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Dr Anna Hartnell

  • Overview



    I was appointed to Birkbeck in 2010, having worked in the American and Canadian Studies Department at the University of Birmingham for the previous three years.

    My research has focused primarily on contemporary literary and cultural constructions of ‘America’, and has been concerned with the ways in which the national narrative is articulated in relation to race and religion, as well as its intersections with postcoloniality and globalization. My work is particularly interested in US cultural constructions of perceived moments of rupture and crisis, and the ethical and political implications these representations have for issues of racial and environmental justice.

    Web profiles

  • Research


    Research overview

    All of my work so far has been interested in constructions of the future in US culture.

    My latest book, After Katrina: Race, Neoliberalism, and the End of the American Century (SUNY Press, 2017), situates post-Katrina New Orleans in the context of US nationalism, globalization and neoliberalism, and current debates about US decline. It examines the conflict between problematic pre-Katrina constructions of New Orleans as past in relation to the United States, and equally troubling post-Katrina projections of the city as a neoliberal laboratory for national and transnational futures. Through an exploration of cultural representations of the city - literary, cinematic, visual, musical, political, journalistic etc. - with particular reference to movements for racial and environmental justice, the book explores the commentary the post-storm city offers on contemporary America.

    This book was completed as part of an AHRC early career fellowship in 2013/14, during which I spent three months in New Orleans as a visiting scholar at Tulane University, where I organized a conference titled After Katrina: Transnational Perspectives on the Futures of the Gulf South. The latter part of the fellowship was dedicated to exploring the wider horizons of the project which culminated in a conference held at Birkbeck in London: Rupture, Crisis, Transformation: New Directions in US Studies at the End of the American Century.

    This project picked up on many of the themes explored in my first book, Rewriting Exodus: American Futures from Du Bois to Obama (Pluto, 2011). This book examines the genealogy of the Exodus narrative in African American thought in the twentieth century, against the contemporary backdrop of the election of Barack Obama, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and the post-9/11 US landscape. Chapters on Obama, W.E.B. Du Bois, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Toni Morrison and Hurricane Katrina explore Exodus as a vehicle through which black American thinkers and activists have articulated often vexed relationships to American exceptionalism, as well as to wider diasporic links with black Atlantic and Jewish traditions.

    New research continues to focus on issues of racial and environmental justice, the theme of US decline and cultural constructions of the climate crisis. 

  • Supervision and teaching

    Supervision and teaching


    I have supervised students on Djuna Barnes, David Foster Wallace, the 9/11 novel, Siri Hustvedt and Paul Auster, the American suburbs and the literature of the American South. I welcome applications from people interested in working on US literature and culture, particularly projects that centre on race, feminism, and the climate crisis. 


    I currently teach on the BA English, BA Liberal Arts, MA Cultural and Critical Studies, and the MFA Creative Writing. 

    I have taught and convened the following undergraduate modules at Birkbeck:

    The Novel


    Production of the Human: Decolonising the Canon

    The 'American Century' and Beyond: US Literature and Culture since 1900

    And the following postgraduate modules:

    Globalization and the Climate Crisis

    Reading the Contemporary

    Reading and Writing the Contemporary

    Contemporary US Fiction

    Narrating Nation after 9/11

    Teaching modules

    • Reading and Writing the Contemporary (AREN223S7)
    • Production of the Human: Decolonising the Canon (AREN257S4)
    • Key Concepts in Cultural and Critical Studies: Part 2 (ENHU004S7)