The theme of the 15th annual conference of the European Society for Textual Studies, held in November in Prague, was “Editor as Author; Author as Editor”. Since my research focuses on the work of literary editors, the conference featured high on my wish list for 2018 – and with the help of an ECR Bursary from the IAAS, I was fortunate enough to get there.

The main purpose of my visit was to talk about (or, as I like to say in funding applications, “disseminate”) my research. My book The Art of Editing: Raymond Carver and David Foster Wallace (forthcoming from Bloomsbury! available to preorder now!) examines two case studies of notable editorial interventions, and my presentation focused on the first of these. In Gordon Lish’s infamously severe revisions of Carver’s stories, the editor’s unusually heavy hand makes him, in the opinion of some critics, a “co-author” of sorts. I presented some examples of these edits, ultimately arguing that Lish’s role remains an editorial one; the phrase “co-author”, I believe, suggests a kind of collaborative dynamic and vaguely distributed agency that doesn’t accurately reflect the conflict visible in the manuscripts.

The conference offered a wonderful opportunity to speak with scholars with a similar interest in editorial theory and practice. My co-panellists were Elisa Veit, who discussed the blurring of authorial and editorial lines in editions of work by the Finnish/Swedish novelist Henry Parland, and Hans Walter Gabler (a pretty noted editor himself, most famously of the 1984 edition of Ulysses), who spoke about the theoretical problems involved in fulfilling an author’s intention in the Anglo-American tradition of “eclectic editing.” I saw a range of presentations that probed the border of author- and editorship. These included: Wim van Mierlo, who spoke about the limits of authorship, considering how collaborations like those of Eliot and Pound challenge assumptions of solitary creation; Susan Greenberg, whose new book A Poetics of Editing brings a much-needed overview of the practice of editing across multiple domains and calls for the establishment of “Editing Studies” as a distinct field; and Dariusz Pachocki, who spoke about censorship in Polish magazines of the post-war era such as Kultura and detailed how their editors wielded a degree of gatekeeping influence comparable to that of US editors.

One of the attractions of the conference, in fact, had been the range of papers focusing on American writers and editors. Bruce I. Weiner, for example, discussed Edgar Allan Poe’s editorial role at Graham’s magazine and Poe’s conceptualisation of editorial work in his “Chapter on Autography.” Gabler’s presentation explored the decisions made in editions of Stephen Crane’s novels; elsewhere, Jude Davies analysed editorial decisions made in editions of Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie, examining the development of the editorial dynamic in the era of the “social text.” American literary history is full of examples of contested texts, editorial skirmishes, and posthumous editions, and I was able to learn about several case studies that I had been only dimly aware of. Overall, the visit was an enjoyable and generative one, enabling the kind of interdisciplinary thought and conversation only possible in a conference setting.

Finally, it seems appropriate to add a word on the nature of (and necessity for) this award. The IAAS’s Early Career Bursary is a recent creation, devised to address the grim realities of contemporary post-PhD employment. Conditions for early career researchers are, to borrow a phrase favoured by the 45th US president, “not good”. Today’s early career researcher (or, if you like, “precarious researcher”; I’ve seen the former phrase criticised for its ageist connotations and the way it risks avoiding/normalising the enormous problem of casualisation in universities) is required to absorb many of the institutional hassles facing all 21st-century academics – the bureaucracy, the out-of-hours unpaid administrative work, the astonishingly intricate funding applications – often while maintaining the teeth-grinding financial anxiety of a PhD student and enjoying an even lower level of job security than a current White House staff member.

These days the institutional structures providing a pathway from PhD to full employment seem creaky to say to the least, and actively hostile to anyone without a good helping of luck and privilege. Until these structures are reformed, bursaries such as this one will be not only helpful but very necessary in supporting research by academics without permanent employment. I thank the IAAS Prizes Subcommittee for their generosity.


Tim is currently a Lecturer/Assistant Professor in American Literature at the School of English, Drama and Film, University College Dublin, Ireland. His new book, The Art of Editing, is available to preorder from Bloomsbury now.

2018 EBAAS CONFERENCE, KING’S COLLEGE LONDON, UK, 4th–7th of April, 2018


The months of March and April turned out to be a very busy but truly inspiring time for me. I had just returned from academic conference travels to Indianapolis, stopped over in Dublin for a night to catch up with jet lag, and then boarded the plane to London to speak at the 32nd European Association for American Studies and 63rd British Association for American Studies Conference.

The events of this year’s conference took place at Kings College London, the British Library and University College London, and offered a great variety of presentations, talks, round table discussions and networking opportunities. Indeed, the conference provided a platform and many intriguing occasions to engage in stimulating conversations with international scholars and listen to the latest developments in American Studies research across Europe and the world.

