The Prizes Sub-Committee is delighted to announce that it has awarded two bursaries for attendance at the annual Postgraduate Symposium.


The bursaries have been awarded to Jennifer Gouck (independent scholar) for her paper, “‘Welcome to Your Tape’: Union and Disunion in Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why,” and to Annette Skade (DCU) for her paper “Clive’s Song by Anne Carson: Pushing the Limits.” The Prizes Sub-Committee and everyone at the IAAS would like to extend their sincere congratulations to the winners.


The 2017 IAAS Postgraduate Symposium is hosted by the Trinity Long Room Hub in Trinity College Dublin, on 25th November. This is an annual event designed to foster and promote the work currently being undertaken in American Studies by postgraduate students and early-career scholars, throughout Ireland and beyond.


For information on the range of other bursaries and prizes on offer from the IAAS, please see our Funding Opportunities page.

The Prizes Subcommittee of the IAAS is delighted to announce the winner of this year’s WTM Riches Essay Prize. Colin Wheatley of the School of English, Drama and Film at University College Dublin has been selected as the overall winner for his essay entitled “Detecting Ethnicity: Lieutenant Columbo’s Hunt for Italian Heritage in ‘Any Old Port in a Storm’.”

The Subcommittee also awarded Honorable Mentions to Cait Neylon (Gender, Sexuality, and Culture, UCD) for her essay “The Alterity of Cuteness in Two Contemporary US Sitcoms” and Freyja Simone Quigley (School of Languages, Literature and Culture, UCC) for her essay on “Pat Mora and Poetic Curanderisma: Recovering Chicanisma through Poetry.”

The WTM Riches Essay Prize is awarded annually for outstanding work in any area of American Studies by undergraduate students and students in the first year of postgraduate studies. More information, including past winners, can be found here.

General Call for Papers

For the general section of its eleventh issue, aspeers seeks outstanding
academic writing demonstrating the excellence of graduate scholarship,
the range of concerns scrutinized in the field of American studies, and
the diversity of perspectives employed. We thus explicitly invite
revised versions of term papers or chapters from theses written by
students of European Master (and equivalent) programs. For this section,
there are no topical limitations. Contributions should be up to 7,500
words (including abstract and list of works cited). The submission
deadline is October 15, 2017.

Topical Call for Papers on “Alternative Americas”

From ‘flyover country’ to ‘coastal liberals,’ from the ‘American
heartland’ to ‘urban elites’–the 2016 presidential election engendered
numerous debates about where the allegedly ‘real’ America lies. Beyond
displaying political divisiveness, each invocation stylizes a vision of
the United States that stands as an alternative to the presumed
political and cultural mainstream, each locates ‘real’ America in a
different place, and each constitutes an attempt at making alternative
voices heard–from Americans who feel un- or misrepresented by
politicians or neglected by the media, thus trying to reassert
themselves into the public sphere.

‘Alternative’ visions of America and of what it means to be American,
often cast as competing with or as polar opposites to a perceived
mainstream, loom large throughout US culture and history. Whether their
fault lines are drawn between rural and urban, conservative and
progressive, or young and old, at their core, they form interventions
into the status quo: voicing dissent, spotlighting difference and
otherness, making the invisible seen and representing the previously
unrepresented, criticizing assumed norms, or unearthing forgotten points
of view. Implicitly or explicitly, such alternative configurations also
highlight the constructedness of the ‘mainstream’ they position
themselves against.

For its eleventh issue, aspeers thus dedicates its topical section to
“Alternative Americas” and invites European graduate students to
critically and analytically explore American literature, (popular)
culture, society, history, and politics through the lens of alternative
visions of the US. We welcome papers from all fields, methodologies, and
approaches comprising American studies as well as inter- and
transdisciplinary submissions, ranging from economy and political
science to history, media studies, literary and cultural studies, and
beyond. Potential paper topics could cover (but are not limited to):

* Expressions of counterculture, specific subcultures, or other
counter-voices to what is considered (the political) mainstream (e.g.,
the hippie, Beat, Occupy Wall Street, Tea Party, or alt-right movements)

* Literary and filmic representations of alternatives, e.g., in fantasy
and science fiction, (post)apocalyptic narratives, utopias and
dystopias, alternate history, or conspiracy fictions

* Spotlights on the US beyond the mainland, towards its ‘alternate’
fringes–the border zones of the US with other countries, inter-American
relations, etc.

