Online talk: Red Dead Redemption

Digital culture Kent, invites you to an online guest talk on Monday 3rd August, 2020 at 3pm, Avatar-Gamer Zombie Hybrids: the Post-Human in Apocalyptic Play.

Dr Poppy Wilde, Lecturer in Media and Communication at Birmingham City University, discusses the zombie as post-human and the identity of the avatar-gamer through the lens of playable protagonist, John Marston, in Rockstar Games’ Red Dead Redemption.

All are welcome to the talk, which will be hosted on Zoom – joining details below:

Date: Monday, 3rd August
Time: 3pm (BST)
Meeting ID: 965 220 0112
Password: Zombie

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Schools outreach at the British Academy

The video games industry makes more money than the music and film industries combined but do we really understand video games – their ideas, their influences, their commentary on society, politics and culture? What do they tell us about the world we live in – the world outside the game?

Dr John Wills, Reader in American History and Culture, was asked by The British Academy to record a short film for key-stage four school pupils exploring these questions as part of its virtual Summer Showcase last month:


Last year, Dr Wills received a British Academy research grant for an interactive workshop on the depiction of American history and culture at its first-ever Summer Showcase, which attracted over 1,700 visitors – find out more

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Leverhulme Fellowship Award for Dr Will Norman

Congratulations to Dr Will Norman of the Centre for American Studies who has recently received a Leverhulme Research Fellowship grant of £49,710 for his project, Complicity in Post-1945 American Literature.

The project investigates how American writers and thinkers articulated and responded to the experience of complicity in the post-1945 era. As Dr Norman explains in a recent lecture on the subject (see below) complicity describes a state of entanglement in a harmful system over which one has little or no control. In the wake of the Holocaust, and in response to domestic and international racial conflicts of the period 1945-1975, American literary writing took up the challenge of representing complicity with structures of racial domination. Dr Norman’s research analyses how particular writers and thinkers went about meeting this challenge, and explains how that process is related to the political culture of post-war liberalism.

Dr Will Norman is Reader in American Literature and Culture at the University of Kent, and Director of the Centre for American Studies. The Leverhulme Research Fellowship will last for a period of 12-months.

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The Annual Kent Americanist Symposium (8 June 2020)

The fourth Annual Kent Americanist Symposium – The Spacial Americas – will take place on Monday 8th June, 2020 at the University of Kent’s Canterbury campus. Aimed primarily at PhD students, the Symposium offers early-career researchers a chance to showcase their own research in a friendly, informal environment. 

This symposium invites Postgraduate Researchers and Early Career Researchers in the field of American Studies to evaluate and analyse the relationship between the Americas and ‘space’. This could include a geographical approach to ‘space’ and ‘place’, an ecological focus on the environment, the art of mapping, the relationship between the country and the city, the American notion of ‘the frontiers’, a transatlantic focus on the relationship between the Americas and other spaces, or even a more literal look at America’s role in exploring outer space.

Please submit a proposal for a 20-minute paper to by April 20th, 2020. Proposals should include the title of the paper, a 250-word abstract, and a 50-word biography. Travel bursaries will be offered accordingly.

Keynote Speaker: Professor Anne-Marie Angelo, University of Sussex.

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Announcing the 2020 Bolt Lecture (Wed 12 Feb)

The Centre for American Studies welcomes Professor Gary Gerstle, Paul Mellon Professor of American History at the University of Cambridge to give its annual Bolt Lecture on Wednesday 12th February 2020. Entitled The Rise and Fall of America’s Neoliberal Order 1970-2020 the lecture will take place from 5-6pm in Grimond Building, Lecture Theatre 2, The University of Kent, Canterbury.

All are welcome at this open lecture and a drinks reception afterwards.

Abstract of the lecture
Professor Gary Gerstle argues that the last eighty years of American politics can be understood in terms of the rise and fall of two political orders. The first political order grew out of the New Deal, dominating political life from the 1930s to the 1970s. The history of this order (the New Deal Order) is now well known. The other order, best understood as ‘neoliberal’ in its politics, emerged from the economic and political crises of the 1970s. This paper is one of the first to elucidate the political relationships, ideological character and moral perspective that were central to this neoliberal order’s rise and triumph.

The paper’s narrative unfolds in three acts: the first chronicles the 1980s rise of Ronald Reagan and the laissez-faire Republican party he forced into being; the second shows how the collapse of communism in the late 1980s and early 1990s accelerated the globalization of capitalism and elevated neoliberalism’s prestige; and the third reveals how a Democratic president, Bill Clinton, facilitated his party’s capitulation to neoliberal imperatives.

