Friday 5 December 2014

Postgraduate Scholarships

If you're a current UEA undergrad or a UEA Alumnus, we're currently offering some postgraduate scholarships that might interest you:

50% Scholarships for postgraduate study - available to current undergraduate students!
10% Scholarships for postgraduate study – available to UEA Alumni!
Find out more

Let us know if you have any questions.

Monday 20 October 2014

American Studies Research Seminar: Uta Balbier

At this Wednesday's Research Seminar, Uta Balbier (King's College London) will be talking about Billy Graham's 1957 New York Crusade.

Wednesday October 22nd, 4pm (not 3.30 as advertised), Arts 3.01. All welcome!

And if you're interested in getting a flavour of Billy Graham and his tenure at Madison Square Garden in 1957, here's a taste:

Monday 29 September 2014

Black History Month 2014: American Studies Events

We are delighted to announce the following Black History Month events for October 2014. Run by staff and students at the University of East Anglia all talks, workshops and an exhibition will be hosted at the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library, located in the Millennium Library in Norwich city centre.

To book a place at any of these events please contact the 2nd Air Division Library on 01603 774747 or via email: - All EVENTS ARE FREE. Full details below:

The Life and Legacy of Maya Angelou – Thursday 9th October, Vernon Castle Room, Norwich Millennium Library (6:30-7:30pm)

This event will commemorate the life and work of the African American writer Maya Angelou, who sadly passed away in May of this year. The open discussion will feature contributions from staff from the Department of American Studies at UEA, who will address various aspects of Angelou’s career and reflect on what her writing means to them.  

The Anti-Apartheid Movement in Britain: A Roundtable Discussion – Wednesday 22nd October, Vernon Castle Room, Norwich Millennium Library (6-7:30pm)
20 years after the first democratic elections in South Africa, academics and former activists (Tony Dykes, Action for Southern Africa) will lead a general discussion reflecting on anti-apartheid activism in Britain. To coincide with the ‘Forward to Freedom’ exhibition based at the Millennium Library, this roundtable will provide a general overview of the anti-apartheid struggle as well as reflecting on the activities of local activists in Norfolk.

Film and Black History: 12 Years a Slave and Belle – Wednesday 29th October, Vernon Castle Room, Norwich Millennium Library (6:30-7:30pm)

A discussion of recent films that document black history and the legacy of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Lecturers and postgraduates from UEA will examine how Hollywood has dealt with black history and discuss the political significance of films such as Belle and 12 Years A Slave in terms of how we remember and debate the issue of slavery today.

Exhibition: Forward to Freedom: The History of the British Anti-Apartheid Movement, 1959-1994 – Norwich Millennium Library (20th October - 7th November) 

A pop-up exhibition telling the story of the British Anti-Apartheid Movement and its campaigns to support the people of South Africa in their fight against apartheid. The AAM also campaigned for freedom for Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Angola, and against South Africa’s attacks on its neighbours.  For more information about the Forward to Freedom project click here.

American Studies Seminar Series: Autumn 2014

We've recently announced the visiting speakers that are part of our American Studies seminar series for the following semester. All welcome, from any department (undergraduate and postgraduate) or the general public. All events are free to attend and take place in Arts 3.01 at 3:30pm on Wednesday. Full details below:

Wednesday 6 August 2014

War Short of War - An Interview with Dr. Kaeten Mistry

To coincide with the publication of his new book, The United States, Italy and the Origins of the Cold War: Waging Political (Cambridge UP, 2014), AMS's Kaeten Mistry has been discussing how American interactions with Italy in the early years of the cold war, helped set the stage for a over half century of US overseas interventions. Read the full interview here.

Kaeten joined UEA in 2011 and teaches courses on twentieth century American history, US foreign relations, the Cold War and state intelligence. He is currently working on two interlinked projects that examine dissenting voices to American foreign relations throughout the twentieth century, with a specific emphasis on the rise of whistleblowers.