* Anti-normative and alternative social constructions, e.g., alternative
religions or family constellations

* Camp, queerness, and other concepts questioning the ‘norm’ or the

* Notions of fact and fiction in journalism and politics (e.g.,
‘alternative facts’ and fake news)

* Deconstructions/’revisions’ of traditional mainstream genres in
various media (music, literature, TV, etc.)

aspeers, the first and currently only graduate-level peer-reviewed
journal of European American studies, encourages fellow MA students from
all fields to reflect on the diverse meanings of “Alternative
Americas.” We welcome term papers, excerpts from theses, or papers
specifically written for the eleventh issue of aspeers by October 15,
2017. If you are seeking to publish work beyond this topic, please refer
to our general Call for Papers.

Please consult our submission guidelines
and find some additional tips at<>.
Alternative Americas |<>

LIT-TV: A Two-Day Symposium Exploring Contemporary US Television and “the Literary”

Organisers: Dr Arin Keeble (Edinburgh Napier) and Dr Sam Thomas (Durham).

Keynote: Professor Stephen Shapiro (Warwick University)

We are seeking proposals for a symposium to be hosted by the School of Arts and Creative Industries at Edinburgh Napier University on May 5-6, 2018.

Contemporary US television is frequently conceived of, promoted and analysed as “literary”. Following the game-changing impact of The Sopranos (1999-2007), The Wire (2002-2008) can potentially be identified as a paradigm case here: it was originally pitched to HBO as a “novel” for television; it has been famously compared to the serial works of Dickens; it has received enthusiastic endorsements from writers such as Junot Díaz and Zadie Smith; its creator David Simon has been suggested by some commentators as a worthy recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature; it has been studied and taught in university English Departments.

Beyond The Wire, there are examples from across the genre spectrum of an intriguing, multifaceted interplay between screen and page. Cult favourite Justified (2010-2015) is deeply rooted in the distinctive prose of Elmore Leonard and pays tribute to the creator of its principle characters in reverential yet playful ways. Sons of Anarchy (2007-2013) fuses extreme pulp violence and melodrama with the narrative frame of Hamlet. Shows as diverse as Breaking Bad (2008-2013), True Detective (2014-) and Orange is the New Black (2013-) feature strategic allusions to all manner of literary texts. A recent spate of productions, including The Man in the High Castle (2015-), American Gods (2017-) and The Handmaid’s Tale (2017), are based on influential novels — inspiring much discussion about the new possibilities for literary adaptation and even, in the case of the latter, acts of political protest.

Tied to profound changes in the production and reception of television, these series demonstrate a range of entrenched associations with literary culture. The relationship between television and the literary is also a crucial factor in recent debates about prestige, canonicity and contemporary value systems. With these points in mind, critics such as Greg Metcalf have gone so far as to assert that television now has the capacity “to create what we think of as literature” (The DVD Novel, 2012).

Cutting against this, however, is a wave of scholarship that focusses on how such programmes might resist and/or diverge from the literary tag, often by embellishing narrative possibilities that are unique to television. In Complex TV (2015), for instance, Jason Mittell argues that “such cross-media comparisons obscure rather than reveal the specificities of television’s storytelling form”. In ‘Breaking Bad’ and Dignity (2015), Elliot Logan claims that the celebrated series challenges the way in which the “literary” is held up as an ideal for television to aspire to.

In many respects, the analysis of contemporary US television therefore speaks to a rich cultural history that encompasses both cross-pollination and opposition, while at the same time opening up compelling questions about present and future relationships between narrative media.

Ultimately, the two-day symposium seeks to contribute to emerging scholarship on the nature and value of televisual storytelling vis-à-vis the literary. Plans are also underway for a special issue of a high quality refereed journal, based on selected and expanded papers from the conference.

