burton, noteworthily described as ‘Curator: Interpretation’) handed out to you as you enter has been produced so that half of the torso of the single figure featured in the painting selected to adorn the cover has been cropped out. And as you enter the exhibition, on your left, emblazoned on the wall, in what amounts to the exhibition’s introductory epigrammatic paragraph, is Hopper’s verdict on ‘small town’ and ‘suburban’ America: ‘sweltering, tawdry’ places of ‘sad desolation’. And if these two clues leave you in any doubt, by the time you have reached the final room (Room 11) it must have all become clear—quite literally, for the last painting on the final wall as you leave the exhibition depicts an entirely empty room (Sun in an Empty Room, 1963). All the other paintings in Room 11 each depict only a single figure, except for one canvas, depicting two people clad in white (perhaps both pierrots, yet one of them maybe looking slightly nun-like?), standing upon an otherwise empty theatre stage (Two Comedians, 1966). That’s an average of exactly one person populating each painting displayed in Room 11. Yes, it’s all pretty bleak.
And if you move on towards the exit, you have to pass by a continuous loop showing of a video-recording of a documentary by Brian O’Doherty. He confirms the exhibition’s thesis volubly enough. Interviewing Hopper, he asks a question so heavily loaded it hardly clambers off the ground, prefaced as it is by the observation that many of Hopper’s critics have taken up a ‘psychological’ reading of his art, within which Hopper has been predominantly regarded as an artist treating in his paintings with loneliness and isolation (‘Edward Hopper painted American landscapes and cityscapes with a disturbing truth, expressing the world around him as … chilling, alienating, and often vacuous’, www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/hopper/).Quite plainly, Hopper’s construction as man and artist in this Tate Modern exhibition from start to finish seeks to confirm this kind of reading.
But is this reading satisfactory? In seeking to answer this question, I need to begin by offering some fairly old-fashioned art connoisseurship in return. It seems to me that Hopper’s particular strength as an artist is his ability to paint the effects of light, particularly the effects of light upon colour. Repeatedly, it is the balance of light and dark, brightness and shade that dominates his work. To enable this, his canvases repeatedly seem to be half-full of irregular, often punctuated, slabs of colour—lightening or darkening, subtly graded yet fairly uniform (sky, foliage, wall, street and [especially] window). Just for example, take the final canvas in the final room: presented within the exhibition (implicitly) as a study in loneliness and isolation (an empty room) it could instead be viewed as more about the full interplay between light and dark and the thresholds between them—a study in colour and its shifting levels of saturation on walls and flooring.
Looking at Hopper’s canvases, then, just does not make me think of loneliness and isolation, nor, for that matter, ‘small town’ or ‘suburban’ tawdriness and desolation (and, just by the way, very few of Hopper’s paintings obviously deal with small towns or suburbs—small cities, yes, or Cape Cod’s resort coasts, but rarely small towns, nor even suburbs; indeed more often than not, the urban scenes seem to derive from large cities like New York [at this point I’m reminded of Gatsby’s words on the telephone as things begin to unravel for him: ‘Well, he’s of no use to us if Detroit is his idea of a small town …’]). Rather Hopper’s canvases bring to my mind careful balance and compositional poise (/pose). Which brings me to my title: Hopper’s canvases seem to me in a sense always half full. Now, making this claim can lead to a reading of his paintings that focuses upon how in a related sense he does indeed leave his canvases half empty—and hence susceptible to being read as studies in anomie and alienation—as Jane Burton does here (her evocative armoury uses such words as ‘seedy … unsettling … strange … black void … desolate … sinister … self-absorbed … loneliness … blue … foreboding … isolation … aloneness … isolated … devoid’), in a reading almost inevitably leading to the easy charge that Hopper is voyeuristic (and—of course—implicates the audience in his voyeurism). But how did Hopper respond to Brian O’Doherty’s’ suggestion that lonely isolation is what his art is about?
Well, his answer is not one of assent: ‘It may be true, it may not be true … it’s what the viewer makes of it’. I personally prefer this response over the one implicitly offered by the quote selected for positioning at the head of this Hopper exhibition. To me, Hopper’s figures are po[i]sed. They recurrently sit, stand or lie and look out. Repeatedly, as Burton does herself observe, there is for me a sense of expectation. In the rural scenes (scenes often offering up a tourist pastoral), it is an expectation of quiet and relaxation; in the cities often of imminent incident or event (at the theatre, the cinema, in the street or the office). If a reading of these moments of po[i]sed expectation is required, it is one invoking not isolation but the parameters of commodification—the busy exchanges of capital and currency and their uncertain outcomes—the flows of city life or of vacations from them (and produced by them). My eyes, then, are half-full when I look at Hopper’s paintings. And what I see is a painter who is good at exploring light, shade, and the liminal exchanges of color intensities between them. And I see a painter not particularly good at figure-painting, who, consequently, and unsurprisingly, usually places few figures in his canvases. But not always—think of Soir Bleu (1927)—conspicuously missing from this exhibition, and full of figures and interchange. But when he does carefully po[i]se his figures in his paintings, there is an air of imminence. Take—inevitably, I suppose—Nighthawks (1942). I remember well once hearing an academic explaining vehemently that there was an absence of exchange between these figures (despite the fact they are sat in a coffee bar). Yet surely there are patterns of contact. The man and woman are sat in such close proximity that they are almost touching—not quite, but so nearly that an intimate spatial exchange is established. And the white-costumed counterman is looking up, in a half-glance, busily surveying his customers. Sexual and commercial exchange is involved; currency is certain to be passed. It’s city life—not the dead urban world of hide-bound neo-pastoralists but one constantly (positively/negatively, +/-) pulsing. (I must admit that later in his life Hopper conceded of Nighthawks that ‘Unconsciously, probably, I was painting the loneliness of a large city’, but arguably he was bludgeoned into this concession by the near-ceaseless and nostalgic readings leveled at his work.)
Therefore my archetypal Hopper painting is Drug Store (1927). No figures populate this painting, for it is a night-time street scene (Hopper is weak at composing figures, remember, and he concentrates upon what he is good at). A shop window dominates: the display of commerce and currency that the city ceaselessly promises. On one side of the window-display stands a large glass jar full of green liquid. On the other, a matching jar of red liquid. Red/green; stop/go … the intermittent, pulsing currents of modernity in which we live and with which we negotiate: in (Marxist) alienation (not neo-pastoralist loneliness), where such a condition is always in process, full of expectations of change and exchange as well as emptiness, negotiating with commodity, and not simply possessed by it. And so Hopper in his very acts of composition layers bright (and dark) modern paints with their potential for both uniformity and subtle, controlled gradation. It’s a negotiation with the ever-improving technologies of modern oils to paint the saturations and intensities of the late modern world.
Mark Rawlinson, University of Nottingham
As you enter the gallery holding the retrospective of Edward Hopper’s work at Tate Modern you are confronted with a wall of welcoming text that begins: ‘More than any other artist, Edward Hopper has coloured our vision of America.’ The suggestion being that Hopper’s work is the axis on which our vision of America spins: no questions, just a statement of fact. It is difficult not to pause here, before one even begins looking at the paintings and drawings and ask; is this fanfare justified? Has Hopper really coloured out vision of America?
The works on display at Tate Modern are culled from those regarded as Hopper’s most significant and are arranged chronologically across twelve rooms whose aim, one assumes, is to chart the artist’s aesthetic and intellectual development. I say ‘assumes’ because by Room 12 it becomes very difficult to identify what exactly changes in these paintings between 1905/6 and 1966: subject-matter, technique, form, none of them undergo paradigmatic shifts. So, in truth, this more an exhibition about recognition; recognising the importance and influence of Hopper in terms of his ‘Americanness’ but also the translatability of this Americanness to a transatlantic audience. But as to what Americanness might be and how its translates, this exhibition leaves to the audience. Two questions come to mind. Firstly, does Hopper’s work deserve this level of recognition? And why, moreover, is it we seem to want Hopper’s America to be the real America?
Such questions appear far from the minds of either the exhibition’s curator or the multitudes of visitors milling around the exhibition. Instead questions have been fudged in favour of unsubstantiated assumptions but this will not diminish the exhibition’s popularity. If the success of this exhibition is to be judged purely on the numbers of paying visitors, then this exhibition will surely exceed expectations. But then again, perhaps not. Hopper remains one of the most popular artists of recent times and one cannot help but think that an exhibition of his paintings at one of the nation’s most popular art galleries was always going to be a (financial) success. Therefore it is no surprise to find that the exhibition’s exit leads visitors into what is best described as Room 13, where an extensive range of Hopper-ised products await mass consumption.
Cynicism aside, seeing Hopper’s work in the flesh allows us to explore the questions I posed earlier. This exhibition reminds us not only of how odd Hopper’s works actually are, in terms of their depiction of time, space and human relationships but how odd it is that people in their millions have hung these miserable pictures in their homes. The serial miserabilism that saturates these works has of course provided a rich buffet for critics of Hopper’s work to pick over—Hopper’s strained relationship with his wife; his deliberate isolationism—but critique based purely on biography or artistic intentionality can only help us understand Hopper’s vision to a degree.
These images seem full of dead air and emotionally numb individuals. They are painted fragments of time, moments that seem beyond stillness, which are more than silence, because nothing can actually move and nothing can make noise. How Sundays used to sound. But, despite this other worldliness, Hopper’s paintings produce a feeling of the strangely familiar that Freud defined as Unheimlich: the uncanny. Freud’s uncanny, in many respects, accounts for the repetition of theme, form and content in the artist’s work, too. But do the artworks collected for the Tate exhibition support or contradict this conception of Hopper, an artist ignored in America by Americans for much of his career.