Friday 1 August 2014

BrANCA Reading Group: The Leavenworth Case

American Studies colleagues Hilary Emmett and Thomas Ruys Smith are co-organising the next BrANCA (British Association of Nineteenth-Century Americanists) Reading Group on November 7. Details above. The text under discussion will be Anna Katherine Green's pioneering detective novel The Leavenworth Case (1878), one of the bestselling books of the late nineteenth century. The event will be taking place at the Anteros Arts Foundation. If you're interested in attending, please e-mail the organisers.

Tuesday 15 July 2014

The Hobby Lobby Decision: Just How Bad is it?

Our very own Dr. Emma Long has posted her take on the Supreme Court's recent ruling in the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby case on the highly regarded George Mason University's History News Network Blog. Emma's piece, which takes up the question 'How Bad is the Hobby Lobby Ruling?', provides an analysis of the legal background to the case, as well as it implications for religious freedom and the ability of American women to access contraception.

You can read the entire piece here and find out more about Emma's existing and ongoing research projects here.

Wednesday 4 June 2014

1st for American Studies in the UK

Just to follow up on the recent news that we've recently be named the number one American Studies programme in the country in the Guardian University Guide for 2015. As part of this year's poll the subject rankings league table found that 95.5% of students were satisfied with their course, whilst 96.4% were satisfied with their overall teaching experience whilst at UEA.

In terms of the guide's institutional rankings, UEA has risen to 14th place - the university's highest ever league table position. The university has jumped three places, from 17th last year, in the UK’s most widely read university ranking. The Guardian University Guide ranks UK universities in a range of categories including teaching, student-staff ratios, entry tariffs and career prospects. The result is the latest league table success for UEA, following a climb to 15th in the Complete University Guide and a second year in the top 3 of the Times Higher Education Student Experience Survey.

You can find out more about the benefits of an American Studies degree here, whilst the Guardian's summary of what UEA offers as an institution can be found here. Information about what courses and modules we offer in American Studies at UEA can be found here and please do consider booking a place on one of our forthcoming open days.

Tuesday 3 June 2014

We're #1 in the Guardian University Guide 2015

We're delighted to announce that we've been ranked #1 for American Studies in the Guardian University Guide 2015. Full results are available here. The University of East Anglia itself climbed to its highest position yet, placing 14th in the overall league table. Why not come and find out why at one of our upcoming Open Days?

Friday 16 May 2014

American Studies Annual Symposium - 10th June 2014

On the 10th June in UEA Arts 3.03 postgraduates and staff will be presenting their research at the 5th Annual American Studies Symposium. There is a definite interdisciplinary feel to this year's symposium, with panels addressing themes including the body, race and representation, nature, poetry and aesthetics. Full programme after the jump.

Tuesday 13 May 2014

AMS Students Review the Harlem Renaissance

Recently second year American Studies students have been writing blog pieces on key pieces of Harlem Renaissance art and literature. As part of their week 8 assessment for the Harlem Renaissance module, students were required to write a review of a document (novel, poem, article, editorial, essay, song, painting etc) written/produced by a prominent Harlem Renaissance artist, intellectual or activist. After receiving their marks and feedback, they were then asked to revise the piece for online publication on the 'Reviewing of the Harlem Renaissance' blog. The sample posts on this site are designed to prompt readers to think about the relevance of this material in terms of shaping black politics and culture in the 1920s, whilst also encouraging them to reflect on how this work helped shape ideas relating to the construction of the 'New Negro'.  Current entries discuss texts such as Zora Neale Hurston's 'How it Feels to Be Colored Me', Langston Hughes's poem 'Cross', and Countee Cullen's 'Uncle Jim'.

The plan is to develop the blog over the years in order to create a small online database relating to the key texts/primary documents associated with the Harlem Renaissance.

Monday 24 March 2014

Performance and Screening: Nathan Salsburg

Nathan Salsburg
The School of American Studies is very proud to present a performance and screening by Nathan Salsburg, 2014 Grammy-nominated musician and curator of the Alan Lomax Archives.

