Volume II, Issue 3 (Winter 2024)

Letter from the Editors

March 22, 2024

Welcome to our most recent issue, “Tradition in Flux: Failure, Loss, and the Evolving Canon.” Ampersand: An American Studies Journal was created as a platform for emerging scholars; our past issues have given voice to vital examinations of spaces, objects, archives, and political and cultural power. In this issue, we sought to interrogate the idea of canonization itself, asking scholars to reclaim failure, forgotten figures, “trash” art, and overlooked objects. In doing so, these contributors have illuminated the structures of power and hierarchy that dictate who or what is remembered, demonstrating how much is possible when we look beyond hegemonic notions of value and success.

Several of our contributors locate failure or ephemera within well-known sites. Laura C. Brown examines NBC’s run of sitcom flops in the 1970s, as America’s first broadcast network — and the network that would pride itself on “quality” — struggled to compete against its rivals, CBS and ABC. While Brown considers failure in the era of broadcast dominance, Anna Louise Wiegenstein explores the streaming platform Netflix’s short-lived collaboration with auteur Baz Luhrmann — and, in the process, shows that the streaming “disruptor” is largely working within the same industrial logics as its broadcast predecessors. Andre Diehl dives into the Woodstock archives to consider two attempts in the 1990s to resurrect the magic of the original festival in 1969, which only underscored how impossible Woodstock was to replicate. Similarly, Holly Wiegand analyzes adaptations of Emily Dickinson’s poetry into children’s literature, showcasing the tension of transforming canonical texts and what is lost in the process.

Four of our authors demonstrated the link between queer identities and texts perceived as lowbrow, trashy, or transgressive. Lily Weeks reveals the complex negotiations at work in the “ambivalent” genre of lesbian pulp novels, interrogating the perception of “‘bad’ queer art.” Korie Tinch critically investigates the claims that the Jackass franchise was overtly addressed (at least in part) to queer audiences, considering the negotiation between those audiences and the films’ representation of heteronormative masculinity. Lily Belisle unpacks the controversies generated by music videos from Sam Smith and Lil Nas X, showing that both make their queerness legible in specific ways that both challenge and reinforce hegemonic norms. Ursula Muñoz S. reviews João Nemi Neto’s book Cannibalizing Queer: Brazilian Cinema from 1970 to 2015, which argues that while queer representations shaped contemporary Brazilian cinema, these contributions are often neglected.

Finally, our authors considered those largely forgotten or marginalized, with two of our authors spotlighting underappreciated figures in the history of higher education. Dhakir Abdullah showcases a digital library dedicated to the work of Herman C. Hudson, who was integral to the creation of a Black Studies department at Indiana University Bloomington. Carolyn Parker-Fairbain constructs a history of New Africa House at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, reclaiming the crucial role of Black women activists in building a space, both literally and communally, at the predominantly white school. Two other authors, Makenzie Coker and Jeremy Geragotelis, consider the possibilities for remembrance within everyday items. Coker situates the Fairbanks House, a historic colonial property, as a relic whose shifting value is emblematized by a ceramic tile featuring the once-popular site. Geragotelis ties the syncopation of tennis — and, more provocatively the breaking of racquets — to performance, suggesting that brokenness can represent a liberation.

We are delighted to bring you this diverse and enriching collection of pieces. On behalf of the Ampersand team, thank you for reading and supporting the work of these remarkable scholars.

Volume II, Issue 3 (Winter 2024)


Lily Belisle, Essay: “The Illegibility of Queer Nonconformity: An Analysis of Boundary Maintenance in the Context of LGBTQ+ Artists”

Laura C. Brown, Essay: “A Comedy of Errors: NBC’s Sitcom Failings of the 1970s”

Makenzie Coker, Essay: “‘An Ideal Picture’:The Fairbanks House, Landscape Transferware, and the Creation of Historical Canons”

Andre Diehl, Essay: “We Can’t ‘Get Ourselves Back to the Garden’: Failure in the Embodied Woodstock Narrative”

Jeremy Geragotelis, Essay: “Let The Broken Things Speak For Themselves: Crooked Lines / Out of Joint Time / Syncopation”

Carolyn Parker-Fairbain, Essay: “New Africa House: Visions Realized, Dreams Deferred”

Korie Tinch, Essay: “Skate Dudes and Str8 Dudes: Normative Sexuality and the Jackass Media Franchise”

Lily Weeks, Essay: “Serious Ambivalences: Sensationalism and Sincerity in Lesbian Pulp Fiction”

Holly Wiegand, Essay: “Dickinson on the Surface: Contemporary Children’s Editions of Dickinson and the Board-Book Canon”

Anna Louise Wiegenstein, Essay: “‘The Shut Down’: Risk and Failure Negotiation Within Netflix Original Programming”


Dhakir Abdullah, Digital Library: “Forgotten Visionary: A Digital Library on Dr. Herman C. Hudson and the Founding of the Black Studies at Indiana University Bloomington”


Ursula Muñoz S., Book Review: Cannibalizing Queer: Brazilian Cinema from 1970 to 2015 by João Nemi Neto