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Past events and conferences 2015

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.


Darker Hauntings: Imagery of the Southern Gothic

When Friday 16 January 2015, 18:45-20:00
Where British Library Conference Centre

This talk delved into the depths of the American gothic imagination as Susan Castillo Street explored what Southern Gothic reveals about America’s repressed past. Taking in Edgar Allan Poe, George Washington Cable, Charles Chesnutt, William Faulkner and Truman Capote, this wide ranging discussion considered how the South’s complex relationships with race and sexuality are manifested through powerful recurring images such as the collapsing haunted mansion, the racialized doppelganger and the monstrous feminine.

Susan Castillo Street, a native of Louisiana, is the Harriet Beecher Stowe Professor of American Studies at King’s College London. Professor Castillo Street is known for her interdisciplinary work on race, gender and ethnicity. Her research interests include the Southern Gothic, Native American and colonial writing. She is currently conducting research for her new book Darker Hauntings: Writing Race and Slavery in the Early Atlantic (Louisiana State University Press), and is co-editing an essay collection, A Handbook to the Southern Gothic (Palgrave Macmillan).

This event was part of the events programme for the Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination exhibition.


The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone

When Monday 26 January 2015, 18:45-20:00
Where British Library Terrace Restaurant

Writer in Residence Olivia Laing ventured into the lonely city, exploring urban loneliness by way of the work and lives of some of America's greatest artists, among them Edward Hopper, David Wojnarowicz and Henry Darger. Olivia Laing's forthcoming third book is a cultural history of urban loneliness, and she'll be discussing the research process and some of the major themes, from social isolation to the devastating stigma of the Aids epidemic.

Olivia Laing was 2014 Eccles British Library Writer in Residence and author of To the River and The Trip to Echo Spring: On Writers and Drinking (Canongate). She's a regular contributor to the Guardian, New Statesman and the New York Times and is the former deputy literary editor of the Observer.


Trapped in the Ice, Frozen in Time

When Thursday 5 February 2015, 18:30-20:00
Where British Library Terrace Restaurant

An evening of performance and talks was hosted by the British Library's Interactive Fiction Writer-in-Residence Rob Sherman, featuring JR Carpenter (artist and writer, who will be performing her poem Notes on the Voyage of Owl and Girl), Nancy Campbell (artist and writer, whose latest book is exhibited in Lines in the Ice) and novelist Kate Pullinger. Exploring themes connected to his research into the infamous lost Franklin expedition of 1845-6 and creative responses to this historical event.

Read more about Rob Sherman's project, inspired by Lines in the Ice, at onmywifesback.tumblr.com/. Explore the interactive story of Issac Scinbank here.


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 organised 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 asked 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 was provided by Dr Michael Robinson (Hillyer College, University of Hartford), author of The Coldest Crucible: Arctic Exploration and American Culture.

Sessions covered 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. A blog post summarising the day can be found here.


Panel Discussion: The Future of the Arctic

When Monday 16 March 2015, 18:30-20:00
Where British Library Conference Centre

Marking the United States' 2015 role as Chair of the Arctic Council, this panel discussion and Q&A considered the future of one of the planet's last great frontiers. The panellists explored 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 considered 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 also explored how rapid climate change is affecting Arctic ecosystems and the needs of indigenous communities in the region.

Panel chair, Professor Klaus Dodds (Royal Holloway) was joined by distinguished policy-makers, diplomats and scientists Alan Kessel (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 was 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

Deputy Assistant to President Richard Nixon, Alexander Butterfield, shared 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 discussed 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.


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