Political orders encourage such capitulation, the paper argues, by universalizing their own ideological principles and making alternative ideologies seem marginal and unworkable. A coda shows how the Great Recession of 2008 fractured America’s neoliberal order, diminishing its authority and creating a space in which different kinds of politics, including the right-wing populism of Donald Trump and the left-wing populism of Bernie Sanders, could flourish.

Speaker biography
Gary Gerstle arrived in Cambridge in 2014 after a three-decade career in the United States, most recently at Vanderbilt University where he was James G. Stahlman Professor of American History. He is currently Paul Mellon Professor of American History and Fellow of Sidney Sussex College. He is a social and political historian of the twentieth century, with substantial interests in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. He received his BA from Brown University and his MA and PhD from Harvard University. He is a Fellow of the British Academy and of the Royal Historical Society.

Gerstle’s interests are wide-ranging. He has written extensively about immigration, race, and nationality, with a particular focus on how Americans have constituted (and reconstituted) themselves as a nation and the ways in which immigration and race have disrupted and reinforced that process. He has also studied the history of American political thought, institutions, and conflicts, and maintains a longstanding interest in questions of class and class formation.

The Bolt Lecture is held in memory of Christine Bolt, Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Kent, and her late husband Ian Bolt, who generously funded the University’s Christine and Ian Bolt Scholarships.

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New Kent Library Resource: Colonial America

The School of History, Centre for American Studies, Library Services, and Development Office are delighted to share news of the availability of a wonderful new resource for our students and researchers. Courtesy of the generosity of the Christine and Ian Bolt fund, which has for a long time supported Kent students’ study of Americanist archives and subjects, we have become the first university in the UK to gain access to the full suite of digital resources hosted by Adam Matthew, titled Colonial America, which comprises over 1,450 volumes of Colonial Office papers from the UK National Archives, made up of letters, legal documents, printed pamphlets, maps, orders, and many other material types.

It opens up unprecedented opportunities for the interdisciplinary study of early American, Atlantic, and imperial histories from different perspectives – ranging from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries. It will offer an exciting foundation for original undergraduate and graduate work in the years to come – for essays, dissertations and research projects – and it includes thematic essays and handwritten text recognition.

The material is divided into five modules that treat subjects including indigenous relations, the evolution of slavery, revolution and political change, economic transactions and commercial development, and everyday life. The acquisition in perpetuity, whose list price would ordinarily be in excess of £175,000, was made possible thanks also to the Library’s Special Acquisition fund and Dr Ben Marsh’s role as a guest editor for the resource. We will be celebrating the availability of the new resource at the Annual Bolt Lecture (hosted by the Centre of American Studies) on 12 February 2020.

How to access ‘Colonial America’

Log in with your Kent IT account details.



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Conversations on Capitalism II: Narrating Capitalism

Conversations on Capitalism II: Narrating Capitalism – How have people attempted to make sense of capitalism by telling stories about it?

About this Event

One of the most challenging aspects about the study of capitalism is being able to get some critical distance from it; to see the forest for the trees. Understanding how people have attempted to make sense of capitalism by telling stories about it, has long been of interest to scholars, and in this talk, we will take part in an effort to understand the influence of narrative on our understandings of capitalist development.

Dr Will Norman, Reader in American Literature and Culture at the Centre for American Studies chairs a discussion with Dr Sue Currell (University of Sussex) and Dr Tim Jelfs (University of Groningen).

This event is open to the public and all are welcome to attend the discussion and a reception afterwards.

About the contributors

Sue Currell is Reader in American Literature at the University of Sussex. Her work looks at the ways in which ideas about modernity have entered into the experience of being American and the way identity is constructed and formulated. The author of several books, including The March of Spare Time: The Problem and Promise of Leisure in the Great Depression, she has most recently published a book on New Masses magazine.

Tim Jelfs is Assistant Professor of American Studies at the University of Groningen. His research examines 20th and 21st century U.S. literature, culture, history and politics. His book The Argument About Things in the 1980s: Neoliberalism and the Remaking of American Culture was published in 2018.

About Conversations on Capitalism

World events and a teetering global economy have brought capitalism back into the centre of scholarly debate. Particularly in the history of the United States, the result has been a creative, searching study of the origins and development of a system that in a wider culture appears natural. Along with this work has come an equally vital debate about the problems of this new literature from all corners.
This year, the Centre for American Studies will create a platform for this debate: a series of open, informal talks that will form a year-long conversation with academics, students, staff and the wider public. The aim of these conversations will be to spark a broader debate not only about the new work in this field, but seek unique ways of thinking about and talking about capitalism in the twenty-first century.

