Friday 27 November 2009

BAAS 2010: Provisional Programme

We are very happy to announce that the provisional programme for the British Association for American Studies Conference, April 8-11 2010 is now available here. Whilst still subject to change, it gives a tantalising introduction to next year's events.

A reminder: you can download the registration form for the conference here. Looking forward to seeing you all in 2010!

Wednesday 25 November 2009

News: Thanksgiving 2009

It's our third Thanksgiving at Containing Multitudes - so give thanks for our giant Thanksgiving link round up:
  • Our pick of the links: NPR offers up an enormous Thanksgiving playlist, streaming for your enjoyment; it also comes up trumps with this item about holiday desserts from times past.
  • At the Seattle PI Reader Blogs, Robert Gold begins "America after the Glory? [...] a series that accords with the original intent of the Pilgrims and subsequent Presidential Proclaimers of The Holiday. To give thanks, to enjoy and relax . . . but also to ponder the present and assess the future"; Rita Robison, on the other hand, suggests "Ideas for a fun, unique Thanksgiving Day"
  • The Wall Street Journal's Numbers Guy breaks down "Thanksgiving Myths"
  • Two views of family life around the holidays: Tara Parker-Pope examines "Food, Kin and Tension at Thanksgiving" in the New York Times; for Salon, Garrison Keiller considers "the challenge of Thanksgiving -- to gather among our kin who know us a little too well and have an amiable occasion enjoyed equally by all, at which nobody is stabbed through the heart with a carving knife"
  • Holiday controversy of a different kind is provoked by the Detroit Free Press, who report that "NBC passed on airing a PETA commercial on turkey cruelty during its Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade"; meanwhile, writing for College News, Daniel Bornstein argues that "Thanksgiving is a perfect opportunity to address a core component of the recipe to fix our broken agriculture system: food justice"; and for Slate, Brendan Koerner asks "Which kind of Turkey is best for the environment?"
  • And finally, celebrities: fills you in on what the great and the good are up to this Thanksgiving; opens its poll to find the celebrity Turkey of 2009.
Any Thanksgiving celebrations planned for tomorrow? Let us know.

Monday 23 November 2009

News: Calling all AMS alumni

If you're a UEA School of American Studies alumnus then this post is especially for you. We're very pleased to announce that we've just launched the American Studies Netcommunity site - an online home for alumni and friends of the University. This is a perfect way for you to keep in touch with both us in AMS and your friends and fellow alumni. If you haven't already registered for Netcommunity then why not take a minute and do it now? You can edit your personal profile to let us know what you're up to now, or find out what your contemporaries are doing. Rest assured, we'd love to hear from you. Please spread the word.

Sunday 22 November 2009

Research Seminar: Jennifer Terry

At this week's research seminar, Jennifer Terry (Durham University), will be talking about:
‘The Sea is History’: Imagining Atlantic Passages and Littorals in Writing of the Black Diaspora.

Wednesday 25 November, A2.51, 4pm. All welcome.

Saturday 21 November 2009

News: Keep Watching the Skies

With the release of The Men Who Stare at Goats earlier this month, talk has yet again turned to those irrepressible urban myths and tall tales that surround the US military - from alien autopsies at Roswell, TX, to experiments in mind control, and the psychic super-spies of the new George Clooney movie. Jon Ronson and Mark Pilkington have compiled their all time top 5 of military conspiracy theories for the Guardian. For those of you interested in finding out more about alien close encounters right here in Norfolk, check out this link to local ET-watchers.

So have you ever had a close encounter? Why not let us know?

News: She's Back

Sarah Palin has just released her autobiography, Going Rogue: An American Life, and she's been dominating headlines all week. Her signing tour has been attracting large crowds - the National Post evokes 2008 by calling it "Palin Fever" - and she's been on Oprah, too, though was (unsurprisingly) coy about her plans for the 2012 Presidential race. Most controversial, however, was the Newsweek cover, above, which borrowed some shots that Palin had done for Runner's World. She accused them of sexism - and others, Jeffrey Goldberg at the Atlantic for example, agree. In the Guardian, Jessica Valenti also thinks it's sexist, but notes that Palin's is "a gender politics of convenience, one that insults all women in politics." At the Huffington Post, however, Andy Ostroy asks whether a comparable magazine cover of Obama is also sexist, whilst John Dickerson asserts that Palin is not the future of the Republican Party for Slate. Either way, she'll be around for a while yet.

Thursday 19 November 2009

News: For Sale - Lincoln Letter

In 1861, 8 year old George Evans Patten was taken to Springfield, Illinois by his father, journalist James Alexander Patten. There, he met the soon-to-be inaugurated Abraham Lincoln. Back at school, he boasted to his schoolmates about this encounter - but none of them believed him. In an effort to curtail their teasing, Patten's teacher wrote to the White House asking for corroboration of the meeting. Above, you can see Lincoln's response: "Whom it may concern: I did see and talk with Master George Evans Patten, last May, at Springfield, Illinois. Respectfully, A. Lincoln." This letter is now being put up for sale by the Raab Collection and according to the Guardian has been priced at $60,000 - which is pretty small beans compared to a letter written by Lincoln to a group of abolitionist school children in 1864 which sold for $3.4 million last April.

