Editorial

Stephen Matterson and Alex Runchman

We apologize for the belatedness of this issue of IJASonline. This is in part due to circumstances within our control, but mainly to do with the time taken for the editorial team to discuss changes to the Journal and to have these endorsed by the IAAS Executive Committee. At the IAAS AGM at Cork last April it was agreed, with a view to guaranteeing the high standards set by the Journal so far, that an editorial team be established that would enable us to make a clearer allocation of shared responsibilities. As a result, I (SM) became Executive Editor, with Clare Hayes-Brady, Dara Downey and Louise Walsh taking on Assistant Editorial roles and Miles Link acting as technical editor. Our short-term agendas involved identifying suitable referees for already submitted material, deciding what to do about books that needed reviewing, and allocating responsibilities within our committee. The longer-term objectives were about the appearance of the Journal, and involved considering innovations that might make more positive use of the Journal’s online status. Alex Runchman joined as Deputy Executive Editor in April this year and, with Miles gaining a position in China, Barry Gildea took responsibility for the website.

After a quiet period, then, we see this issue as marking a new phase of the Journal’s commitment to American Studies. We invite scholars to submit for peer-review not only traditional articles, but also interviews (with writers, historians, political scientists, or media figures), opinion pieces, reports on conferences and symposia, and pertinent news items. We are open to adapting the ‘Ignite’ format to our website, inviting contributions in condensed format and with visuals that will provoke ongoing debate. We plan to open up a comments page and, while contributions will need to be approved by the editors, we hope that this will grant the Journal a vitality that could not be sustained in print. We will also continue to solicit articles: in fact, one of our hopes is that several of our future editions will be guest edited by emerging academics in Ireland on areas of their expertise. This issue has a slim reviews section: we intend to enhance this in the future by inviting, in addition to longer reviews, shorter pieces and briefly noted announcements. These would not preclude subsequent longer review-essays being written. We are conscious of a current lack of theatre, TV, film, and new media reviews and would like these to feature more prominently in future. We would particularly like to encourage submissions from postgraduates and early career scholars, and anticipate that forthcoming issues will largely comprise proceedings from IAAS postgraduate symposiums. 

As you will see, the two previous editions of IJASonline are also available here on our new site. We would like to thank the former Executive Editor, Philip Coleman, for his commitment to the journal and for establishing it in its online format. We would also like to thank the other colleagues who worked on the earlier issues: Alan Gibbs (UCC), Clare Hayes-Brady (then TCD), Lee M. Jenkins (UCC), Maria Johnston (then Reviews Editor, TCD), and Sinead McEneaney (then St. Mary’s College, London).

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Turning attention to the contents of the current issue, we are especially happy to publish the text of Robert A. Strong’s Alan Graham Memorial Lecture, delivered at the annual IAAS conference in Galway in April this year. A succinct and lucid overview of Jimmy Carter’s ambivalent advocacy of Civil Rights, Professor Strong’s lecture argues that the history of the movement cannot only be told with reference to visionaries and martyrs. Moderates such as Carter played a no less important role in bringing necessary reforms into effect.

Philip McGowan, meanwhile, interrogates the status of post-downturn Las Vegas. Outlining the city’s position within a history of American exhibition spaces, McGowan speculates that its faux version of ‘abroad at home’ might have been especially appealing to a fearful nation in the aftermath of 9/11 but reads unfinished new projects as evidence of an uncertain future. In a revised and corrected version of an article that initially appeared in this journal in 2010, Áine Mahon assesses the singularity of Stanley Cavell’s philosophical style, thinking in particular about his appointment of Emerson and Thoreau—the great representatives of transcendentalism rather than pragmatism—as the founding fathers of American philosophy. Mahon argues that Cavell’s style is quintessentially American insofar as it shares Emerson’s conviction that ‘every word must affirm its own existence’ without yielding to the semantic pressures that this entails.

Clare Hayes-Brady, meanwhile, considers three stories from David Foster Wallace’s collection Oblivion to make the case against exceptionalist claims for the short story as a distinctively American genre. Wallace’s stories, she contends, also critique narratives of exceptionalism by honing in on the ‘unhappily average’, individuals who cannot escape mediocrity. This is also a concern of Jennifer Daly’s essay on Richard Yates’s The Easter Parade in which she dismisses the pervasive myth of a late-twentieth-century crisis in white, middle-class American masculinity on the grounds that the greater problem (as shown in Yates’s female protagonists) is a disjunction between the search for individual success and the requirement of collective patriotism that is experienced by men and women alike. Finally, Rebecca Pelan writes about Carson McCullers’ three visits to Ireland and her continued preference for a fantasy version of the country at odds with a social inequality that she chose to overlook. Where McCullers might have found affinities with her own American South, she seems to have been oblivious to injustices that did not centrally involve differences of race.

We hope that you will enjoy reading this issue.

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