As part of a tour of the UK and Ireland, in support of his autumn 2013 release, Hard For to Win and Can’t Be Won, the Louisville, Kentucky based folk guitarist will visit UEA for a special event as part of the AMS research seminar series.

Nathan will combine a performance of his own compositions with a screening and discussion of fresh, high quality digital transfers of never-before-seen footage from the Lomax Archives, where he has served as curator for 12 years.

Between 1978 and 1983, Lomax and a video crew travelled through the American South, documenting its traditional music, from New Orleans second-lines and Louisiana zydeco stompers, to Piedmont string bands and Mississippi bluesmen. The footage, ultimately totalling over 400 hours, was edited into Lomax’s 1991 TV series American Patchwork, but the lion’s share has never been seen publicly – until now. Nathan’s screening will feature an assortment of clips from the unbroadcast footage, including new digital transfers recently made by the Library of Congress directly from the original 3/4" videotape.

As a taster, here's Nathan performing for NPR Music:

Friday 4th April, 4:30pm sharp, Elizabeth Fry 01.08. Free to all. For further information please contact Joanne Mildenhall,

Thursday 13 March 2014

Year Abroad Blog: Kitty Mackay, Temple University

In the second installment of blog posts from our current Year Abroad students, Kitty Mackay writes about her experiences at Temple University in Philadelphia. This is definitely a must read for any students hoping to use their year abroad to travel extensively...

On the way to the airport I was questioning everything:
Have I forgotten something? Will I make friends? Will the work be difficult? Have I got my passport? Will I miss my dog?!

It was pretty similar to my journey to UEA for the first time, a bundle of nerves and excitement.

The answer to all these questions is, of course, everything will be fine. And my year abroad is (as everybody said it would be,) the best thing I have done in my life so far. My university placement is at Temple University, Philadelphia and, alongside my studies I have also travelled to Washington DC, New York, Toronto, New Jersey and Chicago, since August. I have been given opportunities I never thought I would have experienced before, to name a couple - attending New York Fashion Week and watching Hillary Clinton talk in a Greenbuild convention. I have met people from all over the world and made lifelong friends and, I have survived infamous, crazy, American traditions such as Homecoming and Spring Break.

I set off on my travels having never visited the USA before, and expecting the lifestyle and culture to be pretty similar to that of England, and Temple University to not differ dramatically from UEA. These assumptions could not be further from the truth. The American college system is extremely different to that which I was used to. Temple has 38,000 students, over double the number which attend UEA and the campus is spread across the North of Philadelphia. These buildings are marked with huge red and white ‘T’ flags, the beginning of the phenomenal craze they call ‘school spirit.’ I soon discovered that your university becomes part of your identity, once you are enrolled at the age of 17+. The school emblem is something you wear proudly on your clothes, cars, mugs, folders and even pets accessories(!) and the football team, (in Temple’s case – The Owls) are the team which you support for the rest of your life, no matter how badly they may lose. On my second day in America I witnessed a parent spending $500 on kitting their student out with Temple merchandise, ‘school spirit’ was one of the first differences I noticed between American and English universities. I am in no way saying this is a negative thing, I have embraced it as a kind of novelty since being here, and I am not afraid to say I enjoy sporting my bright red Temple t-shirt and cheering at football matches along with the masses…

 I mentioned the other cities and states which I have visited in my year so far and seeing as much of the country as possible was a big must for me, despite being on a budget. I believe that the financial side of things really puts people off choosing to study abroad, and normally, when people ask about my time here, the first question they ask is – ‘how do you afford it?!’ The tuition is the same and living costs are fairly similar, the extra money you need is for your flights and accommodation which is, on most campuses, outrageously expensive. However, with a little help from Mum and Dad (thanks guys!) and my student loan, it was manageable. Also, if you consider this a once in a life time experience, it is well worth every penny. I managed to travel because I looked for the cheapest ways to: getting the Megabus for 16 hours instead of a 2 hour flight, hitching rides from friends, staying in hostels etc. Although not the most luxurious trips they were definitely adventures, and I would not cross out travelling on your year abroad due to lack of finances.