Laid out from its beginnings to its end, one recognises a certain repetitive pulse in the work that echoes in practically every image on show. Although I do not believe it was the intention, the effect is to remind the viewer that Hopper lived through, and apparently, ignored, the advent and influence of Dada, Socialist Realism, Abstract Expressionism and Pop (to name a few) on wider American artistic sensibilities. In order to account for repetition, especially with reference to theme, the notion of alienation is scattered liberally across much of the critical literature on Hopper. But one has to ask what kind of alienation is Hopper painting? Surely, it is not enough to merely paint individuals staring out of windows to capture the social alienation of, say, poverty in America during the 1920s/1930s? When contrasted with the work of, say, Reginald Marsh, who captured more convincingly images of the alienated poor, Hopper’s works are all stylised alienation; romanticised paintings of gloomy introspection which suggest but do not convey emotional depth.
Where many scholars have seen this mono-thematicism as the dedication of the artist to his search for some kind quasi-divine vision, the truth is more mundane: Hopper had only a handful of ideas. The best of these is Hopper’s stated intention to paint light, perhaps the most convincing aspect of his work. Looking at the paintings and drawings on show, it has to be said that Hopper’s eye for light is delicate, knowing and convincing. He was not, however, the greatest painter of the human form. Hopper’s men and women sit awkwardly on chairs and stoops, they lean against walls and counters in the most unnatural of ways; their faces and bodies are often vague, unfinished or just wrong, for example, see A Woman in the Sun (1961).
When Hopper brings the elements of a picture together—whether an interior or exterior space, human form(s), perspective, etc.—things do not stand up to scrutiny; they become more like a plastic model formed by the impatient, gluey fingers of a child. Commentators take this awkwardness, this vagueness, this ungainliness as deliberate; these painterly aspects help convey exactly that emptiness, alienation at the heart of the American psyche; where the psyche of the individual and the crushing loneliness of the city converge. And I agree to an extent because bad painting does not necessarily equate with a bad artwork. But, there is more going on in Hopper’s work than many have been prepared to admit: for example, Why does Hopper’s work not ‘work’?
At only two points in the show are the more intriguing aspects of Hopper’s practice put before the audience, aspects which might account for the unfinished quality in Hooper’s work (that is, the abstraction of architectural details, not including text of shop signs, etc.). Both Nighthawks (1942) and Office at Night (1940) are accompanied by a series of preliminary sketches which spectators can then connect to the finished works. What one notices about these sketches is how much more competent and detailed they are in comparison to the finished paintings. But questions such as, ‘what happens in the interim between sketching and painting, and is this deliberate?’ or ‘why the inclusion of inaccuracy?’ fail to register because only these two works are contextualised in this way. An opportunity missed.
For those of us who like Hopper but always felt the scholarship on his work too narrow in its analysis, too often an exceptionalist view of twentieth century American artistic tradition, this show is disappointing. This is because of a withdrawal on the part of the Tate Modern from posing difficult questions, either in relation to the work or in its own biases and presumptions. The circuitous path of the show is never under pressure to prove the opening statement; Hopper has coloured our vision of America because this exhibition says so; it is museum-sanctioned legitimacy. To be critical is not to be dismissive Hopper’s work but subject the paintings to sustained critique because with Hopper it seems that what we cannot see is perhaps much more important and moving than what we can.
EAAS Conference – Prague
The biannual EAAS conference was held at Charles University in Prague from 2-5 April. The conference was well attended and a wide range of papers were delivered in the 26 workshops and 8 parallel lectures. The city itself was enchanting and our hosts were gracious. The EAAS conference is highly recommended. The proposed venue for the next conference, in 2006, is Cyprus. While the venue has not been confirmed as yet, the call for possible workshop will be going out soon. The theme for the 2006 conference is “Conformism, Non-conformism and Anti-conformism in the Culture of the United States.” As usual, anyone wishing to make a workshop proposal should consider how their topic fits within the broader theme of the conference. For further information please consult both the EAAS Newsletter and the EAAS website.
Newsletter and Website
As BAAS members may be aware there were some problems with the delivery of the EAAS newsletter last year. A discussion of these problems consumed part of the business of the board at its meeting in Prague. A new editor, EAAS Vice President Gulriz Buken has taken on the task of revamping the newsletter and overseeing its distribution. We are currently awaiting delivery of our copies (they may be to you by the time you read this!) but if any BAAS member has not received a copy of their EAAS newsletter then please consult the EAAS website. The website (www.eaas.info) has also been updated and upgraded and has a wide range of useful information including details of all the workshops at Prague and a fulsome explanation of the proposed theme for 2006.
Part of the business at Prague also included the election of a new President. The board was sorry to see the outgoing President Josef Jarab leave but welcomed the newly-elected President Marc Chenetier of the University of Paris. Both Josef and Marc have messages to the membership in the most recent newsletter. There is also a new Treasurer at EAAS, Hans-Jurgen Grabbe. Their addresses are:
University Paris 7
Institut Charles V
10 Rue Charles V
F-75004 Paris, France
Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik
Martin Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg
D-06099 Halle, Germany
The latest EAAS conference proceedings have been published. These are the proceedings from the Graz Conference and are entitled “Nature’s Nation” Revisited: American Concepts of Nature from Wonder to Ecological Crisis, Hans Bak and Walter Holbling (eds.), VU University Press, Amsterdam. You can email Hans if you wish to order a copy on email@example.com. In addition, the French Association has published a special edition of its journal with additional copies available for purchase. The theme of the issue is “Stemming the Mississippi” and includes a good selection of articles as well as a large, well-produced map section (European Issue 2, 98, December 2003). If anyone is interested in ordering a copy please contact Pr. Marie-Jeanne Rossignol on firstname.lastname@example.org.
And finally, if anyone has any questions about EAAS please get in touch (J.Virden@hull.ac.uk). BAAS will be hosting the EAAS Board meeting next year during the conference at Cambridge.
News From Centres
AMATAS (Americanisation and the Teaching of American Studies) is in its final incarnation (2003-4) taking the message of intercultural teaching, the Transatlantic and the affects of American power to the English academic subject. We had a successful launching event for this new phase of the project at the English Subject Centre at Royal Holloway in October 2003 during an event on Teaching American Literature, which included as speakers Paul Giles, Dick Ellis, Jill Terry, Neil Campbell, Bridget Bennett and Alan Rice. Participants heard lively debates about the difficulty of engaging students with earlier American literary texts and on widening out the curriculum. Jointly with the University of the West of England the project organised a conference in Bristol on March 10, Teaching Close Encounters? English and American Literary and Cultural Interactions. This event used Bristol’s interface with American history as historical slave-port and Civil Rights engine room (the local 1960s bus boycott in response to racism electrified local politics) to discuss Transatlantic resonances. We were fortunate to have local historian, Madge Dresser to provide this context which was given added lustre by Alasdair Pettinger’s discussion of American segregation on British ships in the 1840s and Jim Crow in the American military based in Britain in the 1940s. Other speakers included Susan Manning, Heidi Macpherson, George Mckay, Peter Rawlings and Jude Davies.
Our final event of the project will be at the University of Warwick on September 10 2004. The project has been concentrated on the post WWII period throughout most of its existence – this final conference will concentrate on Transatlantic Relations/Americanisation in the period 1620-1914 and is entitled Literary and Cultural Mappings Across the Atlantic: Teaching the Intercultural. Speakers include Wil Verhoeven from the University of Groningen, Helen Thomas from Exeter and local scholar, Stephen Shapiro. More details can be obtained from Stephen Shapiro at email@example.com or from the project manager Alan Rice at firstname.lastname@example.org . A full report will appear in the next issue of the newsletter. We hope over the next few months to be adding resources for the teaching of literature in a Transatlantic and intercultural manner to our website’s already extensive resources. Keep an eye on www.amatas.org and if you have materials/link ideas which might be useful for such a project please be in touch with the project manager. Thanks to all who have made the project such a success over the last 4 years.
American Studies Centre Annual Report 2003-2004
This academic year has proved to one of the busiest since the ASRC was established in 1987 and indicates that despite some of the problems faced by American Studies at degree level, the overall picture, regarding the study of and interest in the United States remains extremely positive.
ASRC Conferences and Lectures
The ASRC annual schools conference took as its topic The United States and the Cold War. An audience of 200 students and teachers were presented with lectures by Dr.David Eldridge (University of Hull) on The Roots of the Cold War; Dr.Jenel Virden (University of Hull) on Senator Joe McCarthy and the Cold War; Dr.Martin Folly on Kennedy, Khrushchev and the Cuban Missile Crisis (Brunel University) and Professor John Dumbrell (University of Leicester) on Raising the stakes: America’s war in Vietnam. The day concluded with a lively question and answer session that also brought up the issue of the post Cold War nature of American foreign policy. The level of questions from students helps confirm the earlier made point regarding the serious study and interest that remains amongst young people of the US role in the world. Details of next academic years Schools Conference are contained at the end of this report.
The ASRC was also honoured to act as host for a guest lecture by Professor Dan T.Carter of the University of South Carolina. Perhaps best known for his Bancroft prizewinning work Scottsboro: A Tragedy of the American South (later made into an award winning documentary) Professor Carter is one of the leading American academics on the history of the South and its politics. His 1995 work on George Wallace, The Politics of Rage: George Wallace, the Origins of the New Conservatism and the Transformation of American Politics not only won the Robert F.Kennedy book prize, but was also the subject of his stimulating lecture to a packed audience of staff and students at JMU. During his visit, Professor Carter also visited the Trans-Atlantic Slavery Gallery at Merseyside Maritime Museum, where he was guided by the Gallery’s Keeper, Tony Tibbles, as well as taking in other sites of the city. Our thanks go to Sue Wedlake and Dennis Wolfe at the US Embassy for their help in making Professor Carter’s visit possible.
One of our regular visitors, CL Henson, former head of the Special Education Unit at the Bureau of Indian Affairs, again visited the ASRC. CL also spoke to a lively and informed audience of A2 American Politics students at Cheadle Hulme School in Manchester on the role of the BIA. The question and answer session quickly moved on to the forthcoming Presidential Elections and (again) confirms the earlier noted point that interest in US issues amongst students remains high and generally well informed.