It was difficult to choose which events to attend from the program because of the exceptional diversity of available panels. On Wednesday, I attended panel A7 on ‘Constructing Antebellum Race and Gender’ which was aligned closely with my own research. Lawrence McDonnell from Iowa State University discussed ‘The Hanging of Pauline, a Bad Slave’; Iulian Cananau from the University of Gävle presented a remarkable paper on womanhood and citizenship entitled ‘A Conceptual-Historicist Approach to Antebellum Women’s Literature of Protest’ and Shane White from the University of Sydney delivered a captivating talk entitled ‘A Crossdresser and Con Artist in Antebellum New York’. During the afternoon, I had to do some panel-hopping because the times of several talks I was adamant on seeing clashed. Thus, I first went to see Panel B6 about Anti-Slavery Networks, enjoying a paper by Thomas Mareite from Leiden University about ‘Conditional Freedom: US Fugitive Slaves in Mexican Texas, 1821-1836’ and by Charlotte James from the University of Nottingham, who spoke about ‘“Heroic Souls”: The Memory of Tubman, Truth and black female abolitionists’. Second, I sat in on Panel B13 about the ‘peculiar institution’. Elizabeth Barnes from the University of Reading kicked the panel off with her talk about ‘Environments of Abuse: the Farm, the Plantation, and Sexual Violence under Slavery’. A thought-provoking second presentation was given by Matthew Griffin from University College London about ‘The Climatic Theory of Slavery and the Wilmot Proviso Controversy’. Lastly, Edward Mair from the University of Hull presented his talk about ‘The Impact of Hostile Environments on the Parameters of Slavery: The Seminoles and Florida, 1780-1822’. The panel-hopping continued into the evening Parallel Session C as I attended the lively Panel C7 with discussion about how the US South has changed American politics since 1968, and an invigorating Panel C8, debating the role of radicalism, protest and patriotism at the turn of the 20th century. The last highlight of the day was the keynote by Bettye Collier-Thomas from Temple University entitled “From King to Trump: The Enduring Legacy of White Supremacy for American Democracy”—a very current and personal exploration of recent and not-so-recent events and developments in the US.

On Thursday and Friday I was faced with the same difficult decision to choose from an excellent range of papers. I decided to join Panel D8 which shared new perspectives on protest and resistance during the Civil Rights Movement. Next, I participated in an energetic debate about ‘Intersection of Women, Place and Protest’. Panelists shared their research ‘Chisholm ‘68: Black Protest and Left-Liberal Politics’ (Anastasia Curwood, University of Kentucky), Transatlantic Feminist Reform Networks in the Mid-20th Century’ (Ann Schofield, University of Kansas) and ‘African American Women and Washington, DC as a Site of Protest’ (Kim Warren, University of Southern Denmark). This second day of full-time conferencing concluded with a keynote by Jo Gill from the University of Exeter. In UCL’s Logan Hall, she gave a passionate talk about American poetry in the Jet Age.

I also had the opportunity to participate in a panel myself as part of a round table discussion on Friday about ‘American Studies in Europe: The Experience of Postgraduate Students and Early Career Researchers’. While I have attended many different conferences since I enrolled in college in 2005, I have long pursued events that encourage and focus on networking and exchange between postgraduate students and early career researchers in the field of American studies in Europe. I was especially interested in contributing to this event because I have been a student in a German, an American and now an Irish university environment, progressing from BA to PhD. This enabled me to offer comments on challenges and best practices in the different universities and departments and to share my own experience. Together with Francesca Razzi, Natalia Kovalyova, Kostantinos D. Karatzas, Marta Duro, and Aleksandra Kamińska, I discussed the current situation of American Studies in European member states and what we can do to improve communication and collaboration among ECR and PhD students in American Studies across Europe. Our chairs, Lorenzo Costaguta of the AISNA Graduate Forum and Katerina Webb-Bourne from King’s College London and PG Representative BAAS, guided the discussion and a lively and very interested audience participated actively in the round table. We also collected a long list of fellow researchers who are interested in future collaborations, and established a Slack group for European American Studies ECR and PhD students, free for anyone who is interested to join. Moreover, we were joined by Philip McGowan, senior lecturer in American literature at QUB, who, as President of the EAAS, had an open ear for all our concerns and was ready to support us wherever he could. In addition to our panel, ECR and PhD students also had the opportunity to enjoy each other’s company and share ideas at the PG social events on Wednesday evening and the BAAS and EAAS joint Postgraduate Lunch on Friday right after our round table.

My participation at EBAAS conference not only helped me establish dialogue with interdisciplinary and international researchers and attend talks and discussions about my PhD research as well (e.g. ‘Prisons, Protest Culture, and Radical Politics’, ‘Black Protest and American Studies’, ‘Questioning Blacks’ Existence in America’, ‘Using Runaway Slave Advertisements to Teach Slavery’, ‘African American Memory and Place’ and the others I mentioned above), it also allowed me to disseminate my research with diverse group of international scholars. Moreover, it allowed me to share my experience as a woman in academia. I attended the Women in American Studies Network (WASN) and EAAS Women’s Network Joint Lunch during which we discussed the upcoming conference the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece in 2019, and other issues concerning a closer collaboration between female researchers in European member states to increase the visibility of women and gender in academia.

The EBAAS conference thus allowed me to participate in the current scholarly conversation in the field of American Studies by offering new perspectives and my own experience in studying North American literature and film in Europe in the last 13 years as well as receiving feedback, inspiration and motivation to develop my overall research as well as my PhD project, and serve to establish and strengthen my academic network.