All this said, the best thing about my year in Philadelphia so far has been the independence I have gained from it. As soon as I waved goodbye to my family, I was all alone and completely independent and it was up to me to go out and explore. I have learnt skills and gained confidence which will stay with me and help me in the future and as a result I would recommend studying abroad to anybody thinking about it!

Kitty Mackay
Tweet Kitty @kitthenit

Monday 10 March 2014

Year Abroad Blog: Ainsley Bowmer, University of Western Ontario

In the first of a series of posts from our current Year Abroad students, Ainsley Bowmer blogs about his time at the University of Western Ontario in Canada. A must read for any American Studies students planning to head abroad next academic year...
University College, University of Western Ontario
For my year abroad I decided to take the split year option, which I believed would give me the opportunity to further my travels and see and do as much as possible whilst away for the year. I am currently in my second semester at the University of Hong Kong.

My first semester was spent at the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada.

As a stereotypical Brit I’m going to start by talking about the weather.  To my surprise, Canada does actually get quite hot during the summer. We had temperatures in the 20’s well into October and even had one day hit 35c in September. But when the cold does arrive, it’s brutal and it doesn’t go away. Throughout November and December we had tons of snow and the temperature went as low as -25c. You do have to prepare for just how cold it does get but unlike the U.K, you’ll find that everything keeps running as normal in Canada. The buses are on time and no one slows down to 5mph on the roads. 

Western organizes a week’s worth of orientation activities just for exchange students the week before classes start and the Canadians arrive. My advice would be to go to as many of these as possible as they really do help you to meet the other exchange students from around the world. The official ‘freshers’ is called O-week and was my first experience of how different things were from UEA. O-week at Western is on a ‘dry campus’ basis, which means that none of the events revolve around drinking and they mostly take place during the day. There were a lot of talks on how not to start fires in residence and respecting others. I found that a lot of the material in the talks were basic things that everyone should have known already so going to just one of them should be more than enough. Looking back I probably wouldn’t purchase the O-Week pass again as at $83 it was overpriced for the quality of the events that are offered. A freshman opening ceremony was the highlight but there was nothing else that stuck in the memory. I instead took the opportunity to get to know the other exchange students better and we created our own ‘freshers’ week and went to the various bars and clubs around London.

Western itself is a picturesque campus and whilst it is large, I found my way around quite quickly. The UCC is the main hub of the campus and includes a number of eateries and a Starbucks but the main attraction for me was the fact that there is a cinema! UWO film plays two movies a night for $5 about a month after they have been on general release, so there is always something to do if you are bored one evening.
Whilst there isn’t a club on campus there is a bar called ‘The Spoke’ in the UCC. Every Wednesday a local legend called Rick McGhee preforms various songs to a huge crowd of students. The bar is always packed and it’s always a lot of fun, especially when the crowd sings along.

I lived on campus in London Hall, which is where the vast majority of exchange students stay whilst at Western. I would highly recommend staying in London Hall as even though it is expensive, the rooms are large and living with a mixture of exchange students and Canadians allows you a better opportunity to meet more people. You are put into 3 person suites, you share a kitchen/living space and bathroom but the bedrooms are private. I lived with two Canadians who became good friends of mine during my stay and I ended up knowing pretty much everyone on my floor.

One of the most memorable times I had at Western was a day called Homecoming, which is when various events take place around campus and alumni return to the school. What actually happens is that pretty much every single student in the city dresses in purple (the school colour) and the vast majority drink throughout the entire day. One of the main off campus student streets is closed by the police for a big party. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen as everyone opens up their houses for people to come in and there were at least a few thousand students all in purple on this one street. Whilst drinking is a large part of the day it is not compulsory if you’d rather stay sober. The university had a purple pancake breakfast and other events if anyone didn’t want to join the party. Whilst it is just an excuse for a giant party I really got a sense of how big a part that school spirit has for students at Western. Whilst we do have Derby day at UEA it is nothing at all like Homecoming and it was a welcome change to experience a large scale event with people who were happy and proud of their school.

