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Forthcoming events and conferences

The Eccles Centre for American Studies regularly organises and supports conferences, seminars, lectures and other events on North American and transatlantic themes, often in partnership with other institutions and organisations.

Symposium: Alaska, the Arctic and the US Imagination

When Monday 16 March 2015, 09:30-17:30
Where British Library Conference Centre

To mark the British Library exhibition Lines in the Ice and the United States’ 2015 role as Chair of the Arctic Council, the Eccles Centre is organising a one-day symposium on the US and the Arctic. Looking at the history of American interest in the Arctic, as well as its contemporary relationship with the area, the symposium asks what the roots of this enchantment are as well as how the Arctic influences the US view of itself and the rest of the world.

The keynote address will be provided by Dr Michael Robinson (Hillyer College, University of Hartford), author of The Coldest Crucible: Arctic Exploration and American Culture.

Sessions will cover new work on the Arctic by postgraduate researchers, artistic representations of the Arctic, the Arctic in popular culture and the role of the Arctic in historical and contemporary US politics. The full programme is available here.

Enquiries about the symposium should be sent to the organisers Dr Philip Hatfield (Curator for Canadian and Caribbean Collections and lead curator for ‘Lines in the Ice’) and Dr Cara Rodway (Eccles Centre for American Studies).

The delegate fee for the one-day symposium is £10 full price (£5 for students). This includes lunch and refreshments.

The conference will be followed by an evening discussion on The Future of the Arctic, organised in collaboration with the United States Embassy and the Canadian High Commission. All conference attendees and speakers are invited to attend (complimentary tickets will be issued on the day to those wishing to stay).

Eventbrite - Alaska, the Arctic and the US Imagination

Panel Discussion: The Future of the Arctic

When Monday 16 March 2015, 18:30-20:00
Where British Library Conference Centre
Price £10/£8/£7 Book via the BL Box Office

Marking the United States' 2015 role as Chair of the Arctic Council, this panel discussion and Q&A will consider the future of one of the planet's last great frontiers. The panellists will explore the political and environmental challenges and emerging opportunities arising from significant increases in Arctic activity as sea ice diminishes and a new Arctic environment emerges.

In the context of shifting geopolitics, the discussion will consider how international cooperation can be sustained to maintain a peaceful Arctic region and how the Arctic powers can work together on issues such as search and rescue and pollution prevention and response, whilst at the same time benefiting from new economic opportunities in the region, including energy resources and shipping routes. The panellists will also explore how rapid climate change is affecting Arctic ecosystems and the needs of indigenous communities in the region.

Panel chair, Professor Klaus Dodds (Royal Holloway) will be joined by distinguished policy-makers, diplomats and scientists Alan Kessell (Deputy High Commissioner for Canada), Ed Heartney (Counsellor for the Environment, Science, Technology and Health issues at US Embassy London), Lord Teverson (Chair of the House of Lords Select Committee on the Arctic) and Dr Gabrielle Walker (scientist, author and broadcaster).

This event is part of the events programme for the free Lines in the Ice exhibition.

Presented in collaboration with the United States Embassy, London and the Canadian High Commission.

Inside the Nixon White House

When Tuesday 17 March 2015, 18:30-20:00
Where British Library Terrace Restaurant
Price £8/£6/£5 SOLD OUT

Deputy Assistant to President Richard Nixon, Alexander Butterfield, shares his memories of Nixon and the Watergate scandal.

A trusted member of the Nixon's staff since the President's inauguration in 1969, in February 1971, Butterfield was instructed to oversee the installation of the now infamous White House taping system. In 1973 he revealed its existence to the Senate Select Committee and the Watergate investigation was transformed. Butterfield will discuss his experiences in the White House, his memories of Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal in conversation with Professor Iwan Morgan (Commonwealth Fund Professor of American History, University College London).

Presented in collaboration with University College London Institute of the Americas.

Symposium: Home, Crisis and the Imagination

When Monday 30 March 2015, 10:00-16:00
Where British Library Conference Centre

A one day interdisciplinary symposium organised by the AHRC-funded network "Home, Crisis and the Imagination" based in the School of English, University of Leeds.  Participants include Bridget Bennett, Hamilton Carroll, Deborah Gardner, Graeme Gooday and Cindi Katz. More details to follow.

