I moved to the UK nearly four years ago to start a permanent post in American literature at the University of Manchester, and thankfully passed “probation” (the UK equivalent of tenure) last spring. Since arriving, I’ve had the pleasure of teaching several core first-year lecture courses, including “American Literature to 1900” and “Introduction to American Studies,” as well as a final year seminar, “Occupy Everything,” on radical memory in U.S. literature and culture from Occupy Wall Street to the Haitian Revolution. The latter grew directly from my dissertation research, but in all of my courses I draw on the fantastic pedagogical tool-kit I acquired at Princeton, both in precepting for courses such as Bill Gleason’s “American Bestsellers” and Daphne Brooks’ “Introduction to African American Literature,” and in auditing Diana Fuss’s wonderful “American Women Writers” lectures. In 2015-2016, I was honored to be short-listed for a Manchester Student Union “Fantastic Feedback” Teaching Award.
One of the most important lessons I learned at Princeton was to see my teaching as vitally connected to—and, indeed, as an animating force in—my research rather than as a diversion from it. One of my first publications, “‘Absolutely Punk’: Queer Economies of Desire in Tarzan of the Apes” emerged out of a reading I’d first floated in precept, and my first book, Sensational Internationalism: The Paris Commune and the Remapping of American Memory in the Long Nineteenth Century (Edinburgh UP, 2016), which recently won the 2017 Arthur Miller Centre First Book Prize from the British Association for American Studies, benefitted greatly from the conversations I had with my “Occupy Everything” students over the years. And both of my current projects began percolating in the “Food Matters” freshman seminar that I taught as a post-doctoral lecturer at the Princeton Writing Program: my new book project, Culinary Designs, aims to chronicle the rise of food writing and the making of American taste in the long nineteenth century, while The Cambridge Companion to Food and Literature, which I’m excited to be editing, examines how literature offers unique insight into the complexity of food matters and takes a variety of cookbooks, household manuals, manifestoes, and food blogs seriously as literary as well as culinary texts. I was fortunate to be able to share work-in-progress from Culinary Designs at the “Critical Consumption: The Future of Food Studies” conference organized last spring at Princeton by Anne A. Cheng, as well as at the “Regionalizing American Studies” conference hosted by the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney over the summer.
I’d spent very little time in Britain before starting my job here, and I have to admit it has been both a delight and a vertiginous experience acclimating to a very different academic system in a culture that feels, at times, unexpectedly alien. But my time at Princeton not only did much to prepare me for that transition, it also gifted me with some of the most generous and incandescent of interlocuters—a support network of advisors, mentors, and friends on which I continue to rely. What I cherish most, in fact, about my time at Princeton was the richness of the conversations I had there, and the profound collegiality of the place. But it’s also what has most stayed with me—for thankfully it is, as Hemingway once said of Paris, “a moveable feast.”
Link to my book’s website:
Link to my faculty page: https://www.research.manchester.ac.uk/portal/j.michelle.coghlan.html