For all of these opportunities, and so much more, I am grateful to the IAAS. Without the financial support of the travel bursary I was awarded and their generosity, it would not have been possible for me to attend these two truly thought-provoking conferences, the PCA/ACA conference in Indianapolis and the EBAAS conference in London.


Caroline Schroeter is a final year PhD candidate and recipient of the UCC PhD Excellency Scholarship. Her upcoming publications include “From Griffith to Parker: Constructing race and the history of the US South” (Kentucky UP, 2018). She is the Editor-in-Chief for Aigne Journal and an Editor for Alphaville.


PCA/ACA CONFERENCE, INDIANAPOLIS, IN, USA – 28th of March – 1st of April, 2018

This year, I had the fortune of receiving funding from the IAAS to attend two major events in my field of study: the PCA/ACA Conference in Indianapolis and the EBAAS Conference in London. The months of March and April thus turned out to be a very busy but truly inspiring time for me. I had just returned from academic research travels in mainland Europe when I boarded a plane for Indianapolis. There, I attended and spoke at the 2018 Pop Culture Association and American Culture Association Conference in the J.W. Marriott Hotel on the 28th – 31st of March.

With hundreds of panel presentations, roundtables, special sessions, film screenings, local tours, keynote speaker events and special awards ceremonies to choose from, and thousands of people attending, it was of course tough to make decisions about which talks to attend. Each of the many subject areas of the association represents one aspect of popular culture and was chaired by an expert in the field so there was something for everyone. As outlining and summarizing all the panels I attended during my week in Indy would go beyond the scope of this report, I want to highlight a variety of particularly salient panels and events.

On Wednesday, the conference kicked off early for me with an entire day devoted to American literature, culture and film. Our chair, Dr. Corey Taylor, Associate Professor at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute in Indiana, guided us through a seven-panel journey from Sex and Protest in Early American Literature to Modernist Reconsiderations, African American Intertextuality, African American Literature and Current Events, Reimagined Bodies, Consumerism, Labor, and Gender to Crises of Identity and Language.

The second panel, “American Literature: African-American Intertextuality”, was my time to shine. First up, before MaryLynn Saul spoke about “Man of Two Faces: Hybridity and Liminality in Sympathizer and Invisible Man”, Laura Elaine Thorp’s talk about “A black charred body on the black, charred ground: The Treatment of Black Male Bodies in ‘Going to Meet the Man’ and ‘Get Out’” and Christopher Mullin paper on “The Multifaceted Role of Silence in Toni Morrison’s Beloved and Sherman Alexie’s Reservation Blues Cody”, I presented my paper entitled “The Same Old Story? Shifts in Representations of African Americans in Slave Narratives, Neo-Slave Narratives and Cinematic Slave Narratives”.

My paper was a cross-generic exploration of the shifting representation of African Americans through the last three centuries and followed the development of the form from historical manuscripts to fictional retellings to cinematic iterations. More specifically, my analysis expanded Henry L. Gates Jr.’s concept of Signifyin(g), which I combined with elements of adaptation theory and intertextuality. Intermedial/intertextual variations of slave narratives reveal the reconfiguration of different elements in different media, demonstrating the self-reflexive nature and persistent relevance of the slave narrative as commemoration of the black experience and commentary on slavery and its present-day legacy.

The talk further incorporated American literature and films, offering rich multi-layered visual imaginings of the slave narrative, which have yet to be fully examined, new perspectives on how cinematic slave narratives developed over the last 100 years, and insights into how they influence society. My discussion of Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation (2016), specifically, marked an original extension of existing research in American Studies. Moreover, the research for this talk provided an opportunity to test the value of Signifyin(g) as a model to analyze and critique African-American film. My analysis revealed that Parker’s film can be seen as a continuation of the Signifyin(g) tradition and demonstrates the self-reflexive nature and persistent relevance of the slave narrative as commemoration of the black experience and commentary on slavery and its present-day legacy. Thus, I established a new understanding of Parker’s work—as well as of the intertexts upon which he signifies—as a locus for corrective ideological expression and as a new rhetorical and experiential space. Moreover, I showed how it constitutes a powerful discursive system to invite the re-evaluation and application of Gates’ theory of Signifyin(g) to film. I demonstrated how Parker breaks with Gates’ Signifyin(g) exclusively on black texts, and showed how, instead, Parker is Signifyin(g) on and revising black and white narratives. I revealed how the film connects the deep undercurrent of racism in America’s past to the pervasive effects of institutionalized racism today.

After a full schedule of American literature and film, as a “First Time Attendee” (everyone received an attachment to their name badge signaling whether they were newcomers or long-time attendees), I soaked up every possible social event and opportunity as well. Among them, the “Grand Reception/Student Mixer and Welcome For Everyone Event.” I was able to make valuable new connections and discuss my research with international scholars from fields across all the represented academic disciplines who met in Indy to share and explore the world together.