And in other nineteenth century correspondence news, Following the Equator reports that the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County is offering up seven original Mark Twain letters for perusal and download.

Tuesday 17 November 2009

News: Google Books

Since its launch in the middle of the decade, Google Books has become one of the most valuable online research tools. Offering full text searches of around 10 million books it has quickly become a vital port of call for researchers across the disciplinary range. For those working in the nineteenth century it has proven particularly valuable, offering up full editions for free download. But it has never been without controversy and Google's plans for the service have attracted lawsuits from a wide range of organisations including the Association of American Publishers, as Business Week reported in 2005.

Now, it seems that those disagreements might be at an end. As an official statement from Google makes clear, big changes are in the pipeline:
Out of print books
Until now, we've only been able to show a few snippets of text for most of the in-copyright books we've scanned through our Library Project. Since the vast majority of these books are out of print, to actually read them you'd have to hunt them down at a library or a used bookstore. This agreement will allow us to make many of these out-of print books available for preview, reading and purchase in the U.S.. Helping to ensure the ongoing accessibility of out-of-print books is one of the primary reasons we began this project in the first place, and we couldn't be happier that we and our author, library and publishing partners will now be able to protect mankind's cultural history in this manner.
Equally exciting is the suggestion that Universities will be able to "purchase institutional subscriptions", meaning that "Students and researchers will have access to an electronic library that combines the collections from many of the top universities across the country."

The catch? This service is only going to be rolled out in the United States - for now. Which is unfortunate. And as the BBC reports, complications remain. Elsewhere, the Times considers who might win and who might lose from this deal, and asks a reader and a writer for their responses. Hurry up, future. In the meantime, it's still an important research tool.

Friday 13 November 2009

News: Careers

Some careers news that you should all be aware of. First, AMS now has its own Careers Blackboard site which is full of useful information about what you can do with your degree and how best to display your skills to potential employers. It's also regularly updated with news of potentially interesting placements, jobs and opportunities to develop your skills. Worth checking out.

Also new is the CV Builder - a tool providing space to chronicle your activities and skills developed from academic work, employment and leisure time. There's a template to get you started - no time like the present!

Thursday 12 November 2009

BAAS 2010: Registration Open

We're happy to announce that registration is open for the British Association for American Studies Conference 2010. You can find the registration form here. We'll be making some exciting announcements about the conference soon.

News: Veterans Day

Joseph Kinney with his Purple Heart in hospital, Da Nang, Vietnam.

The Armistice Day commemorations won’t have escaped your attention this week. Over in the USA they have been holding their own annual commemorations – on Veterans Day (which, incidentally, is a public holiday). You can get a nice insight into American culture, particularly the esteem in which the military as an institution is held in public life, by checking out a collection of photographs and stories from the wars of the 20th century up to the present day, hosted by the New York Times.

Monday 9 November 2009

Research Seminar: A Regular Black: The Hidden Wuthering Heights

A reminder that this week's research seminar has different format and venue. The School of American Studies is very pleased to be hosting the screening of A Regular Black: The Hidden Wuthering Heights, a film by BBC Arena director Adam Low and producer Martin Rosenbaum, whose recent films for Arena include the The Strange Luck of V.S. Naipaul, The Hunt for Moby-Dick, T.S. Eliot and Calling Hedy Lamarr.

The screening should last about 25 minutes and will be followed by a discussion session with the film's creators.

Wednesday 11th November, Lecture Theatre 4, 4pm - all very welcome so please spread the word.

Thursday 5 November 2009

News: Sesame Street at 40

As Google has been highlighting, Sesame Street has just turned 40. Is there another American export that's thought about so fondly? As the New York Times reported in 2002, it was even used as a potential bridge in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The New York Times profiles the show on its birthday, whilst Slate meditates on the meaning of the Cookie Monster. But one grouch always has to spoil the party. Sesame Street has often sat uncomfortably with those on the right, and as Mediaite reports, conservative bloggers are upbraiding the programme for a two year old joke about Fox News. Below, you can get a sneak peek of Michelle Obama's forthcoming appearance:

Tuesday 3 November 2009

Letter from America: Malcolm McLaughlin

I’m in Austin, Texas this week working at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library on the campus of U Texas, home of the famous college football team the Longhorns. Austin is famous – or infamous – for the live music and boozing scene downtown on 6th Street, old Pecan Street. In fact Austin claims to be the world’s live music capital and has a festival here every year. Unfortunately – or perhaps fortunately from a work point of view – it’s the book festival that’s on during my visit. That being said, when I went to see it they had a pretty fine Scottish Pipe Band marching about, in kilts, sporrans, and the whole enchilada. It took me right back to my ancestral homeland – except that the weather here stubbornly remains at around 25 Celsius, which one rarely finds in Edinburgh come November.

So, I’ve been working out of the LBJ library on Red River Road, a wonderful facility staffed by some excellent archivists. It contains a museum dedicated to President Johnson and perhaps the most intriguing exhibit is a reproduction of LBJ’s Oval Office. Walking in there you can imagine the big man sitting down to talk civil rights with Martin Luther King. I asked if I could sit behind the desk but no luck, sadly. I’ve attached a photograph of that room here and a couple of other snaps of Austin.Malcolm