News and Events 2012

December 2012

Congratulations to Marie Molloy, who will receive the award of PhD at a degree ceremony in July 2013. Marie's thesis, 'Single, White and Southern: Slaveholding Women in the Nineteenth-Century American South, 1830-1870', was examined this month by Dr. Emily West (Reading) and Prof. Ann Hughes (Keele).  Marie began her research in September 2007 and studied part-time, receiving sponsorship from the David Bruce Centre at Keele as well as awards from the Peter Parish Memorial Fund, the Archie Davis Fellowship in North Carolina, the Royal Historical Society and the Virginia Historical Society (Mellon Fellowship).  Marie plans to publish her thesis as a monograph.

American Studies ended a very successful year with the news that Axel Schäefer has been promoted to a personal chair.

November 2012

Oliver Harris took part in the Radio 4 programme "The Beat Hotel" presented by Professor Andrew Hussey on 29th November.  Recorded in the BBC studios in New York, where he has been researching at the New York Public Library.  Professor Harris was interviewed extensively for the broadcast, which discussed the cultural significance of the small Left Bank hotel in Paris where the American Beat writers, especially William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, and Gregory Corso, lived during the late 1950s and early 1960s, and where they created some of their most important and challenging poems and novels.  The programme can be heard via BBC Radio Listen Again (

PhD student in American Studies, Harriet Earle, leads Keele's University Challenge bid this year.  Harriet is working on a dissertation on American comics under the supervision of Dr. James Peacock.

In the National Student Survey for 2012, American Studies at Keele was rated the third best department in the country, just behind Winchester and Canterbury but ahead of Warwick, East Anglia, Sussex, Manchester and Birmingham. The overall satisfaction rating for American Studies at Keele was 98%, putting it in the top five undergraduate degree programmes at Keele.

September 2012

The European Beat Studies Network has held its inaugural conference at the Roosevelt Study Centre in Middelburg, Holland.  President of the EBSN, Professor Oliver Harris of Keele University, welcomed some 60 participants from fourteen European countries, the United States, and Australia, most of whom presented papers during the three-day meeting.  The conference featured sessions on Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Beat women, the Beat influences and receptions in Europe, Beat cinema, and a screening of the documentary The Beat Hotel.  The EBSN aims to bring together from across Europe (and beyond) those who share an interest in the Beat Generation and associated writings.  It has a membership of over 100 people (scholars and students, writers and artists) and a website (

July 2012

July 2012. American Studies and English and American Literatures students celebrating together after the Graduation ceremony on 11 July. The winner of this year's Charles Swann Award was Roxanne Abercrombie. Also mentioned were: Hannah Bailey, Katherine Bellinger, Simon Clewes, James Heeks, Amanda Horne, Jennifer Slocombe and Kelly Ward. Well done, everybody!


May 2012

On Monday, 7th May, Oliver Harris delivered the keynote address to open the "Underground" Conference held at Koc University, Istanbul. 

His talk, "Working the Hole with William Burroughs, Censorship and The Soft Machine," focused on the ongoing legal action brought against the Turkish translation of Burroughs' novel, which went back into court on charges of obscenity on 8th May.

Dr. Axel Schaefer gave the keynote address at a recent conference on "Beyond the Nation Pushing the Boundaries of U.S. History from a Transatlantic Perspective" at the University of Genoa.  His presentation on "Transnationalism and the Welfare State: Cultural Social Politics in Europe and the United States in the Interwar Years" reviewed recent efforts to internationalism twentieth-century U.S. history on the basis of an analysis of the relationship between immigration and social policy.  The conference featured a wide range of papers by scholars from Italy, France, and the UK.  The proceedings will be published next year.