While I attended a variety of panels from different fields, as a researcher in African-American Studies, it was of special interest to me to attend all the panels dedicated to African-American culture, literature and film. Since my research explores the representation of the African-American slave experience, including the representation of slavery, gender and identity on screen, I joined the panel track in this field on Thursday. With Dr. Elgie Sherrod, Associate Professor at Virginia Common Wealth University, as an outstanding and inspiring chair, I spent all of Thursday attending sessions on “Sanctifying Home”, “From Hip-Hop Neo-Slave Narratives to Hooping for Justice, Past, Present & Future”, “Queering Masculinity in African American Culture and Representation of Black Men”, “Body Image Politics: Disrupting oppressive representations of Black Women and Girls” and “Survival Songs: African American Music Remixed and Repurposed”. Together with an excellent group of dedicated researchers, I discussed my own work in the context of the tragic events and racial tensions that have begun to characterize our times. These talks included deconstructing and reflecting on police brutality and discrimination of minorities in the US, voter Suppression (J. Rozema), the policing of African culture and communities, accountability, James Baldwin’s work and ‘The Technology of the Self ‘ (Tyrone Simpson), ‘The “Other” American Life: African-American Media Gaze (Chih-Ping Chen), ‘Queering Masculinity in African American Culture, American Cinema and Television’ (David Mood), Blaxploitation films (D’Ondre Swails), African-American stereotypes, black identities, the representation of the body and black women, Beyoncé (Aquila Campbell) and so much more. Apart from excellent scholarship, what inspired me most was the atmosphere and passion of these scholars and their willingness to engage, share and open up dialogue about such difficult topics as, among numerous others, the shootings of black teenagers. Thursday was truly a different conference experience and a day that ended with lots of hugs and the continuation of conversations we had all day over wine and food.

On Thursday evening, the conference team had arranged for me to meet with my mentor Michael Mardsen, former Dean of the College of Arts and Science, at Northern Michigan University and former Academic Vice President, and his wife Mary. The PCA/ACA’s mentor program is a brilliant idea, as participants are very compassionate and encouraging. New presenters and attendees like myself were paired with more seasoned veterans like Michael to help make my experience at the conference more fruitful, productive and enjoyable. For me, as a mentee, the program provided me with the opportunity to network and provided a friendly face throughout my time in Indy. After dinner, we attended this year’s keynote together, which was less academic but incredibly entertaining: Paula Poundstone, one of America’s best-known contemporary comedians, authors, actors, special correspondents and commentators. With her famous sharpness, observational humor, criticism of society and culture and her spontaneous interaction with the audience, she poked fun at academia and academics, interweaving the dialogue with her routine featuring anti-Trump sentiments and a discussion of life in our fast-paced world.

On Friday, after another full day of conferencing, I met again with my mentor and his wife to visit the Eiteljorg Museum’s “Reel West Exhibit”. We joined a tour of the new exhibition as the conference coincided with the opening of the exhibition of the Hollywood West—only one of the many activities organized for the attendees by the PCA/ACA conference team.

This conference was indeed an excellent opportunity for me to publicly reflect upon the work of eminent scholars in my field, while ensuring that my own research establishes its place in this field. My participation at PCA/ACA thus helped me establish dialogue with interdisciplinary and international researchers in the US, meet new colleagues and expand my international network. The feedback I received has encouraged me to engage in further critical reflection on and development of my PhD project.

My sincere thanks and appreciation go to the IAAS for their financial support which enabled me to attend this truly thought-provoking conference.



Caroline Schroeter is a final year PhD candidate and recipient of the UCC PhD Excellency Scholarship. Her upcoming publications include “From Griffith to Parker: Constructing race and the history of the US South” (Kentucky UP, 2018). She is the Editor-in-Chief for Aigne Journal and an Editor for Alphaville.


EBAAS 2018 was a hugely anticipated event for scholars of Americana. With events at Kings College London, the British Library, and University College London, the 2018 conference had four action packed days of round tables, panel talks, networking lunches, receptions drinks, and even a theatre show. EBAAS is the largest opportunity in Europe this year to listen to cutting edge research specific to your own interests and engage with scholarship in the wider field. It also provided the space and time to meet other scholars and enjoy the facilities of the host institution’s city. It was, therefore, a great pleasure to receive an IAAS Bursary towards my attendance at the conference and it gave a welcome boost of confidence before setting off to the busy capital.

I am originally from the UK but I still get a shock of surprise and awe when standing before the bustling bridges spanning the Thames River. King’s College London was the central site for much of EBAAS. The venue was perfectly situated for visiting scholars, with easy transport routes and accommodation. With a brief walk, attendees could enjoy the river promenade that leads straight to the Tate Modern, the Globe Theatre, and the Borough Market. At the University the friendly registration crew were quickly on hand to provide all the paraphernalia of the day, including lanyards, tote-bags, and EBAAS refillable drinks bottles. They were also very good at giving directions. The Eccles Centre had provided a printed copy of Gary Gerstle’s plenary lecture, given at EAAS in 2016, as an added bonus. A conference App, including times and details of talks, provided an easy paper-free programme that allowed a personal timetable selection across the day.