ASRC Web site (ARNet) and American Study Today magazine
Although the peak monthly figure of hits to ARNet that was achieved in March 2003 of 42,000 was not matched this year, a figure of 37,000 hits was received in March 2004. The total figure since March 1998 to (early) June 2004 stands at 4,205,000. As noted in previous reports, the ASRC continues to develop and expand the content of the site thanks to the work of David Forster. The distribution of American Studies Today magazine now stands at over 700 posted to ASRC registered subscribers and 300 distributed at conferences and by other means. The hard copy magazine remains the ASRC’s most effective way of communicating directly with teachers in particular, despite the great success of the web site.
Requests and student visits to the ASRC.
As noted in last years report, the number of requests the ASRC receives via email has continued to grow. These have come not only from UK students, teachers and others, but also from abroad. This in itself proves the value of the ASRC web site through which the vast majority of requests have been channelled. Requests from the media for information and for contacts to colleagues able to contribute to TV, radio and press reports have also increased. These included ASRC Director, Ian Ralston, being interviewed by the London correspondent of the Christian Science Monitor for an extensive article on US Culture and its world wide impact, and Morag Reid and Dan Silverstone taking part in a BBC radio phone in on the situation in Iraq.
The number of visits to the ASRC by student groups for study days has also increased. These included Access and A2 students from Liverpool Community College, as well as students from a range of colleges/high schools from across the north west.
Perhaps though the most interesting request the ASRC dealt with this year involved uncovering the details of a wartime visit made to Liverpool by Eleanor Roosevelt. Following a request from Ralf Shepherd, a retired former telecommunications engineer who had installed a land line to an Admiralty building in 1942, the ASRC, with the help of Bob Clark at the National Archives and Records Administration in Hyde Park NY, was able to retrieve the details of the visit, as well as a copy of the original transcript of the BBC broadcast made by Mrs Roosevelt along with a copy of her ‘My Day’ newspaper column that dealt with her visit to Liverpool, Chester and other locations. At present the ASRC and the owners of the building where the broadcast was made from, are liasing with Liverpool City Council over the placement of a commemorative plaque. A more detailed report will be carried in this years issue of American Studies Today and soon after on the ARNet web site.
The schools conference for next academic year will take place at the Conference Centre of the Merseyside Maritime Museum on October 13th. The topic will be the 2004 Presidential Election. The speakers will be Dr.Eddie Ashbee (Copenhagen Business School, Dr.Niall Palmer (Brunel University) and Professor John Dumbrell (University of Leicester). The final session of the day will involve a presentation of the platform of the Republican and Democrat candidates, (followed by a debate) by Thomas Grant (Republicans Abroad) and Chris Hansen (Democrats Abroad.) Our thanks go to BAAS and to the Public Affairs Office of the US Embassy for their invaluable support in making this event possible.
Earlier in the new academic year the ASRC, in conjunction with Liverpool Museums, will be hosting a ‘Day of Navajo Culture’ with the artist and educator Dennis Lee Rogers. Dennis visited and presented a similar session a number of years ago and it proved to be highly successful. Not only did it attract a wide-ranging audience, but also significant publicity for the ASRC in the Merseyside and the North Wales area. Details are available at www.americansc.org.uk/Conferences/Dennis.htm
ASRC Director Ian Ralston and Resources Co-ordinator David Forster, will also be taking part in the Salzburg Alumni Symposium ‘America in Our Time’ which will take place in early September. Previous Salzburg sessions have proved invaluable to the ASRC in terms of developing contacts with colleagues in Europe and further afield. Our thanks go again to the Public Affairs Office of the US Embassy for their support.
As noted in last years report, the ASRC still faces difficulties regarding staffing and opening hours. Whilst the situation this year has been helped by the work of Louise Hesketh, an American Studies student at JMU on work placement and also the extending of opening hours, the long-term situation remains problematic. US and UK Advisory Panel members will be informed with regards to any changes or progress in resolving these issues.
Despite this last point, this academic year has been one of the most productive and successful since the ASRC began its operations and we would like to thank all those who helped make this possible; in particular colleagues at Liverpool Museums, John Moores University and Liverpool Community College, BAAS, the Public Affairs Office of the US Embassy and all those who have otherwise contributed to the work of the ASRC and its conference programme.
Ian Ralston (ASRC Director). June 2004
Web site: www.americansc.org.uk
Travel Award Reports
Marcus Cunliffe Travel Award
Leen Maes, University of Newcastle upon Tyne
I would like to express my sincere gratitude to BAAS for so generously awarding me the Marcus Cunliffe Award. This motivating contribution made my research trip to the United States in March 2004 a truly rewarding experience. The journey covered three major functions: the NEMLA conference in Pittsburgh, research in the Hillman library and an interview with Sherri Szeman. My doctoral research on the Holocaust and trauma theory in Jewish-American women’s literature was considerably consolidated and expanded by both the ideas and the people I encountered.
After numerous flight connections, plane delays, helpful stewards and security checks – who advised me never to wear shoes with laces in airports again – I arrived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The city was host to the Northeast MLA Convention, which addressed an array of different topics and included the panel on contemporary Holocaust fiction at which I spoke. There were two panels on trauma politics that proved to be especially useful to me as all the papers focused on issues surrounding the representation of trauma in various literary forms. The literary treatment of trauma was illuminated by readings which explored concerns of autobiography, cultural memory and the body, all of which are pivotal to my own research. The papers addressed trauma theory in the context of sociological, political and historical re-readings of texts and this interdisciplinarity provoked discussions, which illuminated both the shortcomings and the benefits of such an approach. My own paper concerning ‘Witness and the Imagination in Norma Rosen’s Touching Evil’ (1969) received extensive discussion which provided me with suggestions for further reading material and different psychoanalytic approaches, which I shall now follow up. The question session focused on the role of empathy and fantasy in Holocaust commemoration and the relationship between the individual and the collective. The discussion of the slight differences in defining the appropriation of trauma in the post-Holocaust era both affirmed and challenged my paper and will productively feed into the first chapter of my PhD on Rosen’s novel when I come to revise the material.
The conference moreover provided me with the opportunity to meet academics from related fields and numerous talks in coffee shops, pubs and restaurants not only broadened my perspective on Holocaust representation, but on Jewish-American art and literature in general. Numerous talks with Jan Campbell especially clarified feminist and psychoanalytic scholarship. Amy Colin and Barbara Burstin from the University of Pittsburgh’s Jewish Studies Program, who specialise respectively in Holocaust literature and the Jewish-American experience, shared their approaches to Holocaust memory which emphasised the importance of testimonial research.
Fortunately I had some time to explore the historically rich city of Pittsburgh. Three rivers come together in the city and the panoramic views on top of the Monongahela incline were spectacular. I found the Andy Warhol Museum with its temporary exhibition on “Image, Memory and Myth” a highlight as it dealt with issues of collective memory, historical truth and media in the context of the Kennedy assassination. A bus trip to Oakland revealed more of the city before I turned to the excellent holdings in Holocaust studies of the Hillman library at the University of Pittsburgh. An archive search of early and recent editions of Studies in American Jewish Literature and Shofar, produced new secondary literature on Cynthia Ozick’s The Shawl (1989), a Holocaust short story that I analyse in the third chapter of my thesis. My search also provided invaluable references to lesser known American Holocaust fiction.
The second part of my visit took me from Pennsylvania to Ohio, where I met the author Sherri Szeman. The hills around Pittsburgh were replaced with the endless plains of the Midwest and infinite straight roads that eventually and unexpectedly did arrive at a destination. Szeman’s novel The Kommandant’s Mistress (1993) is a multilayered Holocaust novel with a complex structure that invites a traumatic reading. A four-day interview with the author provided me with material to consolidate my psychological interpretation of the novel and to engage with controversial aspects of her work, such as the juxtaposition of the perspectives of victim and perpetrator without authorial intervention. Her account of her composition of the protagonists as characters who occupy a status in between archetypal representations and individualised ‘survivors’ illuminated her methodology and her extensive historical research on the Holocaust. Szeman’s hospitality contributed to a relaxed and productive working environment in which I practised my interview skills. The preparation proved to be vital as this interview tended not to follow the neatly categorised outline I had anticipated. Intellectually, it was an intensive experience as a continual critical vigilance and enthusiasm was required in order to intervene when valuable material was alluded to but generalised, and to pause when sensitive topics needed to be encouraged to unfold. Although differences in opinion between the disciplines of creative writing and academic study did emerge when discussing both the novel and Holocaust representation, this dialogue demonstrated a challenging complementarity between both. The resultant ten hours of tape cover historical, psychological, structural, autobiographical and feminist issues of the novel and provided me with the material for an in-depth analysis that the scarce secondary sources could not have provided me with.
My research trip to the United States substantiated both the overarching argument of my PhD project and detailed analyses of various texts that I engage with. The conference, the library research and the interview have come at a time when the parameters of the thesis are more critically and self-reflectively being defined. The American experience moreover gave me an encouraging sense of my own development as a young academic. With the support of BAAS and the Marcus Cunliffe award, my trip to the US has proved invaluable and the research which I have carried out is extremely constructive for my work. Therefore, I would once again like to thank the board for their encouragement and support.
Other Travel Award Reports
Howard Cunnell, University of London
The 34th Annual Popular Culture Association, 26th Annual American Culture Association, and 26th Annual South West/Texas PCA/ACA Conferences took place jointly in the beautiful Texas town of San Antonio, Texas, over four days from April 7th to April 10th 2004.
As you might imagine, this was a large conference, easily dwarfing any other I had previously attended; the Conference programme, published in a handsome book, ran to nearly 400 pages. There were six sessions each day, beginning at 8.00 am and running right through to 8.00 pm. Each session had, on average, thirty panels running simultaneously, and I was often spoilt for choice for interesting panels to attend. Panel and paper subjects were spectacularly diverse, ranging from Motorcycle Cycle Culture and Myth, to Chicana/o Literature, Film and Theory, The Grateful Dead to Pulp Literature. My own research interests, that include the Beat Generation and Counterculture, Masculinities Studies, and the fiction of Cormac McCarthy, were strongly represented.