I found Canadians to be in general, amongst the friendliest people I’ve ever met. People will go out of their way to help you and everyone is extremely polite. Also, don’t be surprised if you are gawked at the first time someone realises that you are British, everything you’ve heard about them liking the accent is true, they love it. Whilst I got to know a lot of Canadians during my time at Western my experience would have been entirely different had it not been for the great group of exchange students I got to know and become friends with. Moving to a new school in an entirely different country may seem daunting at first but luckily I got to know people from pretty much my first day. My advice would be to not worry about it and just go out and enjoy yourself. Don’t worry if you don’t click with people straight away because there are an enormous amount of opportunities to meet people whilst you are here.

Perhaps the best thing about studying abroad is the travelling options it presents you with whilst you’re away. I went to New York, Washington, L.A, Vegas and San Francisco before starting my semester. The University organised an exchange student trip to Niagara Falls in the first few weeks which was another good opportunity to get to know everybody. A small group of us spent the weekend in Toronto and I know that other exchange students travelled to places like Ottawa and Montreal. Staying in Canada allowed me to take trips that would have been far too expensive if I was in the U.K. I went to Florida for Christmas (a 50 degree temperature swing in the space of a day) and spent New Year’s in New York City. I saw the ball drop in Times Square with other exchange students, which was something I have always wanted to do. The flights were inexpensive and you can even take an overnight bus to get to NYC from Toronto. 

It’s a cliché but my time at Western really was the best few months of my life. It’s a great school full of friendly people not just from Canada but from all over the world. I made some great friends, saw new places and just generally had a lot of fun. The only bad part was that my time there had to come to an end. I can’t recommend Western and Canada enough if you are planning your year abroad. 

The fall semester Western exchange students

Extra info:
  • Accommodation is expensive ($4000 per semester). If you are short on cash and staying the full year then off campus housing is more affordable.
  • A student bus pass and health insurance are mandatory fees, $430 in total. You WILL use the bus a lot so it is useful to have. The school also runs a free shuttle service from the downtown bars at the weekend back to campus, which saves on taxi fares. I needed to go to the hospital at one point so having health insurance helps too!
  •   The student internet service (Reznet) is $180 per semester.
  •   Meal plan is optional in London Hall. Costs between $1900-$2480 for the year.

Friday 28 February 2014

“And the Winner is…” Why 12 Years A Slave Deserves to Win Best Picture

AMS's Dr. Becky Fraser on why she thinks that '12 Years A Slave' deserves to triumph in the best picture category at the Academy Awards on Sunday night. 

If this year’s BAFTAS is anything to go by then Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave should walk away with the coveted prize of Best Picture at the Oscars on Sunday night. There are other contenders of course, American Hustle, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, and Philomena to name but a few. Yet, the story of Solomon Northup, who lived as a free coloured man in New York, subsequent to his kidnapping and sale in the slave market of New Orleans, raises troubling and awkward questions about the American past that this film demands answers to.
McQueen’s retelling of Solomon’s story is a brutally honest and beautifully tragic depiction of the lives of enslaved people in the American South. The small number of Hollywood films which have previously attempted to depict American slavery have either raised historian’s ire because of the historical inaccuracies and lack of authenticity or else have skirted around the vicious realities of the system in favour of representing white male heroes who launch a one-man campaign in the name of abolition. What McQueen does in this film is breathtakingly honest in terms of the historical truths it tells and the faithfulness it retains to Northup’s original narrative.

The film pulls no punches with sadistic violence from almost the very outset. Yet, this, in reality, was what many (if not all) enslaved people experienced and witnessed on the plantations, farms, urban and industrial environments in which they lived. The true horrors of slavery are laid bare for the viewing audience to witness and voice long after the film credits have rolled. Indeed, this is one of the most important aspects of McQueen’s film. The power of the film however lies not just in McQueen’s skilful retelling of its narrative, but in the narrative itself. Once Solomon escaped the torment of slavery through eventually getting word to his white acquaintances in the North who confirm his identity as a free men, he leaves the slave south and returns to his family. This could have been the end of it. An experience never retold. Yet, Solomon actively bears witness to his experiences through his narrative published in 1853. Campaigning on behalf of those still enslaved on North American shores, in order that the crimes he witnessed and indeed experienced himself – the severe whippings, brutal rapes, gratuitous violence, and psychological anguish – were given voice by one who was able.