With up to twelve consecutive panels on at a single time, EBAAS offered a little something for everyone. The sign of a good panel is one which sticks in the mind and for me this was ‘A Woman’s Place is in the Resistance’, with three postgraduate speakers – Maria Elena Carpintero Torres-Quevedo, Niki Holzapfel, and Vicki Madden. Their papers traversed the topics of recovery narratives, women’s newspaper writing, and multiple personality disorder in fiction, with interesting discussion in the question and answers section that looked at the intersections of their work. Nicola Holzapfel’s paper on stunt journalist Nellie Bly is of interest in my own research and gave insightful consideration of how Bly’s self-mythologizing disrupted the burden of predefined female identity. The plenary talk, ‘As Seen From Above: American Poetry in the Jet Age’, by Professor Jo Gill was excellent. She offered an engaging, easily accessible, and new reading of poetry by John Updike, Georgia O’Keefe and Carl Sandburg, among others. In the subsequent reception drinks at the British Library, a number of people commented on Gill’s talk and we were all equally enthralled by Updike’s poetry which many, myself included, were unaware of.

The roundtable I participated in considered Wharton’s under-studied 1907 novel and was entitled ‘Edith Wharton’s Protest Novel? Rethinking The Fruit of the Tree’. The book deals with issues of industrial reform, euthanasia, and the social identities of the New Woman and New Workingman. The work has received a mixed reception among reviewers and scholars. It was a pleasure to be asked by fellow postgraduate Anna Girling to be part of the roundtable. We met ‘digitally’ after both appearing on Episode 3 of the Modernist Podcast early in 2017. The panel brought together the eminent Wharton scholars Dr Donna Campbell, Dr Laura Rattray and Dr Stephanie Palmer, and panel chair Dr Michael Collins. The ten minute papers each posed interesting questions about Wharton’s negotiation of industrial reform and her incorporation of contemporary social debates. Dr Campbell looked at the comparative intertextual sources between Wharton and Jack London’s Iron Heel, and Dr Palmer considered gender identities and the industrial novel. Dr Rattray talked about Wharton’s recently discovered 1901 play ‘The Shadow of a Doubt’ and how Wharton repurposed the storyline of euthanasia in her later novel. Anna Girling looked at forms of cultural inheritance and wealth in the novel, and my own paper traced contemporary sources that provoke a form of gendered social reading. After the papers, there was a lively discussion of the novel with audience members during which the subjects of melodrama, literary heritage, and the progress of Wharton as a writer were examined. The roundtable was an ideal format to debate a novel which remains perplexing and unwieldy. The ability to talk alongside and discuss Wharton with such engaging and knowledgeable scholars has been invaluable. My thanks and appreciation goes to IAAS for their financial support in this wonderful opportunity.


– Gaby Fletcher is a PhD candidate at NUI Galway

Thanks to the financial support and generosity of the IAAS, I had the privilege of travelling to this year’s EBAAS conference in King’s College London – the largest UK-based conference of its kind to date. As a PhD student and early-career scholar with budding Americanist aspirations, being able to attend the conference with IAAS support proved an invaluable opportunity for me to contextualise my own research interests (concerning the cultural politics of William Carlos Williams, and other mid-century American poets) and to gain an insight into the diverse and stimulating field that is American Studies today. Certainly, the conference programme reflected the remarkable range and depth of research being conducted by scholars of the Americas (mainly on this side of the Atlantic divide); indeed, with over a dozen parallel panels per discussion slot, and 3-5 such slots per day, one of the happy challenges facing conference participants like myself was that of having to choose between panels of easily equal interest and promise – “Filmic Framings of Environmental Space” vying with “American Literary Naturalism and Social Protest” for the attention of at least this movie-buff-cum-poetry-addict with an ecological bent…

Suffice it to say, then, that more than one tough decision had to be made as the conference took its course! Highlights of the discussions I did attend and enjoy, however, included: a politically exhilarating and historically illuminating discussion of “Prisons, Protest Culture & Radical Politics”, a sobering examination of American culture in the nuclear age (which of course continues to this day), an engaged appreciation of “Identity as Protest in US Women’s Writing”, as well as a trail-blazing survey of “American Poetry in the Jet Age” by plenary speaker Professor Jo Gill,  whose survey made the hardly obvious, but nonetheless culturally revealing links between ​Better Homes and Gardens,Carl Sandburg, Georgia O’Keefe, Elizabeth Bishop, and John Updike effortlessly apparent. Attending these and other talks – which, once again, was enabled by my being awarded an IAAS bursary – was a pleasure and privilege.

I also had the opportunity to present a paper of my own, as part of a panel concerning “Illness and the Environment in American Literature and Cinema”, chaired by Dr. Pascale Antolin. My presentation examined the relationship between the natural environment and ideas of artistic production in both Jim Jarmusch’s film Paterson (2016) and the book-length poem of the same name by William Carlos Williams, with a particular focus on the contrasting imaginations of the Passaic river’s Great Falls presented in each work. While Jarmusch’s film is often cited by scholars and enthusiasts as a means of reminding readers of the contemporaneity and resonance of Williams’s poem in the 21st century, I attempted to show how, when viewed through a social, eco-critical, and comparative lens, Williams’s poem in fact emerges as the more historically probing and politically pertinent of the two works. I argued moreover that the distinguishing environmental ethics of Williams’s poem is directly linked to his medical training and outlook. As a PhD student still acclimatising to the regimen of conference presentations and research papers, being able to present these arguments and discuss them with fellow scholars was of immense benefit to me, and indeed has helped me to clarify some of the contexts and emphases of my PhD thesis (which examines Williams’s poetry as a whole). For this, and much besides, I am grateful to the IAAS and its committee members; without the travel bursary I was awarded, my attendance and participation would not have been possible.