The particular reason why I wanted to attend the conference, and applied to BAAS for a short-term travel award to do so, was because this conference was the first to include panels on Contemporary American Prison Writing, the subject of my doctoral research. Having worked in isolation for three years, it was an enormously rewarding experience to come into contact with other researchers in my field, exchange ideas (and bibliographies), socialise, and draw strength from one another. Writers and researchers attending included Brenda Kae Jones, a Creative Writing teacher at the Pendleton Juvenile Facility, who presented on the poet Jimmy Santiago Baca, and Scott Palmer, who presented on the Native American political prisoner Leonard Peltier. My paper, on representations of masculinity in the fiction of Edward Bunker was, I am glad to say, well received, a validation that has given me the encouragement to complete the project.
Socialising and sightseeing in San Antonio was a wonderful experience. The bars and restaurants along the famous Riverwalk, and those in Market Square, were crammed nightly with talking heads; sightseeing highlights included the San Antonio Museum of Art, housed in the old Lone Star Brewing Co. building, a gallery that house the best collection of Mexican folk art I have ever seen, The San Antonio Cathedral, the oldest in the United States, and, of course, the Alamo, a shrine watched over by the Daughters of the Texan Revolution.
I am grateful to BAAS for awarding me the Malcolm Bradbury Award to help me attend this conference; it was an experience I will never forget. I have returned energised, and, happily, to a blizzard of e-mails from new friends.
Michelle Henley, University of Cambridge
I would like to thank BAAS for awarding me a travel award in respect of the year 2004. I was able to use the award to help fund a two-week trip to Philadelphia earlier this year.
This trip was necessary in order to complete the archival research for one of the two case studies in my PhD thesis which is a comparative study of pietism, gender and power in two German-speaking communities during the eighteenth century: the Salzburger Community of Ebenezer, Georgia and the Anabaptists of Ephrata Cloister, Pennsylvania. I am focussing on distinct gender roles in these communities prior to the Revolution and the revivalism of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
Whilst in Philadelphia I had a busy time using the resources at the following institutions: Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Library Company of Philadelphia, Germantown Historical Society, Temple University Library, Van Pelt Library at the University of Pennsylvania and the Free Library of Pennsylvania. It was at these institutions that I was able to gather archival, printed primary and secondary resources for my study of Ephrata.
Ephrata was a cloistered settlement in Pennsylvania formed from 1734 by radical pietists, almost exclusively German-speaking. The ways in which these German pietists conducted their lives was very distinct from more secular communities in the colony. Furthermore, power and influence could be exerted by poor men and women, of no status in secular society, in multiple ways, both within their community and within the household. The community at Ephrata was physically separated into three separate orders: the celibate Sisters and Brethren who lived in their own convents and the married Householders, who settled on farmsteads around them. Asceticism and celibacy defined life at Ephrata which make for interesting comparison with the more mainstream pietist community in Georgia, where marriage was the cornerstone of social order.
In addition to researching in Philadelphia, over the weekend I was also able to participate in the Annual Barnes Club Conference, hosted by the post-graduate body of Temple University. At this conference I presented a paper entitled, The Shaping of a Community: Power and Pietism in the Salzburger Community of Ebenezer, Georgia, 1734 to c.1775, which discussed the negotiation of power within this community, using gender, in particular masculinity, as a methodological tool to illustrate the multiple layers of power evident within this unique settlement in fledgling Georgia. The conference was very well organised, with speakers from the United States, Britain and Europe, commentators for each panel and faculty chairing all panels. Furthermore, the conference included professional development sessions including mock interviews by faculty members and publishing advice.
This trip to Philadelphia was essential to my research, and proved very fruitful. I am very grateful to BAAS for their financial support.
Mr. Andrew Fearnley, University of Cambridge
Firstly, I would like to thank the BAAS Committee for approving my application for a Short Term Travel Award. The award made possible a three-week research foray to the US, during which time I spent two weeks in Cleveland, OH, and one week in Washington, D.C. The trip was necessary for me to carry out my research on a settlement house in Cleveland, OH, The Neighborhood Association, and present some of my existing findings on this organization to various audiences in the city.
The Neighborhood Association, located in Cleveland, OH, was one of the most important settlement houses to be operating in the first half of the twentieth century. My thesis will consider this institution’s record towards race mainly during the years of the Depression, with a brief overview of its initial years from its establishment in 1915 through to its full-working capacity in 1927. The work began from an interest in ideas about ‘race’ in twentieth century America, and in particular the cultural institutions and developments that have helped to define and shape this concept. Although The Neighborhood Association was of considerable import to both local residents, both black and white, as well as of considerable national import (Eleanor Roosevelt twice wrote about it in her syndicated ‘My Day’ column; a young Frank Sinatra and an aged Charlie Chaplin both donated generously to its rebuilding programme in the 1940s; it gained reasonable coverage in Time and Life magazines) scholars have generally been oblivious to its existence. What first drew my attention to the institution, and the wider questions that I wished to ask of urban spaces and the interplay of race in them, was the curious fact that although Kenneth Kusmer had written a seminal work of urban history with Cleveland as his focus, A Ghetto Takes Shape (1976), the Neighborhood Association was largely absent from this work.
So, my own work is an attempt to tell an untold story. But in so doing it is also an attempt to provide a commentary on the wider debates on which individual aspects of the settlement’s past may touch. For instance, a chapter on the settlement itself and where it fits within the history of the city of Cleveland will also make an argument about the way in which urban historians have, since St. Clair Drake and Horace Cayton, remained rooted to the concept of ‘ghettos’ and ‘ghettoization’. Even the greatest branch of dissenters, those following the banner of Joe William Trotter, still toil within this conceptual framework, accepting the ‘ghetto’ as axiomatic.
My work then rests on a series of overlapping arguments: namely, that ‘ghettos’ are more about perceptions than realities; that cultural representations and recreational pursuits can be forums for political debates, especially among minority groups; that settlement houses, pace Judith Ann Trolander, were able to utilize the resources provided by both business-controlled Community Chests as well as Federal resources; that ‘racism’ is a malleable concept, but one not unique to a particular social group. Historians have certainly not been blind to the questionable racial attitudes of social reforms, but there is far from a deluge of work on the topic, and that which does exist is also quite poor. For instance, Elizabeth Lasch-Quinn has provided an important work on the attitudes of settlement workers between 1890 and 1945. In that work, Lasch-Quinn unfortunately tries to project what she correctly identifies as the indifference of the National Federation of Settlement workers to issues of race upon settlement workers more broadly. In addition, her work is marred by misquotations and poor scholarly apparatus, as well as an argument that is in its overarching qualities fundamentally flawed. It is this work which my own partly aims to revise.
With the travel grant I was able to spend two weeks in Cleveland, OH and once more utilize the manuscript sources based at the Western Reserve Historical Society (WRHS). With this being my second trip to the WRHS (the first trip having taken place in November-December 2003), I was already acquainted with the archives, the staff and the nearby facilities of Case Western University. And such familiarity meant that I was able to arrange forums in which I could present some of my findings. In total I gave two, twenty minute papers, both of which were adapted from two current chapters of my thesis, and were presented before mixed audiences of students, scholars and residents.
The first paper I gave concerned a summer camp which the Association had constructed in 1933/34, and which prompted an angry response from local residents of the town. With the Neighborhood Association practicing an entirely interracial program, the local residents of Brecksville feared that a summer camp would bring an ‘invasion’ of African American adults to the area. The case is particularly interesting because of the counterpoint it brings to the on-going debate which the likes of Hirsch, Sugrue and Gerstle have initiated. The residents of Brecksville were affluent, trenchantly upper middle class, unquestionably ethnically white, educated, employed and, if anything, Protestant. And yet their racist views were not all that dissimilar from those groups traditionally associated with what Arnold Hirsch has provocatively termed ‘Massive Resistance in the North.’ Consequently, my paper set out the story in all its gruesome details, so that local residents could understand that the area is not entirely the paragon of racial-liberalism that it is commonly presumed to be.
Two days later I was granted the chance to present a second paper. This time I chose to speak on the controversy that arose when the Association’s main theatrical group, the nationally-renowned Gilpin Players, decided to stage the hugely provocative play, Stevedore. The play had been written in early 1934 by two amateur actors, Paul Peters and George Sklar, and was first performed at New York’s Civic Repertory Theater in April of that year. Stevedore told the tale of a group of African American dock workers from New Orleans who were discriminated against by their boss, set upon by a white mob and found their only friends in a bunch of white Communist agitators. In the view of the distinguished black intellectual, W.E.B. Du Bois, the play was one of immense ‘strength, clearness and terrible earnestness, it brought tears to my eyes.’ The play evoked equal emotion from Cleveland’s black community when the Gilpin Players finally gave their own rendition of the script in February-March 1935. Unfortunately, it was not all positive. So, the paper which I gave sketched out the varying opinions which Cleveland’s black community voiced towards the play, and tried to unpick the reasons for such a spectrum of opinion.
Having pretty much exhausted all the relevant resources of the WRHS, I headed to Washington, D.C., and just in time to see the cherry-blossom come into bloom along the Potomac. The trip to Washington was essentially to tie up a few loose ends that had come out of my work on the Neighborhood Association, as well as to investigate an interesting discovery I had made during my initial phase of research the winter previous. Like all historians studying some aspect of twentieth-century race relations, mucking around with the records of the NAACP had been mandatory. During the few days that I spent in Washington, I initially worked to uncover links that existed between the Neighborhood Association and the local branch of the NAACP. I then subsequently turned my attention to looking at the relationship between the Cleveland branch of the NAACP and the National Office in New York, and in particular the private, but acrimonious, debate that came about when the President of the Cleveland Branch, David H. Pierce, began campaigning for the Association to re-orientate itself in a ‘left-ward’ direction. In light of the Scottsboro case, and the advances being made by Communist-affiliates in Harlem, as well as more mundane factors like the personal friendship that existed between Walter White and Pierce, the National Association took such charges very seriously, and a great deal of serious, and considered correspondence passed between the two. It is this project that I hope to turn my efforts to in the near future.