For more about the network see: and

Black Dandyism

When Friday 17 April 2015, 18:30-20:00
Where British Library Terrace Restaurant
Price £8/£6/£5 Book via the BL Box Office

Twentieth century dandyism was deeply rooted in nineteenth century literary and performance cultures. Michèle Mendelssohn examines two of dandyism’s intertwined roots: the European dandy tradition (synonymous with Charles Baudelaire and Oscar Wilde) and the blackface minstrel show dandy. Her talk asks what this genealogy reveals about nineteenth century dandyism’s descendants, and the cultural burdens they bore? And asks what place do our cultural genealogies make for dandyism’s dark brother, minstrelsy?

This talk considers how early twentieth century African American writers renegotiated their relationship to dandyism and how one man in particular sought to make black dandyism new. In this talk, Dr Mendelssohn discusses W. E. B. Du Bois’s struggle with this theme in Dark Princess: A Romance – a fascinating, cosmopolitan novel that engages some of dandyism’s most problematic legacies. She explores how this most influential Renaissance Man of African American letters grappled with this fraught tradition and, in the process, attempted to redraft literary modernity’s lines of transmission.

Michèle Mendelssohn is Associate Professor in English and American Literature at Oxford University.

Presented in collaboration with the ‘Aestheticism and Decadence in the Age of Modernism: 1895 to 1945’ conference at the Institute of English Studies, University of London.

Inventing The Great Gatsby: 1922-1925

When Monday 18 May 2015, 18:30-20:00
Where British Library Conference Centre
Price £10/£8/£7 Booking will open via the BL Box Office shortly

In the 2015 Sulgrave Manor Watson Chair Lecture, Professor Sarah Churchwell reflects on the gestation and creation of F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. On publication in April 1925, the novel was greeted with some admiration, but also a great deal of puzzlement and bemusement, as well. The one thing most critics recognized was that it was an acidic satire of contemporary American life, but today, satire is very far from most people’s conception of this great American novel. Using original archival material and newly discovered contemporary responses, in this talk in honour of Gatsby’s 90th birthday, Professor Churchwell will tell the story of Fitzgerald’s developing ideas and the ways in which he conceived his novel, and the different ways it has been received in the 90 years since its publication.

Sarah Churchwell is Professor of American Literature and Public Understanding of the Humanities at UEA. She is the author of Careless People: Murder, Mayhem and The Invention of The Great Gatsby, The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe, and her literary journalism has appeared in the Guardian, New Statesman, TLS, New York Times Book Review, and the Spectator, among others. She comments regularly on arts, culture, and politics for UK television and radio, has judged many literary prizes, including the Bailey’s (Orange) Prize for Fiction and the 2014 Man Booker Prize for Fiction. She is the recipient of the Eccles British Library Writer in Residence award for 2015.

Presented in collaboration with Sulgrave Manor.

Magna Carta's American Adventure

When Monday 1 June 2015, 18:30-20:00
Where British Library Conference Centre
Price £10/£8/£7 Booking will open via the BL Box Office shortly

Magna Carta came to America with the first charters, which guaranteed colonists the "privileges, franchises, and immunities" of English law. In the years leading up to the Revolution, Americans drew upon Magna Carta in framing their arguments against British policies. Ideas drawn from English constitutionalism, including Magna Carta, helped Americans shape their state constitutions and the Federal Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights. The story of American constitutionalism is one of both tradition and innovation.

In the 2015 Robert H Smith Lecture in American Democracy, Professor A E Dick Howard explores how Magna Carta has left an indelible mark on American constitutionalism. At the core of this legacy is the idea of the rule of law. Another principle, influenced by Coke's reading of Magna Carta, is constitutional supremacy—the idea of a superstatute superior to ordinary laws. Magna Carta's assurance of proceedings according to the "law of the land" is the direct ancestor of American ideas of due process of law. And, just as Magna Carta proved adaptable to the crises of later times, so has American constitutionalism proved to be organic and evolving.

A E Dick Howard is the White Burkett Miller Professor of Law and Public Affairs at the University of Virginia. A Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, he was a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Hugo L. Black. His writings include The Road from Runnymede: Magna Carta and Constitutionalism in America. He has consulted extensively with constitution-makers in other countries, especially in post-communist Central and Eastern Europe. Recently the University of Virginia conferred on him its Thomas Jefferson Award -- the highest honour the University accords a member of its faculty.

This event is part of the events programme for the Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy exhibition.

Presented in collaboration with Benjamin Franklin House and the US Embassy London.

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