Hey, I’m Stevie, a first year PhD
student in English and American Studies at the University of Manchester, and I
study comics! More specifically, I study George Herriman’s Krazy Kat (1913-1944), an American comic strip that loosely follows the daily lives of
Krazy Kat, Ignatz Mouse (with whom Krazy is in love) and Offissa Pupp (who is
in love with Krazy!) as they unfold against the fantastical desertscape of
‘Coconino County’. Krazy wasn’t very
popular among most readers, but it drew praise from artists, writers, and
intellectuals, including the poet e. e. cummings, the critic Gilbert Seldes,
and, purportedly, Pablo Picasso, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein, among
others! As a result, a number of scholars have linked Krazy to the field of modernism, an early twentieth century art
movement that sought to respond to the rapidly-changing modern world. My work
focuses on deeply contextualising the strip’s production, content, distribution,
and reception to ask where, in the vast field of American modernist production
and culture, it is most usefully historicised.
Deciding what to study at
university was tricky because I was torn between English literature, sociology,
and creative writing. Ultimately, I chose the BA American Literature with
Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, which gave me quite a lot of
freedom with choosing modules and meant I could combine interdisciplinary
American Studies classes with writing workshops. It also gave me the opportunity
to spend a year at Occidental College in Los Angeles, where I encountered my
first Krazy strip through a brilliant
class on comics and graphic literature. In final year, I wrote my dissertation
on Krazy and took a fantastic body
culture studies module - both left me knowing I wanted to study further, but I
spent a few years working to save money and to decide exactly what course I
wanted to do – more American studies, something more focused, something to do
with my work in education? In September 2017, I joined the MA Gender, Sexuality
and Culture at the University of Manchester, a course that indulged my interest
in gender and body studies from a philosophical/conceptual perspective, but
also let me choose a range of modules from postcolonial literature to
transnational radical subcultures. Knowing I wasn’t through with Krazy Kat, I also took a class on
modernist studies to help me prepare a PhD proposal, and used my MA
dissertation on frontier manhood in ‘Buffalo Bill’s Wild West’ to hone skills
and touch on areas of knowledge that I’ll use going forwards: using digital
archives and special collections, and learning more about transatlantic
entertainment and the cultural meanings of the American West. For me, the most
enjoyable thing about the PhD is having the time and freedom to follow my
curiosity, which has taken me through digital archives of 1920s Vanity Fair magazines, over 100-year-old
maps of Arizona, and into poetry, short stories, art, and comics I’ve never
encountered before. There is a huge amount of fascinating work going on in both
comics studies and modernist studies that is seeking to draw attention to the
myriad things we can learn about history through popular culture; I hope that
my work can play a small part in bringing these exciting fields into
conversation with one another. In the meantime, what an honour to read and
write about Krazy for work!
Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics is an educational
and entertaining introduction to the history and grammar of comics...written as
If you want to know more about
George Herriman, Krazy Kat, or the
American newspaper comic industry in the early c20, check out Michael
Tisserand’s brilliant biography Krazy: A
Life in Black and White.
Grid and ImageTexT are online,
open-access journals of comics studies.
Modernist Review is the British Association for Modernist Studies’ (BAMS,
for short!) postgraduate blog, featuring wide-ranging articles written in an
The John Rylands Library has a Special Collections blog
where you can read more about the research the collections are being used for.
I’ve linked below to the main blog, and to a post I wrote about using their
‘Buffalo Bill Scrapbook’ for my MA dissertation.
I’m Katie Myerscough, a PhD candidate in American Studies. I
study part-time and work in Personnel at Marks and Spencer. I’m also a teaching
assistant at the University of Manchester where I lead class discussions on
American history, African-American literature and culture, and the southern
United States. Like all busy students I prioritise my workload to meet my
commitments; good time management is an essential skill to have at university
How I got here
I went to the University of Oxford as an undergraduate and studied
History. I was the first member of my family to go to university. After I
finished my degree I tried a few different jobs; I’ve worked in museums, retail,
and administration. I travelled around the world for a year and when I returned
I started a Masters at the University of Manchester. I loved studying at Manchester,
because it’s a very inclusive environment where I felt free to express my ideas
and opinions, and I was supported to continue my own independent research into
topics which interested me. American Studies is a very varied discipline, where
you can study film, literature, politics, history and today’s society. Due to
the really vibrant academic community at Manchester I decided to take the
plunge and enrol for a PhD.
When I finally finish my PhD I will have a doctorate, which
means that I will be Dr Myerscough and I can apply for jobs as a university
lecturer and write books and articles about my work. I want to go into
education of some sort, as I am fascinated by how people learn and how teachers
can support different types of learners.
My PhD is about city space and how it can be used to convey
and construct ideas about gender, class, ethnicity and race. The particular
city I focus on is St. Louis between 1890 and 1925. This period in American
history is loosely described as the Progressive era. Groups of reformers,
politicians, business leaders, artists and journalists were worried about the
state of the urban environment and the people who lived in them, so set about
finding innovative ways to help American cities progress in a positive and
healthy way. The progressive programs were interested in housing and schools,
but also in the development of mass entertainment, fairs, and festivals.
Progressive policies almost always focused upon helping
white Americans. During this time there was a massive amount of discrimination
against African-Americans, and I look at how Progressive ideas could work to
further that discrimination through segregation of city space.
To fully research St. Louis, the city plans, and Progressive
programs created there I’ve visited the city and used the archives in its
various libraries and universities. The archives I’ve used are very varied and
include newspaper reports, maps, city plans, investigative reports, photographs
and posters. Using archives is exciting because they offer a window into what
people thought about the space they lived in, and how they tried to shape it.
It’s important to understand what people thought about urban
space and how they demonstrated their hopes and fears for the places where they
lived. Many of these fears are long-standing and are still around today. For
example, why are certain areas of any city seen as dangerous? Why and how has
that feeling been generated? Is it because there has been chronic
under-investment in that area? Do the people who live there have the same
access to schools, hospitals, parks and recreation as others? If not, why not? Asking
questions about the city’s past can help understand its present and future.
Here are some websites you may want to look at:
http://www.baas.ac.uk/ For the British Association of American
Studies: great for resources and opportunities in American Studies in Britain.
This is something I wrote for U.S Studies online. This is a great forum for new
writing from postgraduates and early career scholars. This piece relates to my
work on race and ethnicity at the World’s Fair held in St. Louis in 1904.
This is one of the places in St. Louis where I did my archival research.
For African-American intellectual history and great think pieces concerning