Dr. Axel Schaefer has published "Piety and Public Funding: Evangelicals and the State in Modern America" (University of Pennsylvania Press).  The monograph chronicles how, in the first half century since World War II, conservative evangelicals gradually took advantage of expanded public funding opportunities for religious foreign aid, health care, education, and social welfare.  By showing that the liberal state's dependence on private and non profit social services made it vulnerable to assaults from the right, the book brings a much needed historical perspective to a hotly debated contemporary issue: the efforts of both Republican and Democratic administrations to channel federal money to "faith-based" organizations.  As one reviewer stated, the book is "exceptionally clear and engagingly written", and "makes an important intervention that every subsequent historian of the conservative counterrevolution will need to take into consideration."  For details please see here

American Studies at Keele has been placed 9 (out of 21) in the Guardian University Guide for 2012 - a real achievement for a small teaching team.  For details, see this link

James Peacock, Senior Lecturer in English and American Literatures, has been awarded an AHRC Early Career Fellowship for his project called "Brooklyn Fictions": the Contemporary Urban Community in a Global Age."  Best characterised as "literary sociology", the project takes literary representations of Brooklyn - "a small town in the world city" - as symbolic cues to contemporary views of local and regional community in a world supposedly dominated by the forces of globalisation.  The outputs from the project will include a monograph, an article including material from interviews with Brooklyn authors, and a public interview with author Jonathan Lethem.

April 2012

Katie McGettigan, a PhD student in American Studies, has been awarded the British Association for American Studies Postgraduate Essay Prize for her essay, 'Originality, Modernity and the Material Text in "The Confidence-Man"'.  Her essay examines the ways in which Herman Melville's final completed novel engages with the systems and products of industrial textual production - and in particular, with the literary periodical - to create a new form of original writing that is routed not in the singular and authentic, but the multiple and reproducible.

Staff and doctoral students from American Studies put together an all Keele panel at this year's conference of the British Association of American Studies, held in Manchester from 12-15 April.  Nicola Brindley spoke on 'Contagious Capgras and Viral Euphoria: Connecting Complex Systems in Richard Powers' Generosity and The Echo Maker'; Tim Lustig spoke on 'Syndrome as Symbol in Richard Powers' The Echo Maker', the title of Hannah Merry's paper was 'Queering the Illness Narrative: Dissociative Identity Disorder in Set This House in Order' and James Peacock spoke on 'The Syndrome Syndrome in Contemporary Culture'.  All participants in the panel are contributors to Diseases and Disorders in Contemporary Fiction: The Syndrome Syndrome (forthcoming in 2013 from Routledge), an essay collection edited by James Peacock and Tim Lustig.  The papers were followed by a lively discussion session.

March 2012

Doctoral student Katie McKettigan has been awarded the Malcolm Bradbury Prize by the British Association for American Studies.  Katie will use the prize money to fund a research trip to the United States later this year, when she will participate in the Rare Book School Summer Programme at the University of Virginia, and undertake archival work at the American Antiquarian Society Library, in Worcester, Massachusetts.

March 2012 saw the theatrical premiere of a new feature documentary film, The Beat Hotel.  Directed by Alan Govenar, the film focuses on the famous 13th-class hotel in the Latin Quarter of Paris where writers including William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso lived on and off during the late 1950s and early 1960s, and where some of their most important works were written.  Interviews with Beat scholar and Burroughs expert Oliver Harris appear extensively throughout the film, shot on location in both Paris and New York.  For more information, see the film's website:

January 2012

Dr. Axel Schaefer has published Countercultural Conservatives: American Evangelicalism from the Postwar Revival to the New Christian Right (University of Wisconsin Press, 2011). For details please see here.

Dr. Axel Schaefer has been awarded a second doctorate (Habilitation) by the University of Halle-Wittenberg in Germany for his research on religion and politics in the United States. As one reviewer stated, his "exceptional thesis" was a "monumental effort that enhances our understanding of the complex relationship between government and religion in the United States".  The 800-page thesis is the basis for two monographs and a range of articles in journals and edited volumes.  For further information see here.

The Teachers of North American History Workshop, hosted by Dr. Laura Sandy and held at the David Bruce Centre in March 2011, proved a great success.  The report in the latest History Subject Centre newsletter see more details the talks on employability; podcasting and lessons from the American college system that were delivered to an enthusiastic group of Americanists and Historians from universities across the country.  Members of this network are now looking forward to meeting again in 2012.