Once again, I would very much like to thank the BAAS committee for providing the funds which helped to make this trip possible.
Richard Ings, University of Nottingham
I am extremely grateful to BAAS for awarding me a travel award to study photographic archives in Harlem. The three weeks I spent in New York were crucial in developing my thesis, which argues that a critical reading of photographs can make a unique contribution to our understanding of the struggle for the legal and symbolic ownership of place within black urban life, specifically in Harlem in the first half of the twentieth century.
Lodged at the Urban Jem, a brownstone guesthouse, on Fifth Avenue and close to 125th Street, I split my days between poring through photographs at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and exploring Harlem itself – or, to put it another way, between the represented and the ‘real’ spaces of the black city, between its past and its present life.
In one of several fortuitous encounters, I got to know Michael Henry Adams, an African American architectural historian, who took me on one of his personal tours of Harlem, retelling some of the extraordinary stories lying behind the brownstone frontages and arguing passionately about the need to preserve more of Harlem’s heritage. Although there are proportionally fewer landmarked buildings in Harlem than in the rest of Manhattan, history is better preserved in the fabric here, thanks largely to that same quality of neglect from the white world. While other parts of Manhattan have been regularly erased and replaced, the heart of Harlem has remained largely the same, its streets and its landmarks easily recognisable from photographs taken in the 1920s and 1930s.
The experience of walking through Harlem or going out for the evening to such legendary venues as the Apollo Theater or the Lenox Lounge was not that removed from leafing through the portfolios of photographs preserved at the Schomburg and discovering similar scenes there. To put it the other way round, Harlem seemed to lend itself to the same kind of photographic opportunity it always had: a figure loping along Lenox Avenue, dressed elegantly in a white homburg and a Cab Calloway zoot suit; a crowd gathering outside Harlem’s first Starbucks to see local hero Magic Johnson down a coffee and bagel; comic rapper Capone mocking the audience and the performers at Amateur Night at the Apollo; writers gathering for readings at the Schomburg Center; jazz players soloing in tiny, dark, joyful clubs.
The Schomburg Center issued me with a pass so that I could spend a few hours each day working steadily through portfolios of African American photographers active in Harlem up to the mid-1950s. As the whole photographic archive holds around 300,000 items, I felt I was just skimming the surface, but I did uncover a whole range of unexpected treasures – panoramic pictures of snow-filled streets by Harlem’s most well-known studio photographer, James VanDerZee; a small collection of pictures of nightclub entertainers taken in the 1920s by Eddie Elcha; the prodigious output of Austin Hansen for the African American press following the Second World War.
The Museum of the City of New York was equally helpful. I was presented with boxes of photographs to sift through and again I made discoveries: the inadvertent mapping of the different Harlems – Negro, Spanish and Italian – by Charles Van Urban, commissioned by a real estate agent in 1932 to photograph all the wooden buildings left in New York; a series of pictures documenting marches and parades in Harlem taken by another white photographer, Carl Van Vechten, who is generally known only for his portraits of African American writers, artists and musicians.
These researches would alone have made the trip worthwhile, but it was the chance encounters with people that made it vital. Being interrupted by a woman on the flight over who, on learning I was studying photography, told me of her friendship with members of the Photo League. Joining a small media studies class at NYU to hear Spike Lee talk informally but with quiet passion about the film I had just seen at the Magic Johnson movie theatre. Being invited by the president of the co-op to visit his apartment at 409 Edgecombe Avenue on Sugar Hill, overlooking Jackie Robinson Park, and being given an impromptu tour round a building that had housed most of the black political and cultural elite. Falling into conversation with a woman who had been a Black Panther worker in her youth. Being taken out for dinner by Professor Maren Stange and her family in Smith Street, Brooklyn, to talk black photography. Lodging for my final two nights at artist Lloyd Toone’s house, filled with his remarkable sculptures. Meeting Michael Adams’ vast society of well-connected friends, who invited me to meals, including a memorable Thanksgiving high up in an apartment block on Riverside Drive designed, like the famous landmark, the Hotel Theresa, by George and Edward Blum nearly a century ago.
My photographic research and this brief but intense immersion in the ‘Capital of Black America’ came together in one final encounter, engineered again by the bowler-hatted, cane-twirling Michael Adams. This time, it began in a nursing home and ended in the Spoonbread restaurant. Marvin Smith was one half of the M & M Smith Studio, established in 1940 next to the Apollo Theater. Born in 1910, he and his twin brother Morgan documented and celebrated Harlem and its leaders, both political and cultural right through to the 1950s when they went into television broadcasting. Their pictures filled the pages of the Amsterdam News and the People’s Voice, ushering in a golden age of black photojournalism, but they also, in one writer’s words, created a ‘black Hollywood’ in their studio, at a time when African Americans were either invisible or diminished to racial stereotypes by the white world. Morgan had died in 1993. Marvin now sat before me, as elegant as he had always been despite his age and dwindling health, answering my questions about his life as a photographer. Before we parted, he allowed me to take his picture and signed the recent monograph devoted to his and his brother’s work. In return, I am dedicating my thesis to him: Marvin P. Smith (1910-2003).
Aili McConnon, Downing College, University of Cambridge
I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the British Association for American Studies for their generous short-term grant which contributed to a two week research trip in New York and Princeton, New Jersey to access many key research materials unavailable in the UK library system. My research trip allowed me to broaden the scope of my literary investigation of the connection between the images of hands, the ‘unspeakable’ and historic memory in Toni Morrison’s fiction and non-fiction and in the visual culture of nineteenth-century America.
Historically, slaves were classified as silent ‘hands’. In Beloved (1987), Morrison explores how slavery was particularly cruel to slaves’ actual hands and mouths. These body parts also come to symbolize agency and voice and Morrison uses specific hands and mouths to explore how slavery’s destruction of the family affected African-American identity. Morrison develops images of hands and mouths into tropes to convey the characters’ and contemporary American society’s struggle to balance remembering slavery and moving on. The character Beloved, an embodiment of the past who can both embrace and strangle, satisfy and devour, epitomizes (among many things) this struggle. Finally, hands and mouths concretize the many conflicting appetites—love, violence, joy and grief— circulating within the text. My research trip helped me to examine the images of hands and mouths in nineteenth-century history, culture and visual art—the actual context of the period in which Beloved is set. This research trip was immensely beneficial to my MPhil dissertation and has set valuable groundwork for my PhD dissertation expanding this project.
I spent half of my time at The New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, New York. Here I accessed many of the sources —posters, letters, newspapers, advertising cards, sheet music, photographs, movie frames, books, artifacts and mementos— of The Black Book. This text, which Morrison helped edit early in her career as a publisher, has received comparatively little critical attention. I had contacted the staffs of the General Research and Reference Division, the Photographs and Prints Division, and the Art and Artifacts Division prior to my trip; when I appeared, various people had already taken my project on board and working here was a pleasure. I had several particularly interesting days in the Art and Artifacts Division examining the use of hands and mouths in visual art, abolition coins and other anti-slavery artifacts.
At the Schomburg Center, I also discovered the ‘Lest We Forget: The Triumph over Slavery’ traveling exhibition created by the New York Public Library in conjunction with the UNESCO Slave Route Project to mark the United Nations General Assembly’s resolution proclaiming 2004 The International Year to Commemorate the Struggle Against Slavery and Its Abolition. Both this exhibition and its companion book, Jubilee: The Emergence of African American Culture, emphasized the contemporary relevance of The Black Book. Both The Black Book and Jubilee trace many examples of explicit and implicit manipulation of African Americans’ hands and mouths in order to celebrate African- American resistance and accomplishments despite this legacy.
I moved on to spend several fruitful days in the main New York Public Library, the Columbia University Library and the Princeton University Library, respectively. I accessed seventeen sound and video recordings of Toni Morrison’s commentary on her writing, and her discussion of the connection between literature, memory and history. These interviews provided useful insight into her work and her deliberate focus on the images of hands and mouths. In these libraries I was also able to access a more complete, and up-to-date selection of secondary source material on Toni Morrison’s writing. This has helped my dissertation engage in a dialogue with a much broader spectrum of Morrison critics.
The opportunity to expand my literature dissertation to incorporate a broader American Studies approach helped me, upon my return to Cambridge, to gain admission to an interdisciplinary graduate seminar offered through the Cambridge Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities. I am most grateful to the British Association for American Studies for making this fruitful research trip possible. My two weeks researching were intense and sped by quickly. I hope that next year’s recipients have equally fascinating research experiences.
Elizabeth Rosen, University College London
Thanks to a generous short-term travel grant from BAAS and additional monies from the UCL graduate school and my department I was recently able to make a three week research trip to the Lilly Library at the University of Indiana. The Lilly Library is the repository for over 6.5 million manuscripts and 400,000 books, and includes a literature inventory to knock anyone’s socks off. The collection includes the principle archives of Upton Sinclair, Sylvia Plath, and Galway Kinnell, and papers, letters or manuscripts from Ray Carver, Nadine Gordimer, William Wordsworth, Joseph Conrad, Theodore Dreiser, Virginia Woolf, Mark Twain, Fitzgerald, Pound, Hemingway, and on and on. It was a genuine pleasure to work amongst the words of such notables.
I was there for the Kurt Vonnegut collection. Vonnegut is a native son of Indiana and has designated the Lilly Library as the repository for his papers. I’m currently working on contemporary apocalyptic fiction and Vonnegut’s novel Galapagos is the basis of a chapter in my thesis. The plot of Galapagos is heavily dependent on Darwinism, and Vonnegut’s interest in anthropology is a long-standing one. Amongst other things in its collection, the Lilly Library has the author’s travel ephemera, his university notes from anthropology classes, and his many manuscripts in their various versions.
