Welcome to Issue 10 of the Irish Journal for American Studies, which covers two years of publication, 2020-’21. It has been a complex time, but nonetheless a pleasure to work with those contributors who have continued with their scholarship, borne with us throughout the pandemic, and met the challenges it has posed to us all with renewed effort and much patience.
Issue 10 was also produced during a period of transition and change in the journal. Most significantly, after six years as Editor-in-Chief, David Coughlan stepped down from the role in the summer of 2021, handing on the role to the new Co-Editors-in-Chief, Tim Groenland and Fionnghuala Sweeney. The new editorial team also includes Keira Williams as Reviews Editor and Stephanie Forde as Marketing Officer, and the team is supported by a new Editorial Board with expertise across the multiple disciplines of American studies. The Board comprises members working in Ireland and internationally, underlining the broad reach of the IJAS and the journal’s ongoing ambition to engage in scholarly conversations that cross national and disciplinary boundaries and to provide a forum for ongoing and emerging debates in American Studies globally.
Enormous credit is due to David Coughlan for his achievements in ensuring the continuation of the IJAS as important platform for the multidiscipline and making it a flagship for American Studies in Ireland. David has been responsible for setting and keeping the highest editorial standards, at the same time providing intellectual encouragement and editorial support that has facilitated all the work published but particularly the publication of early career research. His efforts have been central to allowing new generations of scholars to emerge as well as to sustaining the work of American Studies in Ireland more generally. The incoming editorial team would like to thank David for the many years of outstanding work, much of which is evident in the journal’s current form. Since taking over the editorship in 2015, David has overseen yearly publication of issues featuring a wide range of peer-reviewed essays, articles, and interviews that have contributed to critical discussions around American Studies in Ireland and beyond. During his editorship, IJAS Online has made significant progress in a number of areas including in its design and accessibility, its archival practices, as well as its continued commitment to supporting work by postgraduate and early career researchers; David’s tenure has, for example, included three special postgraduate issues. The incoming editors are privileged to be taking over a journal in such a healthy state, and they hope to continue the high standard of work that has made IJAS Online what it is today.
In taking the journal forward, the new Co-Editors-in-Chief will continue to emphasize and build upon the existing strengths of the IJAS. These include its standing as a peer-reviewed, open-access journal, and the quick production turnaround this facilitates after review and acceptance, with articles published immediately online at http://ijas.iaas.ie/, and all back-issues available through JSTOR and catalogued on all major research finding aids. Likewise, we remain committed to supporting the publication of excellent research produced at all career stages, inviting early career as well as more established researchers bring their work to publication as a means of ensuring the health, vibrancy and future of the multi-discipline.
At the same time, we recognize the critical challenges facing contemporary scholarship and aim to ensure the IJAS is an inclusive forum where these can be explored rigorously and fully, with the participation of as many voices as possible. A key criterium for work published in the IJAS is the contribution it makes to debates in American Studies. We welcome submissions from all areas and all periods of the multidiscipline, but particularly encourage work that advances understanding of the human relationship with the natural, rural, urban and oceanic environment, or wider ecosystemic questions, past or present; that addresses questions of social justice, struggle and citizenship; or that focuses on the cultural or artistic practice of marginal or marginalized individuals or communities. Likewise, as well as scholarship addressing the continental United States and islands, we welcome research exploring trans-local or global connections, adopting hemispheric or transatlantic perspectives, or concerned with diaspora. While we continue to review scholarly monographs and collections, we also invite short reviews of exhibitions, literary work and anthologies, music, film or cultural events of relevance occurring in the United States or elsewhere, as well as interviews with cultural and intellectual figures whose work speaks to the aforementioned questions. At least as importantly, we actively encourage submissions from minoritized scholars to the journal in all areas of American Studies, broadly conceived.
As always, this issue of IJAS reflects the breadth of American Studies, and American political and cultural change as well as many of the pressing issues under discussion in the field. The prominence afforded the lived experience of discrimination and racially motivated violence, and to exclusionary historical narratives that privilege whiteness and masculinity through Black Lives Matter activism in the United States and elsewhere finds correspondence in some of the scholarship published here. Beatrice Melodia Festa explores ideologies of colour and what she calls the ‘mechanics of shame’ in Southern US culture, in her exploration of white identity and cultural blackness in the fiction of William Faulkner and William Styron. Carolann North likewise turns to the question of whiteness in her attention to N.K. Jemisin’s sci-fi novel, The City We Became, while Alex McDonnell reveals the ways in which Herman Melville’s representation of “Indian-hating” undermines those narratives emphasizing democratic, anti-colonial values that characterize the antebellum American state, showing them to be deeply compromised by conflicting cultural attitudes and policies concerning Native Americans. As the 21st century enters its third decade with the change of political guard represented by the election of Joe Biden in 2020 and his inauguration as 46th President of the United States in January 2021, Olga Thierbach Mc-Lean challenges what she identifies as the current nostalgia for the 1990s as an optimistic and progressive decade, arguing that an examination of the divorce-themed art that characterized it reveals a failure to connect private experience to larger socio-political questions and a strongly conservative rather than liberal undercurrent. In an article that also develops the relationship between millennial youth culture in Ireland and its late twentieth-century American representation in the novels of Anne Tyler, Cecilia Donohue shows thematic overlap with Tyler’s treatment of gender-based societal expectations in the recent fiction of Irish writer, Sally Rooney.
The reviews section contains an extensive review essay of Peter Kivisto’s The Trump Phenomenon, and discussions of Andy Connolly’s book on Philip Roth and the American liberal tradition (2017), T.H. Breen’s study of the revolutionary birth of America (2019), Wickham Clayton’s edited collection of essays on the style and form of the Hollywood slasher film (2015), and Leopold Lippert’s book on American performances abroad (2018); and of Christian Schmidt’s examination of recent African American fiction’s adoption of a ‘post-black aesthetic’ in its representation of the freedom to be Black (2017). Also included are reviews of Kloeckner, Knewitz and Silke’s 2016 publication of the conference proceedings of the 2015 meeting of the German Association for American Studies; Ernst, Matter-Siebel and Schmidt’s collection of essays on American realist and naturalist fiction, poetry and photography (2018); and on Bernice M. Murphy’s Key Concepts in Contemporary Popular Fiction.
Every effort has been made to ensure that the text of IJAS Online 10 is free of typos and errors, but the editors apologise if any remain undetected. Every effort has also been made to acknowledge works quoted, but the editors will be happy to insert further acknowledgements if they are deemed necessary. Copyright for all items published in IJAS Online is held jointly by the individual authors and the journal, and prior approval must be obtained from authors and editors before material is reproduced elsewhere. Fair usage procedures are followed in quoting from primary and secondary sources throughout IJAS Online.
Readers of IJAS Online are encouraged to submit articles for consideration. We cordially invite readers to consider joining the Irish Association for American Studies, which for a trifling yearly membership fee – special concessions are available for students and those who are unwaged – provides access to a warm and vibrant community of Americanist scholars, with free access to JSTOR. The IAAS News section posts regular updates on IAAS activities and events, including the IAAS Annual Conference, and the IAAS Annual Postgraduate Conference, which all are welcome to attend.
We hope you enjoy Issue 10, 2020-’21.
IJAS Online Co-Editors-in-Chief