Welcome to the eighth issue of IJAS Online, the official journal of the Irish Association for American Studies. After two special issues in 2017 and 2018, one guest-edited by Jennifer Daly on Marilynne Robinson and the other a special postgraduate issue guest-edited by Katie Ahern, Rosemary Gallagher, and Kate Smyth, the articles and reviews that comprise Issue 8 were published on a rolling basis throughout 2018 and 2019. Some of the articles naturally reflect on or relate to the events taking place during these years, which coincide with the middle period of Donald Trump’s first term as US President and therefore see, for example, the withdrawal of the United States from the Iran nuclear deal, Trump’s meetings with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, the US trade war with China, an immigration policy of family separation on the Mexico-US border, the nomination and confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, Robert Mueller’s report on the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election, and, finally, the impeachment of Trump by the House of Representatives on the 18th December 2019 on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Indeed, Olga Thierbach-McLean’s “A Conflict-Laden Consensus: Is the U.S. a One-Party System in Disguise?” begins with Trump’s presidency and with policy reforms that seem to suggest that the ideological gulf between conservatives and liberals is greater than ever. In her analysis, however, both parties, beyond all the hostile rhetoric, remain firmly dedicated to a radically individualist paradigm that results in a political culture that suffers not from too little but from too much consensus. Discussing attitudes towards the social welfare system and the role of traditional religious values in public life, she explores this remarkable dynamic that minimises political differences even as it amplifies political tensions.
Aoileann Ní Éigeartaigh’s “Liminal Spaces and Contested Narratives in Juan Rulfo’s Pedro Parámo and George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo,” first delivered as the IAAS W. A. Emmerson Lecture 2019, shows how both authors generate spaces within which formerly marginalised or silenced communities can be heard, their stories articulating new understandings of the past and the present. Engaging with the contemporary context not only of the US but also of the UK, she argues that the creation of such liminal spaces is key at a time that sees “supporters of Brexit Britain and Trump’s America seemingly clinging to an imagined past in order to avoid having to accommodate or even acknowledge alternative perspectives.”
As always, the journal remains committed to publishing articles, interviews, and reviews on American Studies, broadly defined, which means publishing on all aspects of American life and culture, including literature, film, history, social studies, geography, music, art, architecture, and more. Tackling racial issues, urban studies, and television studies, for example, Mikkel Jensen’s “The Long Civil Rights Narrative of Show Me a Hero” discusses William F. Zorzi and David Simon’s 2015 miniseries, which deals with segregation, public housing, and politics in Yonkers, New York, in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The issue’s other two articles focus on particular works of American literature. Kevin Power’s “The Underground Frontier: Norman Mailer’s An American Dream” reads and repositions Mailer’s 1965 novel, a metaphysical thriller, in the context of Marxism, the American myth of the frontier, and Søren Kierkegaard’s concept of dread. Steffen Wöll’s “‘To Be Murdered’: Simulations of Objectivity, Subjectivity, and Violence in Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood” presents the case that Capote’s 1966 nonfiction novel’s negotiation of the fault-lines between modernist facticity and postmodernist fictionality reveals an erosion of the realities of American middle-class existence.
This issue also includes substantial reviews by Jan Frohburg of Michael J. Lewis’s City of Refuge: Separatists and Utopian Town Planning, by Jennifer Daly of Jesús Blanco Hidalga’s Jonathan Franzen and the Romance of Community: Narratives of Salvation, by Marcus Walsh-Führing of Eileen and Edward Lundy’s edited volume Practicing Transnationalism: American Studies in the Middle East, by Tomás Dodds of Jeffrey Herlihy-Mera’s After American Studies: Rethinking the Legacies of Transnational Exceptionalism, by Daniel Picker of Laurence W. Mazzeno and Sue Norton’s edited volume European Perspectives on John Updike, by Clair A. Sheehan of Joe B. Fulton’s Mark Twain Under Fire: Reception and Reputation, Criticism and Controversy 1851-2015, and by Christian O’Connell of Samuele F. S. Pardini’s In the Name of the Mother: Italian Americans, African Americans and Modernity from Booker T. Washington to Bruce Springsteen.
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to note some changes to the IJAS Online Editorial Board. Sincere thanks for their wonderful work on the journal go to Jennifer Daly and Dara Downey, who stepped down as Marketing and Reviews Editor in 2017 and Editor in 2018, respectively. The journal has since been delighted to welcome Tim Groenland as Marketing and Reviews Editor and Sue Norton and Antonia Mackay as Editors. With Issue 8 completed, the Editorial Board is looking forward now to the production in 2020 of Issue 9, which will be a special issue on Irish American Studies, guest-edited by Tim Groenland, to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Irish Association for American Studies.