I was interested in exploring any notes which Vonnegut might have made on his own trip to the Galapagos Islands, and even more so in looking over the kinds of anthropology classes he took at university. I wanted to review his notes for these classes to see whether they would show any particular interest in Darwin’s theory of natural selection. I was also hoping that I would find a letter which naturalist Stephen J. Gould sent to Vonnegut after the publication of Galapagos praising the novel’s evolutionary scenario. Unfortunately these were all dead ends: the only notes from Vonnegut’s trip were in the form of an introduction he’d done for a special edition of the novel; the anthropology materials were mostly syllabi and reading assignments, and in any case were for social anthropology classes rather than physical anthropology; and Gould’s letter was not among the archived correspondence (nothing post-1997 has yet been archived by the library, and I wasn’t allowed access to the un-archived materials). Unexpectedly however, Vonnegut’s Master’s Thesis, entitled “Fluctuations between Good and Ill Fortune in Simple Tales,” yielded some interesting material since it contains the author’s theories about plot and narrative structure.
And in one of those fortunate archival experiences one can have when browsing, I happened to come across two collections of letters which proved useful. The first was a long correspondence between Vonnegut and Donald M. Fiene which confirmed the existence of the Gould letter. The second was the letters of editor/writer Gordon Lish who had long relationships with authors such as Ray Carver, John Barth, John Irving, and Don DeLillo. Since DeLillo’s novel Underworld is also of interest in my work on apocalyptic fiction, I was very happy to read the correspondence between the two men, and I can report that DeLillo is even funnier in his personal letters than in his fiction. In a strange twist, these DeLillo letters yielded far more interesting nuggets than the Vonnegut collection did.
My deepest thanks to BAAS for allowing me to experience the vagaries and wonders of archival work.
The Criss Cross International Conference
Though the importance of jazz and related forms of music within African American culture, and within the broader spectrum of American culture is regularly acknowledged, its crucial role has not usually been adequately reflected in American Studies teaching or research, where literature or history tends to be the main point of entry. This is the case, even while it’s widely accepted that the musical and oral dimensions of African American culture are particularly important – if only because, given the suppression of other cultural expression and the exclusion of African Americans from literacy under slavery, music has been seen as containing and preserving the essence of African American culture, and even strategies of survival. The underlying importance of music means that it is constantly used and referred to in African American writing and painting, and in fact it could be argued that without a realization of this the reader or the viewer is often missing out on a great deal of the work’s meaning.
Aiming to demonstrate the central importance of African American music and to explore the many ways in which it inter-relates with other cultural forms we have been running a 3 year research project, Criss Cross: Confluence and Influence in 20th Century African American Music, Visual Art and Literature based around a Research Fellow, Graham Taylor, with involvement from other members of the School of American and Canadian Studies.
As the culmination of our project we held the Criss-Cross International Conference from June 18th to 20th at the University of Nottingham. We were delighted by the response to our call for papers, especially from the US, but also including Germany, Holland and Canada as well as Britain, and by the quality and range of the 39 papers which were presented over the three days. Particularly unusual, and welcome at a British conference was the high number of African American participants. Our speakers, like their topics, were diverse – a musicologist, art curator, or poet might appear with a literary or cultural critic, and the presentations offered a wonderful array of visual and musical illustrations – some performed live. As well as our main guest speakers, Robert O’Meally, Krin Gabbard, Paul Oliver, David Bailey, and Steven Tracy we had a reading from the distinguished African American poet Michael Harper, an evening concert featuring the British jazz trumpeter Byron Wallen, performing a suite in tribute to Langston Hughes, and a reception and private showing of an exhibition of the photographs of Horace Ove at the Nottingham Castle Museum.
Topics included blues and black aesthetics, jazz autobiographies and fiction, the paintings of Romare Bearden, Joe Overstreet and Jacob Lawrence, Duke Ellington, William Grant Still and the music of the Harlem Renaissance, advertising art for early blues, jazz and film noir, women and blues, minstrelsy, the poetry of Sterling Brown and Jayne Cortez, and the fiction of Morrison, Ellison, Gayl Jones and more. We intend to publish a selection of the papers.
Our project has involved not just documenting and tracing the relations between the different art forms, but exploring ways of talking about the relationships of influence and shared concerns across the art forms. This second aspect is more difficult, and our intention was that the conference would encourage participants to share interdisciplinary approaches, and discuss whether general terms like a blues or a jazz aesthetic had any real meaning or usefulness. While it’s fair to say that in this respect the conference raised more questions than there was time to answer, we hope to be able to address them in the many continuing dialogues across the Atlantic that have followed the conference, and in our subsequent publications. Our website at http://www.notttingham.ac.uk/american/research/crissscross gives more details of participants and papers, and of the Criss Cross project itself, and we would welcome hearing from anyone interested in the subject.
Elections on the Horizon: Marketing Politics to the Electorate in the USA and UK
In March the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library sponsored a one-day conference, ‘Elections on the Horizon: Marketing Politics to the Electorate in the USA and UK’. Sixteen panellists, from the UK and USA presented papers, and there were plenary presentations by Professor Gary Wasserman (Georgetown University) and Professor Bruce Newman (DePaul University). Inevitably there were a number of presentations addressing aspects of the 2004 US presidential election. Montague Kern (Rutgers University) and Dennis Johnson (George Washington University) each looked at developments in the primary and pre-primary stages of the US election season, with a particular look at the evidenced role of internet linkages from the very start of this year’s contest, while Peter Ubertaccio (Stonehouse College, Massachusetts) and Joseph Ben-Ur (University of Houston) each centred their papers on aspects of marketing the Republican Party in 2004.
Among the presenters concentrating on the UK, Dominic Wring (Loughborough University) addressed the marketing of New Labour, and Nigel Jackson (Bournemouth) looked at the contribution of electronic newsletter by UK political parties. Janine Dermody and Stuart Hanmer-Lloyd (Gloucestershire University) looked at the Labour Party’s relationship with young citizens, and Wendy Stokes (American International University, London) was concerned generally with UK political parties’ marketing to women.
Broad theoretical insights were offered by Robert Worcester (MORI/LSE) and Paul Baines Middlesex University), annd Darren Lilleker (Bournemouth University) and Ralph Negrine (Leicester University) who offered prospective models and retrospective hindsight in their analyses of political marketing. Issue marketing in the USA was introduced in papers by Conor McGrath (University of Ulster) and Kenneth Cosgrove (Suffolk University, Massachusetts), and comparative panels featured papers by Carl Stenberg (University of North Carolina) and Philip Harris (Manchester Metropolitan University) on campaign funding, and Robert Busby (Liverpool Hope College) and Barry Richards (Bournemouth University) examining marketing from the perspectives of candidates and citizens.
The conference attracted over 100 registered participants from the UK, Austria, Germany, Sweden and the USA. Almost 30 UK universities and several schools were represented, in addition to nine US universities, political parties, government, consultancy and the media. The proceedings will be published on the internet, and will shortly be accessible through the web page of the Eccles Centre (http://www.bl.uk/ecclescentre), and the authors are working towards publication in hardcopy of a selection of the papers.
Philip John Davies
“Points of Contact: The Heritages of William Carlos Williams”
Wednesday 27th – Friday 29th July 2005
Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Proposals are welcome from scholars wishing to participate in a round-table “seminar panel” to showcase their work-in-progress on topics relating to the writing of William Carlos Williams or on poets and artists influenced by him. The format of the conference will allow for participants’ papers (20-25 pages) to be circulated in advance of the meeting. At the meeting each participant will be allotted one hour within which time they will introduce their work for 10-15 minutes thus leaving ample time for questions and discussion. The meeting will take place on Thursday and Friday, with a reception and guest presentation to open proceedings on Wednesday evening. Guest speaker and respondent to the papers will be Peter Halter, Professor of American Literature, University of Lausanne, and author of The Revolution in the Visual Arts and the Poetry of William Carlos Williams (1994).
Please send a 200 word outline of your proposed topic by December 19 th 2004 to Ian Copestake at email@example.com
Following the annual BAAS conference at Manchester Metropolitan University in April a North West group of BAAS has now been established.
The first event to be held by the branch will be at the University of Manchester on Wednesday 13 October 2004 when there will be a paper delivered by a guest speaker (details to be confirmed) followed by a branch meeting and a social gathering. All BAAS members and prospective members welcome.
For further details contact:
Edge Hill College of Higher Education
St Helens Road
Lancashire L39 4QP
US Foreign Relations
The Centre for Diplomatic and International Studies at the University of Leicester will be hosting a conference on March 23-24, 2005. If anyone is interested in offering a paper either on contemporary or on post-1960 US foreign policy, please contact:
Professor John Dumbrell
Dept of Politics
Leicester LE1 7RH
Slave Trade Arts Memorial Project (STAMP) – Lancaster
Lancaster was the fourth largest slave port in Britain and around 200 voyages left the city in the eighteenth century. Between 1750 and 1790 alone Lancaster merchants were responsible for the forced transportation of approximately 24,950 Africans across the Atlantic and into slavery.
Toni Morrison said in 1989 that there was “no place you or I can go, to think about or not think about, to summon the presences of, or recollect the absences of slaves; nothing that reminds us of the ones who made the journey and of those who did not make it.” The aim of the project is to make sure that future generations have places that they can effectively remember those whose lives were blighted by the Slave Trade.
This partnership between the City Council, Museums Service, County Education Service and the campaigning group Globalink with myself as academic advisor has led to a grant from the Millenium Commission and from the Arts Council in the North-West for an art work on the quayside to commemorate the lives of those 30,000 and more slaves shipped on Lancaster slavers in the eighteenth century. The project also aims to make links to continuing issues of global inequity and poverty by highlighting issues of Fair Trade/Slave Trade. STAMP will work with a number of artists, schools and community groups to increase public awareness of the slave trade and develop a series of commemorative events and performances from 2003-2005 culminating in a permanent memorial to the Africans who were transported on board Lancaster ships, hopefully to be unveiled in April 2005 during the City’s maritime festival. Already, with the city’s Litfest, we have distributed 24,950 copies of the specially commissioned poem Lancaster Keys to schoolchildren in the County – each copy representing one of the enslaved taken in Lnacaster ships. The STAMP project was publicly launched in November 2003 during the city’s Litfest with an event that brought together the historian Melinda Elder, the poet Dorothea Smartt and the artist Lubaina Himid. The event was a significant intervention into the cultural life of the city as the participants wrestled with the need to face up to the ghosts of Lancaster’s slave past. Himid’s contribution was a finely crafted polemic which detailed the difficulty of the memorial gesture in a culture where memorials are no sooner talked about then hijacked by a variety of interest groups whose political agendas are often hidden by discourses such as taste, historical verisimultude or civic pride. Her opening question highlights the difficulty of constructing memorial spaces in such a context.