Ciarán O’Rourke is a Ph.D student at Trinity College Dublin

During the course of my doctoral studies, which focused on a systematic comparison of mid-nineteenth-century American planters and Irish landlords, I became increasingly impressed by the importance of the many transnational connections between the two agrarian elites and their contexts. Perhaps the most notable of these connections were those that stemmed from mass migration from Ireland to the United States. In the half century before the American Civil War (1861-65) over two million Irish emigrants settled in the U.S. The exodus of these people had a dramatic effect on both their home and host countries. In Ireland, dislocated by the effects of economic depression and famines, emigration from rural districts helped to facilitate the widespread reorganisation of agriculture. In America, since Irish immigrants settled mostly in the urban centres of the U.S. Northeast and Midwest, their influx affected the balance of power between the ‘free  North’ and the ‘slave South,’ thereby exacerbating the antebellum sectional crisis that led to the secession crisis, the creation of the Confederacy, and the Civil War. My postdoctoral research project explores these developments in transnational perspective, thereby demonstrating historical connections between the causes of Irish emigration and the origins of the American Civil War.

In January 2018, in order to develop this project, I travelled to Washington, D.C., with the aid of an IAAS Early Career Travel, Research, and Conference Bursary. My two week trip included participation in the American Historical Association’s annual conference and subsequent research at the Library of Congress. At the AHA meeting, I delivered a paper that provided an overview of my research to date, arguing in particular that Irish immigration became increasingly worrisome to Southern planters during the course of the antebellum period, fuelling their paranoia about the long-term security of slavery within the United States and encouraging the rise of Southern nationalism. This paper was part of a panel I organised, titled “Race, Class, and Nation Building in the Euro-American World: Connections and Comparisons Between the United States, Ireland, Southern Italy and Russia, 1815-1900.” Chaired by Professor Peter Kolchin (University of Delaware), the panel also included Professor Enrico Dal Lago (NUI Galway) and Dr. Amanda Brickell Bellows (New York Historical Society), whose papers respectively explored similarities and differences between specific aspects of American, Italian, and Russian history. Professor Andrew Zimmerman (George Washington University) provided comments. As a whole, the panel demonstrated that the transnational connections that are the focus of my current research are part of a much wider constellation of parallels, contrasts, and links between nineteenth-century America and Europe, which have recently begun to be systematically explored by scholars and which should continue to provide fruitful ground for historical research for decades to come. The feedback that I received on my ideas was both constructive and stimulating. Additionally, attendance at the AHA allowed me to attend many panels on subjects related to my own and to converse with scholars working on complimentary issues or using similar methodologies and sources.

After the AHA conference concluded, I spent the remainder of my trip conducting primary research at the Library of Congress. One of my main aims was to find out more about antebellum Irish immigrants’ evolving attitudes toward the South’s ‘peculiar institution.’ To do so, I looked especially at many Irish American newspapers spanning from the early nineteenth century to the late antebellum period. These included the Shamrock, the Exile, the Irish American, and the Irish News. While the views on slavery articulated in these organs were heterogeneous, they provide clear evidence that the subject became increasingly central to not only the U.S. national conversation, but also to Irish American discourse as the antebellum period advanced. To compliment my interest in Irish American views of Southern slavery I also spent time in the Library of Congress investigating antebellum Southern slaveholders’ attitudes toward Irish immigration. As such, I examined the letters and diaries of several prominent planters, and I also read through a selection of Southern newspapers. While more research on this subject is necessary, it was apparent from the sources I consulted that the fact the free states were attracting more immigrants than the South was a serious concern to many planters in the decades before the Civil War.

Together, attendance at the AHA conference and research at the Library of Congress have provided me with new ideas, contacts, and sources, while also stimulating my desire to pursue promising new avenues of research. Ultimately, I hope that this project will lead to articles in suitable peer-reviewed scholarly journals on Irish immigrants’ relationship with Southern slavery and transnational connections between developments in Ireland and the antebellum U.S. sectional crisis. In turn, these articles will contribute to a monograph that will examine similarities, differences, and connections between American slavery and Irish landlordism. By helping to facilitate my recent trip to Washington, D.C., the IAAS Early Career Travel, Research, and Conference Bursary has aided with a step toward these goals.


Dr Cathal Smith is based in the History Department at NUI Galway

Annette Skade was the recipient of one our IAAS bursaries to assist with attendance at the postgraduate symposium.


As a researcher into allusion in the poetry of Anne Carson, the scope of my PhD naturally extends beyond the boundaries of the School of English, flowing into all areas of the Humanities, and so the IAAS Postgraduate Conference was of particular interest to me.  The IAAS Call for Papers for the Postgraduate Symposium “A More Perfect Union” had also grabbed my attention by posing the question “What is the state of this “more perfect Union” today? This was a Call For Papers very much for our times and called to mind Carson’s poem “Clive’s Song” which had appeared in The New Yorker early in 2017. I wrote the paper as a response to the call and the wide brief and time constraints allowed me to do one of the things I enjoy most: a close reading of a piece of poetry.

