Volume II, Issue 1 (Winter 2023)

Letter from the Editor

March 7th, 2023

Welcome to Volume II of Ampersand: An American Studies Journal. We’re proud to provide an opportunity for graduate students to showcase their work and converse about the direction of American Studies as a field. Volume I of Ampersand began with a snapshot of American Studies through the theme of “American Studies Now,” and the second and third issue considered the boundaries of the tangible through “Objects, Objections, Objectifications” and “(De)Constructing Environs.” For the inaugural issue of Volume II, the editorial board was captivated by the prospect of moving into the intangible and ephemeral. When considering the strengths of American Studies as a field, we sought scholarship that could capture the intangible through interdisciplinary and an eye on praxis.

These efforts culminated into Volume II Issue I’s theme of “Against the Grain.” We were broadly interested in scholarship that sought to disrupt and unpack narratives, methods, and traditions that have been “ingrained.” Kevin Gaines’ scholarship in American History Now guided our vision for this issue. Gaines writes that African-American historiography is composed of “overlapping sites of production and silences,” influenced by the myriad cultural spaces in which scholarship is produced and often marginalized.[1] Ultimately, the focus on production and silences serves as an important reminder that scholarship is created. Scholars choose which pieces of art, literature, or media to analyze, which historical characters to animate, and which narratives to perpetuate. Our theme invited scholars to engage with this paradigm by looking for hidden and disenfranchised voices, interrogating institutions, questioning dominant narratives and canons, and analyzing new pieces by those who had previously been silenced.

We have a wonderful collection of essays in this issue that engage with the theme of “against the grain” in creative and thoughtful ways. Some essays in this issue go against the grain by analyzing voices that could have been considered silenced or powerless in pieces of literature or media. Daniel Charlton studies Black Boy and The Great Gatsby through the lens of protest literature and themes of “hunger,” examining how the marginalized voices in each work call for change during a period of privilege in American history. Chris Wei examines documentaries and documentary-like media objects to consider how media producers possess power when their dead subjects cannot speak for themselves — or, can they?

Other essays in this issue consider how original pieces of music, writing, art, and architecture were constructed with the goal of offering a voice to the disenfranchised. Kaitlyn M. Canneto examines Gilda Lyons’ score hush for the alto saxophone, and considers how the score encourages reclamation of gendered language that is often received by marginalized groups. Genna Kane examines Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art’s adoption of a former industrial warehouse as their second exhibition space. The ICA’s adaptive reuse challenges trends of architectural decay and historical commemoration by prioritizing East Boston’s industrial history. Karla Méndez examines the performance art and poetry of Ana Mendieta and Aracelis Girmay, and considers how the creatives explore the construction of identity and the familial and cultural separation after the scars of colonialism.

Other essays read against the grain by calling attention to institutional constraints and limitations. Catherine Champney considers William Wells Brown not as a plagiarist but instead as a revisionist adaptationist, and subsequently questions institutional conceptions of originality, rewriting, and how many African-American texts challenge traditional categorization. Betsy Walters reviews the 2023 Golden Globes award ceremony, and through reflecting upon host Jerrod Carmichael’s comment “I’m here because I’m Black” that he clearly directed at the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, she considers the institutional issues of award shows and notes how the shows need to evolve in order to survive.

Looking for silenced voices, projects that give a voice to the silenced, and analyzing institutions of silencing are not only three of many ways to read these essays, but they offer only a few of many strategies for going “against the grain” that these authors illuminate in their scholarship. It was a pleasure to work with the authors and the editorial board, and I hope you enjoy reading this issue!

Genna Kane, Boston University 

End Notes

[1] Kevin Gaines, “African-American History” in American History Now ed. Eric Foner and Lisa McGirr (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2011), 400.


Volume II, Issue 1 (Winter 2023)

Cat Champney, Essay: “Plagiarism; or, Adaptation? A Renegotiation of the Reputation of William Wells Brown.”

Kaitlyn M. Canneto, Essay: “Breaking Down Sexism on Saxophone: Performing Gilda Lyons’s hush.”

Daniel Charlton, Essay: “From Reflection to Revolution: The Protestations of Richard Wright and F. Scott Fitzgerald.”

Genna Kane, Essay: “Retaining Maritime Life: The ICA’s Adaptive Reuse and Preservation of Industrial Heritage in East Boston.”

Karla Méndez, Essay: “History As Scars: Gendered Colonialism, the Construction of Identity, and Race in the Work of Ana Mendieta and Aracelis Girmay.”

Elizabeth (Betsy) Walters, Essay: “‘The Black face of an entitled White organization’: A Consideration of the 80th Golden Globe Awards and Host Jerrod Carmichael.”

Chris Wei, Essay: “Speakers for the Dead: Examining subalternity and the “stolen gaze” in documentary film.”