The question you should ask first is Who are monuments for? Only when this has been asked and the many questions and claims, which will arise from this first question have at least been acknowledged, can anyone begin to talk about what this monument might look like, be like, achieve or change.
The cultural historians
Himid’s interrogation of motive stands as a stark warning to memorial makers in this highly contested terrain. An artist such as herself who has designed several memorials of tremendous power and artistic merit over the last twenty years, none of which have been taken up by the former slave ports they were designed for, knows that there are still many obstacles to confront before Lancaster has a memorial that will work against its wilful forgetting. Her vision is that a significant and appropriate monument is possible despite these difficulties and that its primary need is to be able to reflect change. As she says:
The monument could be for the people of a city and its visitors to be able to learn to accept and give forgiveness. In which case it could relate to today, to the past, to the future and could work visually on several levels. There could be texts, there could be water, there could be structure, there could be movement, colour, and even growing, living things.
A monument needs to move, to move on, to help the people who engage with it to move on, it needs to be able to change with the weather, the seasons, the political climate and the visual debates of the day.
We need a memorial that conserves memory without being conservative. Such a task is daunting and humbling, but all involved in the project believe that our collective amnesia must be overcome by local gestures of remembrance (however small) that raise the collective consciousness of slavery’s ghostly presence that still haunts the British landscape.
Early in 2004, the project raised enough funding (£60,000) to enable it to move forward in its joint endeavour to hold workshops run by artists in local schools to raise awareness of Lancaster’s history of slavery and to commission an artist to design and construct a memorial on the quayside of the town outside the local Maritime Museum. We have appointed a lead artist coordinator Suandi from Black Arts Alliance in Manchester and the committee is pleased to announce the public artist for the project will be Kevin Dalton Harrison from Manchester. His powerful sculpted works have addressed issues of contemporary racism and black British history and his designs were dynamic and we are all very excited about the possibility of having the first specifically designed memorial to enslaved Africans at a British port. If you would like to keep abreast of this exciting project and to be involved or invited to the unveiling next Spring please be in touch with myself at the address below.
Dr. Alan Rice
Academic Consultant to the STAMP project
Reader in American Cultural Studies
University of Central Lancashire
Barra Foundation International Fellowships in Colonial and American History and Culture for 2005-2006
The Library Company of Philadelphia and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania each year offer two one-month fellowships to support research in residence in their collections by foreign national scholars of early American history and culture living outside the United States. The fellowships are funded by the Barra Foundation, Inc.
These two independent research libraries, adjacent to each other in Center City Philadelphia, have complementary collections capable of supporting research in a variety of fields and disciplines relating to the history of America and the Atlantic world from the 17th through the 19th centuries, as well as Mid-Atlantic regional history to the present.
The Library Company, founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1731, was the largest public library in America until the latter part of the 19th century, and contains printed materials relating to every aspect of American culture and society in that period. It holds over half a million rare books and graphics, including the nation’s second largest collection of pre-1801 American imprints and one of the largest collections of 18th-century British books in America. A catalog of its rare books and graphics is available at www.librarycompany.org.
The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, now enriched by the holdings of the Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies, holds more than 18 million personal, organizational, and business manuscripts, as well 500,000 printed items and 300,000 graphic images concerning national and regional political, social, and family history. The Balch collections have added rich documentation of the ethnic and immigrant experience in the United States. A catalog of its library is available at www.hsp.org.
Together the two institutions form one of the most comprehensive sources in the nation for the study of colonial and U.S. history and culture. The Historical Society’s strength in manuscripts complements the Library Company’s strength in printed materials. The Library Company’s collections reflect the whole range of early American print culture, including books, pamphlets, and magazines from all parts of the country, as well as books imported from Britain and the Continent. The Historical Society’s archives richly document the social, cultural, and economic history of a region central to many aspects of the nation’s development. The Balch Institute collections bring the HSP new strength in documenting ethnic and immigrant history, with significant holdings of ethnic newspapers, records of benevolent societies and other local and national ethnic organizations, and personal papers of prominent leaders in ethnic and immigrant communities. Both collections are strong in local newspapers and printed ephemera; the print and photograph collections of both libraries are rich in images of the Philadelphia region and graphics by local artists. The two libraries combined have extraordinary strength in the history of women and African-Americans, popular literature, business and banking, popular medicine, philanthropy and reform, education, natural sciences, technology, art, architecture, German Americana, American Judaica, and a host of other subjects.
The stipend is $2,000,plus an allowance for travel expenses. Fellowships are tenable for one month at any time from June 2005 to May 2006. They support both post-doctoral and dissertation research. The project proposal should demonstrate that the Library Company and the Historical Society have primary sources central to the research topic. Candidates are encouraged to inquire about the appropriateness of a proposed topic before applying. The Library Company’s newly renovated Cassatt House fellows’ residence offers rooms at reasonable rates, along with a kitchen, common room, and offices with internet access, available to resident and non-resident fellows at all hours.
Deadline for receipt of applications is March 1, 2005 with a decision to be made by April 15. To apply send a brief résumé, a two- to four-page description of the proposed research, and a letter of reference to: James Green, Library Company, 1314 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107. For more information, telephone (215) 546-3181, fax (215) 546-5167, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or go to www.librarycompany.org.
Rethinking Pedagogical Models for E-Learning
‘Rethinking Pedagogical Models for E-Learning,’ is a major new research venture based at the University of Sheffield and funded by the LTSN Subject Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies. The project explores the methodological and pedagogical implications of the developments of new technologies, focusing in particular on existing forms of e-learning. A literature review considering forms of e-learning and American Studies is currently being compiled. Could anyone with information or suggestions on any form of e-learning used in
conjunction with American Studies, for example, virtual learning classrooms, discussion boards and distance learning, please contact Anne-Marie Evans at A.Evans@sheffield.ac.uk.
Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library 2005-06 Research Fellowship Program
Residential fellowships available for scholars pursuing topics in American history and art, decorative arts, material culture, and design. NEH senior scholar grants, Lois F. McNeil dissertation grants, and short-term grants will be awarded, with stipends of $1500 to $3333 per month.
Application deadline January 15, 2005. Visit www.winterthur.org, contact email@example.com, or write to Gretchen Buggeln, Director, Research Fellowship Program, Winterthur Museum, Winterthur, DE 19735.
Richard J. Carwardine Wins 14th Annual Lincoln Prize
Historian Richard J. Carwardine of Oxford University today became the first British scholar to win the Lincoln Prize, the largest award in America in American History. For his original, analytical biography, Lincoln (Pearson Education Ltd.), Carwardine will receive first prize of $30,000 and a bronze replica of Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ life-size bust, Lincoln the Man. Dr. Carwardine is Rhodes Professor of American History at Oxford.
The book melds the earliest original sources and the latest historical scholarship to present a fresh perspective on Abraham Lincoln’s political career and rhetorical achievements. The narrative portrays him as a skillful politician blessed with a strong moral foundation, whose religious convictions helped him to frame—and justify—his decision to wage the war to preserve the Union and end slavery.
The Lincoln Prize was founded and is endowed by philanthropists Richard Gilder and Lewis Lehrman. Through the institute that bears their name, Mr. Gilder and Mr. Lehrman, have amassed one of the nation’s largest private collections of American historical documents—recently placed on deposit at the New-York Historical Society. The Gilder Lehrman Institute creates and supports public and private history high schools, teacher education, curriculum development, exhibitions, and publications. Messrs. Gilder and Lehrman, together with Professor Gabor Boritt, Director of the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College, first established the prize in 1990.
“This is the biography of Lincoln the world has been waiting for,” commented Mr. Lehrman. “Richard Carwardine has drawn a powerful portrait that highlights Lincoln’s moral convictions and his political acumen, his respect for ideas and his mastery of public opinion. We are enormously pleased to honor this achievement with the 14th annual Lincoln Prize.”
Added Professor Boritt: “Not since Lord Charnwood wrote his famous study in 1916, has a Lincoln biographer from England provided so much illumination of the 16th president. Oxford don Richard Carwardine paints a fresh portrait, reminding us that the Lincoln story remains a work in progress, and that Lincoln’s influence—and his appeal to historians—and the public—has a much-deserved global prominence.”
“At the same time,” Professor Boritt continued, “the Prize recognizes the outstanding achievement, over a lifetime of research, editing, and writing, by John Y. Simon for The Grant Papers. Professor Simon’s devotion and expertise have created an indispensable resource for this and future generations.”
A three-member historians’ jury recommended the winners of the 2004 Lincoln Prize after examining 146 submissions this year: William J. Cooper, Jr. of Louisiana State University, Chair; John F. Marszalek, recently retired from Mississippi State University; and James L. Roark of Emory University. Final selections were made by the Board of Trustees of the Prize. The jury additionally named Steven Hahn, the Nichols Professor in American History at the University of Pennsylvania, as a finalist for 2003 for his book, A Nation Under our Feet: Black Political Struggles in the Rural South from Slavery to the Great Migration (Belknap Press/Harvard University Press).
The panel noted: “Based on his own research in primary Lincoln material and a thorough immersion in pertinent secondary literature, Carwardine has provided a marvelous synthesis of Lincoln scholarship. The book will become required reading for all Lincoln scholars as well as for all students of the 1850s and the Civil War.”