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Announcing two fully-funded PhD Scholarship Opportunities

We are delighted to announce two fully-funded doctoral opportunities for those who are planning to embark on a PhD programme in the 2020-21 academic year.

University of Kent Vice Chancellor Research Scholarship
The Centre for American Studies will be awarding a Vice-Chancellor’s Research Scholarship to a student embarking on a PhD in October 2020. To be considered for this scholarship, you must apply to the American Studies PhD programme via the University’s online application pages by 19th January 2020. All applications received before this date will automatically be considered for this scholarship.

How to apply:
To be eligible for the American Studies Vice-Chancellor’s Research studentship the topic must be an interdisciplinary project encompassing American culture, history, politics or literatures. Candidates must submit their application for a PhD with American Studies at the University of Kent by the specified deadline. This must be done online via the Postgraduate Admissions web form.

PhD Studentship: CHASE (AHRC)
The University of Kent is proud to be part of the Consortium for the Humanities and the Arts South-East England (CHASE) which was awarded a £17million Doctoral Training Partnership by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) in October 2013. Our partners include The Courtauld Institute of Art, Goldsmiths, the Open University, and the Universities of East Anglia, Essex, and Sussex. CHASE is one of only 11 UK AHRC-funded Doctoral Training Partnerships and the partners have committed an additional £10million in studentship funding which allow CHASE to support over 375 PhD students in the arts and humanities across the partner institutions over five years. CHASE will offer students a wide range of exciting opportunities to gain professional experience, work across institutions and disciplines, and acquire advanced research skills. Further information is available at:

New students wishing to be considered for these scholarships must apply for a PhD place at the University of Kent by 10th January 2020 at the latest. Applicants are advised to discuss their research project with academic members of staff in the relevant schools as soon as possible. Any current PhD students wishing to be considered for AHRC funding should contact their Centre Director of Graduate Studies (with responsibility for research programmes) to advise them of this as soon as possible or by 10th January 2020 at the very latest.


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Clearing and Adjustment 2019

The Centre for American Studies at the University of Kent is currently accepting clearing and adjustment applications from well-qualified applicants to the following degree courses:

American Studies – BA (Hons)
American Studies (History) – BA (Hons)
American Studies (Latin America) – BA (Hons)
American Studies (Literature) – BA (Hons)

If you are in Clearing or wish to apply via Adjustment you should view our courses and apply online as soon as possible. Clearing places are often very popular, so getting your application in early will make sure you have access to the best options for you.

Every year, thousands of students use Clearing to find a university place. You’re eligible for Clearing if you have applied in the current application year, you have not withdrawn your application and one of the following criteria applies to you:

~you applied before 30 June and were not made any offers, or you declined the offers made
~you did not meet the conditions of your firm and insurance choices, and they have declined to take you, or you have declined any alternative offers
~you applied after 30 June.

See also
About Clearing

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American Intellectual History Group meeting: 8-9 July

The Centre for American Studies is pleased to host the next meeting of the American Intellectual History Group, between the 8th and 9th July 2019, at the University of Kent’s Canterbury campus. The group – which is convened by Prof. Emeritus Richard King of the University of Nottingham – meets twice annual to discuss significant texts in the history of American thought and ideas.

Discussion sessions will take place on Monday 8th July from 14:30-17:30 and on Tuesday 9th, from 9:30-11:00 – anyone who would like to attend should email Michael Docherty as early as possible for further joining details.

At July’s meeting, the group will discuss Eugene D. Genovese’s Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made. First published in 1976, this landmark history of slavery in the South challenged conventional views of slaves by illuminating the many forms of resistance to dehumanization that developed in slave society.

Rather than emphasizing the cruelty and degradation of slavery, historian Eugene Genovese investigates the ways that slaves forced their owners to acknowledge their humanity through culture, music, and religion. Not merely passive victims, the slaves in this account actively engaged with the paternalism of slaveholding culture in ways that supported their self-respect and aspirations for freedom. Roll, Jordan, Roll covers a vast range of subjects, from slave weddings and funerals, to the language, food, clothing, and labour of slaves, and places particular emphasis on religion as both a major battleground for psychological control and a paradoxical source of spiritual strength. Displaying keen insight into the minds of both slaves and slaveholders, Roll, Jordan, Roll is a testament to the power of the human spirit under conditions of extreme oppression.

Eugene D. Genovese (1930-2012) was the author of several books, including Roll, Jordan, Roll, for which he won the Bancroft Prize; The Southern Tradition; and The Southern Front. Genovese was known for his Marxist perspective in regards to the study of power, class, and race relations in during plantation life in the old south.


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