It was also a chance for me to read a paper before my post-graduate peers which was invaluable to me at this early stage of my PhD. I had given a paper in the DCU School of Humanities seminar series in September, and was due to give another at a The Politics of Space and the Humanities Conference  in Greece in December. The opportunity to speak at the IAAS symposium between these two events was a great help to me- a lesson in controlling my nerves and honing my skills in a more familiar environment before my first full Conference.

The day started with Sarah McCreedy’s thought-provoking paper on Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and continued to fascinate, giving me insights into American History, Literature, Film and Politics. Some papers, such as Shane Morrisy’s which responded  to “the Visual rhetoric of the WPA Posters” were of interest because they tied in with aspects of my own research,  others revealed  the political chicanery underlying American Politics in the twentieth century and at the present time. William O’Neill’s paper “Backyard Alliances: An examination of the US foreign policy relationship with El Salvador during the civil war 1977-1992, and the impact of migration to the US”  was a particularly pertinent examination of that period and context, while bringing us right up to date by showing the same rhetoric at play in the Trump era. Many of the concerns of this paper were also touched on in Anne Carson’s poem, which was the subject of my paper. Just one example of how academic boundaries are blurred at Symposiums such as this.

Of course, the conversations between papers as well as those at the Symposium dinner were an important part of the day and added greatly to my enjoyment of it. I was pleased to meet other postgraduates and academics working in the field of American Studies throughout Ireland.

I would like to thank the organisers of the conference, James Hussey and Sarah Cullen, for doing such a great job, Ciaran O’Rourke, who chaired my panel so well, and  the IAAS Committee for awarding me a bursary to attend. I look forward to the IAAS conference in April.

Annette Skade



As a blossoming researcher occupying the void between MA graduation and the beginnings of a PhD, I was particularly grateful to be the recipient of this year’s IAAS Conference Bursary, which allowed me to present my research at the 2017 IAAS Postgraduate Symposium, held in the Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute on 25th November. I would like to extend my thanks to the Prizes Sub-Committee for awarding me this bursary of €50 towards my travel costs.

Bright and early on the cold morning of Saturday 25th November, choice of caffeine in hand, the Early Career Researchers and Postgraduates attending this year’s Symposium, “A More Perfect Union?” convened. After some opening remarks from the organising committee, the first panel, “The Public Life of Post-Truth” got underway with an opening paper from Sarah McCreedy (UCC) discussing naturalistic false consciousness in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. With The Road bringing back fond memories of my undergraduate degree at QUB, I was fascinated to hear Sarah’s new, exciting take on what is arguably McCarthy’s most recognisable – if not quotable – novel. Okay? Okay.

The morning’s second panel, chaired by Jennifer Daly, examined the state of health in the union, with Matthew O’Brien (UCD) and James Doran (UCD Clinton Institute) both forwarding new frameworks within which to understand the muddied waters of healthcare in the USA, the former examining the Chicago Black Panther Party and Health Care and the latter exploring presidents, their rhetoric, and health care policy. Particularly interesting was Matthew’s claim that the mistreatment of poor, black patients indicated that medical attention was for “wealth not health”– a mantra which sounds frustratingly familiar in Trump’s America.

Rounding off the morning’s panels was “Imperfect Union in Postmodern Society,” with Rebecca Murray (UCC), Anne Mahler (UCC), and Eva Burke (TCD) all presenting papers. A personal highlight of this panel was Anne’s paper, which focused on the Columbine Perpetrators and literary constructions of the hypermasculine school shooter. Taking Todd Strasser’s Young Adult novel Give a Boy a Gun (2002) as a starting point, Anne read this epistolary tale through the lens of R.W. Connell’s theories on hegemonic masculinity to put forward the idea that, in the high school setting, the masculinity celebrated is that of physical dominance. She also noted the fusion of hypermasculine entities through co-operative nature of the planned Columbine shooting – a fragile union. With my primary research interests lying in contemporary American YA fiction, as well as the representation of gender, masculinity, and femininity in those texts, Anne’s paper sparked new ways of thinking about my own work – thank you!

After a leisurely lunch, kindly provided by the committee, came my own panel, “Trauma on Screen,” chaired by Dara Downey. Here I presented alongside two UCC scholars: Sean Travers and Caroline Schroeter. Sean, whose work I always look forward to hearing, gave a paper entitled “’You’re not alone’: Trauma, Communal Healing and America in Contemporary Science Fiction,” focusing on the notions of metanarrative and the ‘flashes between’ two narratives in Netflix series Sense8. Caroline’s interesting paper on representing African Americans in cinematic slave narratives gave particular precedence to the ways in which trauma often confounds these kinds of narratives.