Professor J.R. Pole
During BAAS’s fiftieth year at least one of our ‘founding’ members remains very active on the international scene. Professor J.R. Pole (Rhodes Professor [Emeritus], Oxford) may well be the first BAAS member to have one of his books translated into Mandarin: The Pursuit of Equality in American History (1993) will be published in Beijing early in 2005. Professor Pole is working on other projects, too. A revised version of the lecture on American Irony that he gave as a plenary at the Oxford BAAS conference in 2002 will appear in this summer’s edition of the literary magazine Raritan, and his edition of The Federalist (containing annotations on all the historical, literary and other references in the text) will be published by Hackett (Cambridge, Mass.) in November 2004.
Mira Duric, The Strategic Defence Initiative: US Policy and the Soviet Union (Aldershot, Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2003) ISBN 0754637336.
Mark Newman, The Civil Rights Movement (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2004). ISBN 0748615938.
Mark Newman, Divine Agitators: The Delta Ministry and Civil Rights in Mississippi (University of Georgia Press, 2004) ISBN 0820325260
Martin Padget, Indian Country: Travels in the American Southwest, 1840-1935 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2004) ISBN 0826330282.
Graham Thompson, The Business of America: The Cultural Production of a Post-War Nation (Pluto Press, 2004) ISBN 0745318088.
Emily West, Chains of Love: Slave Couples in Antebellum South Carolina (University of Illinois Press, 2004) ISBN 0252029038.
Emily Barker is a PhD student at the University of Essex. Her research interests are crime and detective fiction, African American poetry and fictiond, and rap and urban culture.
Sarah Bennett is a PhD student at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth where she is working on a project on the passage of treaties in the US senate.
Benjamin Bird is a PhD student at the University of Leeds where he is writing a thesis on Models of Consciousness in the Novels of Don DeLillo.
Rachel Byrd is a postgraduate at Keele University. Her main research interest is President Clinton’s foreign policy, particularly with regard to the middle east.
Carole Chapman teaches at Godalming College and has recemtly been awarded the Imperial War Museum’s Education Fellowship in Holocaust Studies for 2004-05.
Rachel Cohen is a PhD student at Brunel University.
Sally Connolly is a PhD student at University College London where she is currently writing up her thesis on A Genealogy of Poetry Elegies for Poets since 1939.
Brendan Cooper is a PhD student at the University of Cambridge and is currently conducting research into religion and theology in the poetry of John Berryman.
Jane Dailey is Assistant Professor of History at John Hopkins University with research interests in nineteenth and twentieth-century US politics, the American South and African American History
Shelby Foster is a doctoral student at the University of Exeter where he writing on the Ku Klux Klan in literature and film.
Sarah Gamble is a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh working on political subjectivity and queer masculinity in the novels of Jean Genet, the poetry of Mark Doty and the films of Gregg Araki.
Michael Gaughan is Senior Lecturer at the University of Lincoln. His research interests include modernism and modernity, postmodernism and the avant-garde, James Joyce, L.S. Vygotsky and dialogics.
Alex Houen is lecturer in Modern British and American Literature at the University of Sheffield. He recently published Terrorism and Modern Literature and is currently researching the literary avant-garde in American literature since the 1950s.
Rebecca Janicker is a postgraduate student at the University of Nottingham. Her research interests are gothic, horror and weird fiction and film, particularly H. P. Lovecraft, science fiction and fantasy.
Vassili Karali is a PhD student in the Department of History at the Univesrity of Edinburgh. She is working on a project titled Political Anglicism in the Eighteenth Century British Atlantic World.
Joseph Kennedy is a PhD student at the University of Sussex, working on the writing of national identity by F. O. Matthiessen in American Renaissance. His other interests include detective fiction and the university in English and American literature.
Richard Lock-Pullan is senior lecturer in Defence Studies at King’s College London. His primary areas of research are US foreign and defence policy, with an emphasis on military intervention policy.
Kim McNamara is a PhD student at the University of Sydney. Her research interests are popular culture, celebrity theory, urban theory, surveillance theory and film and television theory.
Nicola McClellan is a PhD student at the University of Leeds where she is working on the representation of poor whites in 1930s American texts.
Will Montgomery is a visiting lecturer at Royal Holloway and Queen Mary, University of London. His research interests are contemporary American poetry.
Catherine Nash is a PhD student at the University of Nottingham working on the impact of technology on the beat generation and in particular the work of Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs.
Rachel Owens is Head of History at Prior Park College where she teaches American history options including foreign policy 1890-1991, domestic policy in the 1920s, civil rights 1877-1980 and domestic policy 1960-1988.
Anthony Parker is Director of the School of American Studies at the University of Dundee. His research interests are Scottish/American relations, principally in the eighteenth century, and ethnicity in America.
Jo Pawlik is a PhD student at the University of Sussex researching “The Other ’68: Movements in Californian Culture in Dialogue with French Philosophy”.
Steven Pope is Senior Lecturer in American History at the University of Lincoln. His research focuses on sport and American culture, and leisure travel and motoring in the US and Britain.
Jarod Roll is a postgraduate student at Northwestern University where he is writing a dissertation on the social and political mobilisations of white and black labourers in the American South between 1890 and 1941.
Neil Schiller is a PhD student at Liverpool Hope University College. His research interests are Richard Brautigan and American counterculture fronm the Beats to the Hippies and beyond.
Adrian Smith is a PhD student at the University of Nottingham. His primary research interest is the link between authenticity, politics and folk music.
Mark Storey is an MA student at the University of Manchester where he is specialising in twentieth century American literature, particularly representations of the small town.
Siohan Tooher is an MA student at the Institute of United States Studies.
Simon Turner is a PhD student at the University of Nottingham where he is researching the cultural reception of the Vietnam War.
Tony Wagstaff is a PhD student at The University of Leicester where is working on Lyndon Johnson’s Latin American policy.
T. C. Wales is a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh. His research interests are Anglo-American intelligence history, Cold War history and Anglo-American Diplomatic History.
Sue Walsh is lecturer in English, American and Children’s literature at the University of Reading. Her particular areas of interest in American Studies are ideas of nature and constructions of the child and the animal in American literature.
Jeffrey Weinberg is a Legislative Attorney, Associate Professorial Lecturer at George Washington University and lecturer at the Catholic University of America. His research interests are the presidency, congress and legislation.
Russell White teaches American Studies at King Alfred’s College, Winchester. His research interests lie in African American popular culture.
BAAS Membership of Committees
The Association is administered by an elected committee (see below), including three officers:
Professor Simon Newman, Chair, Director, American Studies, Modern History, 2 University Gardens, Glasgow University, Glasgow G12 8QQ
Tel: 0141 330 3585
Fax: 0141 330 5000
Dr. Nick Selby,* Treasurer, Department of English Literature, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ
Tel: 0141 330 8596
Fax: 0141 330 4601
Dr Heidi Macpherson, Secretary, Department of Humanities, Fylde 42, University of Central Lancashire, Preston, PR1 2HE
Tel: 01772 893039
Fax: 01772 892924
Executive Commitee (after 2004 AGM)
In addition to these three officers, the current committee line up of BAAS is:
Ms Kathryn Cooper, (Co-opted), Development Subcommittee, Loreto 6th Form College, Chicester Road, Manchester, M15 5PB
Tel: 0161 226 5156
Fax: 0161 227 9174
Dr. Jude Davies, School of Cultural Studies, King Alfred’s College, Winchester, SO22 4NR
Tel: 01962 827363
Ms Clare Elliott,* Postgraduate Representative, Department of English Literature, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ
Professor Jay Kleinberg, (Ex-Officio), Editor, Journal of American Studies, School of International Studies, Brunel University, Kingston Lane, Uxbridge, Middlesex, UB8 3PH
Tel: 0181 891 0121
Fax: 0181 891 8306
Dr Sarah MacLachlan, Department of English, Manchester Metropolitan University, Geoffrey Manton Building, Off Rosamond Street, Manchester, M15 6LL
Tel: 0161 247 1755
Fax: 0161 247 6345
Ms. Catherine Morley, School of Humanities, Oxford Brookes University, Gipsy Lane Campus, Headington, OX3 OBP
Dr. Martin Padget, Department of English, University of Wales, Aberystwyth SY23 3DY
Tel: 01970 621948
Fax: 01970 622530
Mr Ian Ralston, (Ex-Officio), Chair, Library & Resouces Subcommittee, American Studies Centre, Aldham Robarts Centre, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool L3 5UZ
Tel: 0151 231 3241
Fax: 0151 231 3241
Dr Ian Scott, Department of English and American Studies, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9PL
Tel: 0161 275 3059
Fax: 0161 275 3256
Ms Carol Smith,* School of Cultural Studies, King Alfred’s College, Winchester SO22 4NR
Tel: 0196 282 7370
Dr. Peter Thompson, St. Cross College, St Giles, Oxford, OX1 3LZ
Tel: 01865 278498
Dr Graham Thompson,* School of American & Canadian Studies, University of Nottingham, University Park, Nottingham, NG7 2RD
Tel: 0115 9514269
Dr Jenel Virden,* Representative to EAAS, Department of American Studies, University of Hull, Hull HU6 7RX
Tel: 01482 465638/303
Fax: 01482 466107
Professor Tim Woods, Department of English, Hugh Owen Building, Penglais, University of Wales, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, Wales, SY23 3DY
Tel: 01970 622535
Fax: 01970 622530
[* indicates this person not eligible for re-election to this position. All co-optations must be reviewed annually]
BAAS Sub-Committee Members
Dr Ian Scott (Chair)
Dr. Jude Davies
Ms Clare Elliott
Ms. Catherine Morley
Professor Simon Newman
Dr. Peter Thompson
Dr Iain Wallace
Ms Carol Smith (Chair)
Ms Kathryn Cooper
Professor Jay Kleinberg
Dr Heidi Macpherson
Professor Ken Morgan
Dr Graham Thompson
Dr Jenel Virden
Professor Tim Woods (Chair)
Dr Sarah MacLachlan
Dr. Sarah Meer
Dr. Martin Padget
Dr. Nick Selby
Libraries and Resources:
Mr Ian Ralston (Chair)
Dr Kevin HalliwellArchive