We invite proposals for 20 minute papers addressing (but not limited to) the following areas:

  • Parallels, converges and (dis)connections between literary and televisual narrative form
  • Seriality
  • Literary sources / adaptation / allusion
  • The relationship between televisual and literary genres (crime, dystopia, the gothic, social realism, and so on)
  • The relationship between televisual and literary places / regions
  • Television and literary heritage / tradition
  • Theoretical paradigms for (re)thinking the relationship between television and the literary
  • Value / cultural capital / canonicity
  • The legitimacy of ‘literary tv’ as a concept in culture and criticism

Please send abstracts to by December 1, 2017


When I reviewed Mark Twain and Youth, edited by Kevin MacDonnell and Kent Rasmussen, for the Irish Journal of American Studies I never anticipated that it would lead to an invitation from those editors to attend their quadrennial conference on the  “State of Mark Twain Studies: The Assault of Laughter”, August 3-5 2017. Attendance at this conference was, in truth, a privilege. As one speaker stated, for anyone who has written on the work of Mark Twain, or used Twain’s writing to support their own argument, this conference “was like being in a room filled with your bibliography”. Recent Twain scholars and those analysing his work for decades descended upon Elmira College this past August and proved that Twain is as relevant in the 21st century as he was in the 19th. As the conference title suggests Twain and laughter predominated at the many parallel seminars. However, in a manner similar to Twain’s own work, the humour tended to reflect the U.S. political world, and this idea seemed paramount to most of the significant discussions that weekend. Comparisons between Twain’s challenging argument during the Spanish-American War (1898), Philippine–American War (1899-1902) and the present-day volatile situation were noticeably at the root of many presentations. While the session “Twain, Politics, and the Power(lessness)of Satire” was of direct interest to me, nearly all the panels had a section addressing the present-day U. S. political agenda.

While Twain’s political voice is the one I most often listen for, I was invited to Elmira to discuss any connections the iconic American writer may have had with Ireland. To that end I had done some research on possible links between the author and the place, and found an intriguing lead which I shared with the editors of The Mark Twain Journal. Their very positive response to my proposal leads me to hope that they will look favourably on my article when I submit it for their next edition. While at the conference I had the opportunity to access Elmira College library, complete with their extensive Mark Twain Archives. I also visited Mark Twain’s Study which has been relocated to Elmira College from its original location near Quarry Farm. Quarry Farm, Twain’s summer home where the author wrote much of his important work, was the location of the festivities on the final evening of the conference.  While we were at the farm the conference organisers suggested that I promote their “Quarry Farm Fellowships” to scholars working on Mark Twain related research in both Ireland and Europe. These fellowships allow for a unique academic opportunity. They provide the scholar with the ability to visit and work in an appropriate and most stimulating atmosphere, one which allows the researcher to benefit greatly from both the archival richness available at Elmira College and the motivating atmosphere offered at Quarry Farm. For further information on the application process visit:

Although Twain was, and still is, particularly noted for his humour, there were many humourists during his lifetime who have not remained in the public consciousness. Twain, it would appear from the papers presented, remains such an important figure to twenty-first century American scholars because his wit and commentary was primarily focused on American politics and policy. I had the good fortune to meet and discuss this premise with retired U.S. Ambassador, Donald Bliss, author of Mark Twain’s Tale of Today. Bliss’s forbearers were Mark Twain’s publishers and this is where his original interest in the author began, however, his experience in Washington politics made Twain’s voice resonate for him during his long career. This combination made his work on Twain of great interest to me. Bliss’s presentation at Elmira offered a candid attempt to employ Twain’s commentary to help explain the Trump presidency. Bliss spoke with me later and took a great interest in my own work on Post-9/11 American literature. He encouraged me to apply Mark Twain’s philosophy to my own area of interest and present it at the next conference to be held at the “Mark Twain Boyhood Home” in Hannibal Missouri in 2019. His invitation was seconded by the Executive Director of that project, Henry Sweets.

Overall, my experience at the Elmira Conference was one of the most positive of my time as a researcher. I networked and became familiar with many people in both academia and publishing whom I feel confident would be happy to connect with me again, and more than happy to engage with other IAAS scholars. Personally, it has motivated me to rethink my approach to American novelists and how they engage with U.S. politics in their writing. It has also prompted me to consider restructuring my previous work for publication in-light of the recent changes in the political atmosphere in the United States. I want to express my gratitude to the Irish Association for American Studies for their generous bursary and to the Irish Journal of American Studies for publishing my review of Mark Twain and Youth, a small piece of work that made this great trip possible.