While the violent realities of the film are immediate, I was also incredibly struck by my emotional response to the film. As an historian of American slavery, with a particular focus on the experiences of the enslaved, and having read countless slave narratives over the years, I credited myself with being able to distance myself from Hollywood depictions of the ‘peculiar institution’. Yet the poignancy of the scenes in the film where the startling and shocking are narrated as the mundane and everyday left me weeping: the deadness of the slaves’ eyes, waiting in the New Orleans’ auction house, as Solomon passes them in the steam ship, the trading of marketable human property as prospective buyers examine Black bodies; the enslaved parents parted from their children, husbands separated from wives, networks of kinship decimated as families were torn apart; and the struggle – often in vain- to retain a sense of self amid the inhumanity of the system.

 Many are used to understanding American slavery as a relationship between the oppressed and the oppressor: the master/slave dialectic where the southern master is always the epitome of evilness and the slave, the pitiful victim. 12 years A Slave rightly challenges this one-dimensional image by exposing the complexities of this slave system and revealing the ways in which various historical actors managed their relationship to that regime. For example, the viewer sees two extremes of mastery with Ford (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) as the more benign, almost reluctant, slaveholder who seems to view his slave labour force as something more than human chattel, placed in contrast to Edwin Epps (played brilliantly by Michael Fassbender) the almost caricatured vicious and malignant master who indulges his violent and perverse pleasures on his enslaved workforce, most particularly Patsey. Furthermore, Mistress Epps (Edwin’s wife, played by Sarah Paulson) is viewed by the audiences as being complicit with the slave system, wholly aware that her wealth depends on it. Mistress Epps’ violent punishments on Patsey, who is subject to Epps’ nightly sexual abuses, is both horrifically raw and yet somehow strangely normalised. Northerners and the northern states too play their part in Solomon’s narrative: he is invited from New York to D.C with the probable original intention of kidnap. Yet he also owes his eventual redemption to residents of the state of New York. 

 The enslaved too are represented with active agency of sorts, although many will beg to differ with me on this point. Although no insurrections are mounted nor attempted or actual murders of their masters are plotted, (so no outright “resistance” is achieved) enslaved peoples are depicted as at least attempting to retain a sense of dignity and personhood beyond that of “slave”. Examples of this are fewer in the film but are at least evident. For example, Solomon’s gifts as a violinist and the consolation music afforded him and others; the deliberations in the slave quarters over the rights and wrongs of masters and their ultimate purposes in owning slaves; and Solomon penning his own pass as many enslaved people would do if they had somehow learned to read and write. When reflecting on the experiences of the enslaved under the pernicious rules of Southern racial slavery, it’s particularly important to broaden our concept of what resistance is, moving away from a grand gesture of political overhaul towards acts of everyday survival that enabled the enslaved to at least live under the harshest of adversity. This is, in part, what McQueen does so well.

One might ponder why it was Solomon’s narrative that made it to the screen – why, for example not the more famed Black abolitionist Frederick Douglass, formerly enslaved in Maryland; or the story of Harriet Jacobs, enslaved in Edenton, North Carolina, where she escaped the brutality of her master’s sexual advances, feigning escape by hiding in her grandmother’s attic for seven years. Yet, the fundamental importance of this story is without doubt – it was made with hope perhaps that in future years audiences will hear the voices of other enslaved peoples, their experiences too being retold on the big screen.

McQueen’s film ultimately makes the fundamental point that 12 Years A Slave is not just a story about slavery or the American South; rather it is an American story that needs and demands to be heard by all. Let’s hope the credit it so surely deserves is awarded on Sunday evening.