Finally, as the nerves almost became too much, it was time for my own paper. Entitled “’Welcome to your tape’: Union and Disunion in Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why,” this paper used the work of scholars such as Jason Mittell and Roberta Seelinger Trites to explore the various strands of union and disunion woven throughout Thirteen Reasons Why, both in its literary and televisual forms. In particular, I addressed the united front formed by the other recipients of Hannah Baker’s tapes. All the while, protagonist Clay actively resists this union, instead forming a complex, problematic one with Hannah. My paper examined the ways in which these unions highlight and intersect with issues of power, and also considered the role that the blurring of temporality and perspective plays. Finally, I asked how we can situate Thirteen Reasons culturally, particularly in the wake of its mixed critical and online receptions. The Q&A session after the panel was particularly helpful, allowing me to draw interesting parallels between the other two panellist’s work and my own, particularly in regard to the notion of duality upon which all three papers seemed to draw.

The last panel of the day, “Man on Stage: Masculinity and Performance,” was also of great interest (and help!) to my own research. Ciaran Leinster (University of Seville), Natalia Kovalyova (UCD Clinton Institute), and Catherine Casey (UCD) all provided interesting means of reading and understanding (hyper)masculinity in America, with Catherine’s paper offering readings of Trump through traditional theories of (American) masculinity, from the ‘self-made man’, to the ‘man’s man’, and beyond.

And with that, equally excited, inspired, and depressed, the symposium came to a close. We then retired to the upper level of the Long Room Hub for the presentation of the WTM Riches Essay Prize, some conference bursaries, and some well-earned drinks and nibbles.

I would once again like to extend my thanks to the IAAS for awarding me this bursary, as well as to Sarah Cullen and James Hussey for organising such a wonderfully successful symposium.

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.

Sarah McCreedy (UCC) was the recipient of an IAAS bursary to attend and present at this year’s annual conference of the British Association for American Studies, held at Canterbury Christ Church University in April.

As a first year PhD student struggling to make ends meet, I was extremely grateful to receive a bursary from the IAAS which allowed me to present a paper, entitled ‘‘Rethinking decisions they’d already made’: New naturalism and Neoliberal identity in ZZ Packer’s Drinking Coffee Elsewhere’, at the BAAS annual conference. I would like to extend my thanks to the committee who reviewed my application, as the comments were helpful and constructive, and particularly valuable considering the early stage of my research. This year, the conference was held on a pleasantly sunny campus at Canterbury Christ Church University, from the 6th-8th April.

Conference registration included free entry to Canterbury Cathedral

On Thursday afternoon, a panel on American history and culture in cinema and video games attested to the increasingly interdisciplinary nature of American studies. Esther Wright (University of Warwick) delivered a fascinating paper on L.A. Noire (2011) and Red Dead Redemption (2010), video games produced by Rockstar Games, and set in the unique contexts of 1940’s Los Angeles and the declining American frontier in 1911, respectively. Esther persuasively argued that these games were more representative of film than reality. American cinema, rather than American history, was promoted as a mark of authenticity to the target audience. The first day was rounded off with a wine reception sponsored by the upcoming joint conference of the EAAS and BAAS, (EBAAS) to be held in London between KCL, UCL and the British Library in 2018.

On Friday, it was nice to see a familiar face in IAAS Secretary Jenny Daly, presenting on Jonathan Franzen in a fascinating panel on ‘Troubled and Troubling Masculinities in the 21st Century’, where cult classic Freaks and Geeks (1999-2000) was also discussed. Although I was apprehensive to present on the final day, the interesting discussion following this panel, surrounding white male privilege, the complexity of suffering and justified victimhood, added some perspective to ideas I had been grappling with regarding my own paper.

Commencing bright and early on Saturday morning, my own panel, ‘Gender, Race and Religious Difference in the Short Story’ included a paper from Anna Girling (University of Edinburgh), addressing casuistry and anti-Catholicism in Edith Wharton’s early career. Anna argued that in ‘That Good May Come’ (1894), Wharton refuses to offer moral guidance, consequently placing the reader as a protestant parishioner. The House of Mirth (1905) introduced me to my PhD topic, American literary naturalism, so I was interested to consider this new perspective on Wharton’s earlier works. Stefania Ciocia, a reader on her home turf, concluded the panel with an engaging paper on Junot Diaz and Julia Alvarez’s short story cycles. The parallels in the three papers were surprisingly striking: in addressing narrative construction and how intentionally cohesive short story collections are, as well as more broadly, in considering the complex issue of determinism. In the discussion following, our chair Jenny Terry from Durham University asked me how consciously naturalistic and intertextually relevant ZZ Packer’s Drinking Coffee Elsewhere (2003) is. With other authors I explore in my thesis, which examines naturalism’s resurgence in the 21st century, the connection is more overt. Cormac McCarthy, who famously stated that ‘books are made out of other books’, invokes naturalist Jack London in The Road (2006), for example. But this conversation gave me a lot of new insight to go back to the drawing board with.

Having only ever studied on the island of Ireland, previously at Queen’s University Belfast and presently at University College Cork, it was exciting to meet new people working in American Studies from the U.K. and further afield. Conference participation offers a sense of community in an often isolating process, as well as an opportunity to discuss research in an accessible way that promotes further understanding. I left the conference feeling enthused and inspired, and I would like to reiterate my thanks to the IAAS for this productive and enjoyable experience.