“Surveillance, Race, Culture”

Panel Proposal

We are seeking papers from academics interested in taking part in a panel on “surveillance, race, culture” at the joint British Association of American Studies/European Association of American Studies Conference in April (4th – 7th) 2018.

In keeping with the conference theme of ‘Environment, Place and Protest’, the issue of surveillling identity seems to be paramount. Recent movements such as Cop Watch; events in the Middle East and Syria (drones, the ‘war on terror’); and our increasing reliance upon personal technology, all point to an era of multiple gazes. In such an environment, our place appears to be firmly rooted within view of the camera eye. Our place (and therefore, our identity) is therefore often determined as binary signifiers: either submissive or dominant, powerful or powerless. The effect of the camera eye is therefore two-fold – to create identity (as watched) and to refuse identity (as an individual) – as such, our place within such an environment gives rise to protest, rebellion and the desire for freedom. This panel seeks to investigate the manner in which our daily lives are interconnected with these technologies, and how these interconnections are shored up across the humanities. This panel brings together papers which question our relationship with surveillance technologies and expose the ways in which cultural narratives of race are constructed by the act of being watched. Offering multidisciplinary readings of surveillance, this panel demonstrates how culture is intertwined with race relations, and in doing so, how these are bound to surveillance technologies.

If you are interested in presenting a 20-minute paper, please send a 250 word abstract and short biography to Dr Antonia Mackay ( and Dr Susan Flynn ( by 25th of September.


The Center for Mark Twain Studies offers nine Quarry Farm fellowships for 2018 to any scholar working in the field of Mark Twain Studies at any career stage, giving Fellows the opportunity to work on academic or creative projects at Quarry Farm, the family home of Twain’s sister- and brother-in-law, Susan and Theodore Crane. Reflecting the mission of the Center for Mark Twain Studies, Quarry Farm Fellowships foster and support scholarship and creative works related to Mark Twain, including, but not limited to, his literature, life, family, associations, influences, reception, and significance. The fellowship selection process aims to assist scholars and artists in producing work of highest distinction and cultivate a diverse community of scholars across backgrounds, specializations, and ranks.

Applications for 2018 Fellowships will be accepted until November 30th, 2018. For more detailed information about eligibility and the application process click here.

Congratulations from everyone at the Irish Association for American Studies to Dr Clair Sheehan, from the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Limerick. Clair has just been awarded the IAAS Early-Career Travel, Research, and Conference Bursary, to support her recent trip to Elmira College in New York, where she attended the Eighth International Conference on the State of Mark Twain Studies: “The Assault of Laughter” as part of her research for a forthcoming article entitled “Innocents Abroad–Mark Twain Studies in Ireland.” Dr Sheehan also took the opportunity to visit the archives and library at Elmira College and Quarry Farm. The IAAS is delighted to have been able to support her on this very worthwhile and fruitful trip to the US.

As part of the Manchester University Press series, Contemporary American and Canadian Writers, this volume will chart recent and emerging critical opinion on the celebrated author, Marilynne Robinson. Having issued an earlier call for papers, the editors now seek proposals that specifically address the following areas: 

  • Robinson and her contemporaries;
  • Robinson’s nonfiction writing;
  • Robinson and race;
  • Robinson’s role as a public intellectual;
  • Literary review culture, prize giving, and the production of “literary” fiction via the Iowa Writers’ Workshop;
  • Robinson’s engagement with history, particularly the ongoing relevance of the American Civil War, Reconstruction, and/or Civil Rights Movement to her work;
  • Robinson and US intellectual history.


Please email abstracts of no more than 300 words with your institutional affiliation and brief bio (c. 250 words) to no later than 15th September 2017 All chapters will be subject to a blind peer review process and full details and submission guidelines will be provided to contributors on acceptance of proposals. Any queries should be sent to the editors at

“The one test of the really weird is simply this—whether or not there be excited in the reader a profound sense of dread, and of contact with unknown spheres and powers.” 
—H.P. Lovecraft, “Supernatural Horror in Literature” (1927)

“This whole world’s wild at heart and weird on top.”
—David Lynch, Wild at Heart (1990)

For H.P. Lovecraft, the weird conveys “a subtle attitude of awed listening, as if for the beating of black wings or the scratching of outside shapes and entities on the known universe’s utmost rim.” Taking its cue from Lovecraft’s enduringly influential conceptualization, this conference examines and broadens the notion of weirdness towards an ecology and geography of the weird as a new field of theoretical and practical resonances. What we call The American Weird comprises not only an aesthetics evoked by literary practices or films from the genres of the gothic or horror, but also by other forms of cultural expression, such as music, sculpture, photography, and performance art. The conference theme also aims to address new theoretical perspectives on humanity’s relation to the world, perspectives that have recently been proposed by what might be called the “new demonologists” (e.g. Graham Harman, Eugene Thacker, and others).

Against the backdrop of new ontologies and epistemologies of the weird, the following questions will form the conceptual backbone of The American Weird: What are the ecologies and geographies of the weird today, and how are they conceived, perceived, and reworked? Which strands of contemporary critical theory and philosophy have engaged in a dialogue with the discourses of and on the weird, and what is specifically “American” in The American Weird? If weirdness is more than a mere index of parody and/or subversion, how might one conceive of a politics or an ethics of the weird?

These and related questions on The American Weird will be explored in a three-day conference at the University of Göttingen. Possible topics, which can come from different genres, historical periods, and/or media include, but are not restricted to:

–    American literature from Charles Brockden Brown and Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories to the authors of “the new weird,” like Jeff VanderMeer, China Miéville, and Thomas Ligotti. What are the aspects and intricacies of the literary evolution of the weird in America? What is specifically American about this evolution? What has changed in weird literature since the publication of Lovecraft’s essay on “Supernatural Horror in Literature,” on both a poetic and political level?
–    the sculptural work of artists such as Lydia Benglis, Louise Bourgeois, Charles Ray, and others. How does this type of artistic practice negotiate normativities and weirdness? How do the materials, size, and content matter of their art contribute to the way they subvert viewing habits and expectations?
–    the music of The American Weird,  from the musical instruments of Harry Partch, via artists like Tom Waits or Mike Patton, all the way to the tunes of Joanna Newsom and the “New Weird America” or “Freak Folk” movement, and the protagonists of so-called “outsider music” such as Daniel Johnston or Wesley Willis. What exactly is necessary to make music weird or “outsider”? Is it the actual music, the self-presentation of the artists, their perception (or lack thereof), their non-affiliation with the industry?
–    the photography of Diane Arbus, Cindy Sherman, and others. What are the liminal spaces that open up between the camera’s alleged “reality effect” and evocations of weird America and its “freaks”? How does Sherman challenge notions like subjectivity and objectivity and what effects and affects are contained in her “vomit pictures”?
–    the eco art, land art, or bio art of Robert Smithson, Joe Davis, and others. How do these practices expand the notion of what counts as art, where it begins and ends? What and where are the locales in which it takes place, grows, and decays? Does the participation of plants or bacteria in a dynamic artwork redistribute agencies in the process of creating art and constitute a truly hybrid mode of being beyond the nature-culture divide?
–    the filmic visions of Tod Browning, David Lynch, David Cronenberg, and others, as well as recent TV-series that resonate with the aesthetics of the weird, such as True Detective, The Walking Dead, and Stranger Things. How to film the weird? Is there a moving image of American weirdness?
–     the comics and graphic novels of Robert Crumb, Charles Burns, Daniel Clowes, and others. How to picture The American Weird in separate panels and what is specific about this kind of narrating weirdness?
–    the different theoretical approaches which assess the cultural productions of The American Weird, from subcultural discourses to contemporary materialism, ecocriticism, and realism. What is the function of the weird as a concept vis-à-vis notions of the uncanny, the grotesque, the abject, and the carnivalesque? What are the milieus, theories, histories, and practices of The American Weird?

We invite scholars of American studies and related fields such as cultural studies, film and media studies, comparative literature, art history, and philosophy to submit a short abstract (approx. 300 words) and a short bio-statement by August 15, 2017 to the conference organizers Julius Greve ( and Florian Zappe (

The conference will take place from April 12-14, 2018 at the University of Göttingen and is organized by the North American Section of the English Department in cooperation with the Institute for English and American Studies of the University of Oldenburg.