For a short time in the 1970s, Canary Conn was everywhere. She was on television. On the radio. And on bookshelves. Her story, that of a Texas-born recording artist, husband and father who transitioned into a woman whom the media described as “young,” “lithe” and “with flowing blonde hair,” captured national attention. Although some newspaper interviews with Canary have been preserved, there are very few accessible recordings of Canary’s many public performances, or her radio and television interviews. What’s more, the trail of evidence disappears after 1980, when Canary inexplicably left the public spotlight and returned to private life. In this episode Dr. Gutterman and Dr. Frank introduce and then play a rare extended audio interview with Canary that she recorded with the magazine Psychology Today in 1977. The interview profiles Canary’s childhood, her transition, her sexuality, and her gender identity.
Yesterday, we brought you an interview with Michael Ayala, a graduating senior in American Studies named to the Dean’s Distinguished Graduates Honorable Mention list. Today, we bring you an interview with Natalie Fisher, UT AMS’ other Honorable Mention on this prestigious list. Read on to learn about Natalie’s American Studies career here at UT, as well as her plans for the future!
When you came to UT, what did you think you would major in?
When I first applied to UT it was as an Radio-Television-Film major, and it wasn’t until my sophomore year of college that I added American Studies as a double major.
What was the first American Studies course you took at UT?
The first AMS course I took at UT was intro to American Studies with Dr. Hoelscher. I took the course because it was a part of my First Year Interest Group’s bundle of classes and it ended up being my favorite class of my first semester. I really enjoyed getting to learn about American history from new perspectives and analyze American culture through different scopes of study.
Why did you decide to major in American Studies?
I decided to major in American Studies because I really liked the intro class and the faculty and grad students that I had talked to within the department. I found out that I could double major and still graduate on time and realized that there was still so much more about American studies that interested me and so many AMS classes that I wanted to take. The interdisciplinary aspects of American Studies drew me in because I had never thought about the different ways our environment and backgrounds can affect how our society is structured.
What have been some of your favorite courses in the American Studies department and why?
It is hard to pick a favorite American Studies course because I have liked all of the ones I have taken. Some of my favorites included: American Disasters taught by Dr. Cary Cordova, Rebels and Rejects taught by Dr. Lauren Gutterman, and American Utopias taught by Dr. Brendan Gaughen. All three of these classes covered interesting topics that I had little to no background and I learned a lot about different times in American history and different emerging patterns throughout American history that often repeat themselves.
What are some of the most important questions you’ve considered during your time in American Studies?
In Dr. Gutterman’s Rebels and Rejects course we discussed who got defined as a rebel or a reject in 1950s America. This lead to interesting discourse about who is considered a rebel or reject in today’s America, and important questions about who is included and excluded when we talk about America. Many of the important questions I’ve considered during my time in American Studies often centered around topics of inclusion and how American society is structured to benefit certain groups often at the risks of others. I’ve also spent a lot of my time in American Studies considering how we treat our land and what impact we have on shaping the physical space of where we live and how that affects more than just us personally.
How do you think American Studies might influence your career after you graduate? How has your time in American Studies influenced your career goals?
After I graduate I want to be a TV writer. I think that American Studies will definitely influence my career after I graduate. Since becoming a AMS major I have learned a lot about different areas of American history that have influenced my writing. I also think that I have learned a lot about how to research and gather sources and evidence which is a good skill to have when aspiring to be a screenwriter because I enjoy digging deeper into the stories I want to tell and ensuring I convey them with accuracy.
What advice do you have for other students considering majoring in American Studies?
Come say hi! The American Studies faculty is amazing and extremely helpful. Talking to a professor or current grad student about the field is a good way to get an idea if you would enjoy being a American studies major. If you are considering majoring in American Studies and are already a student at UT, I would advise you to take a class! Many of the AMS courses cross with other classes and can go to helping you get your diploma, and if you enjoy the class, chances are you’ll like all the classes AMS has to offer and you can change you major, or add another major confidently.
This Spring, two graduating seniors majoring in American Studies were named to the Dean’s Distinguished Graduates Honorable Mention list: Michael Ayala and Natalie Fisher. Today, we bring you an interview with Mr. Ayala, an aspiring screenwriter, regarding his time at UT’s American Studies’ program, his favorite courses and projects, and his future plans. Enjoy!
It’s the last class day of the 2018-2019 school year, and with summer break approaching, we checked in with our UT AMS department members to see what they were looking forward to this summer. Read on to get a taste of UT AMS’s summer plans.
I’m super excited to start my summer internship with the Smithsonian National Museum of American History; I’ll be a curatorial intern for a project on Asian Pacific American women’s labor history! Also looking forward to the copious amounts of shellfish I plan on consuming while there.
On May 29 I’ll be in Lisbon, Portugal, giving the keynote lecture on “Rethinking Early Plastics: The Rhetoric of New Materials” at the Plastics Heritage Congress 2019, a three-day gathering of historians, museum curators, and conservation specialists. In June, Alice and I will meet up with our daughter and 8-year old nephew in the UK for a two-week narrowboat cruise on the canals of northern England. For the rest of the summer I’ll be working on my current neo-Beats book project. I’ve just submitted articles on Laurie Anderson and Tom Waits and need to strategize about how it all fits together (if it does).
As is usually the case, my official summer plans are up in the air. But if I’m in Austin this summer, I’m looking forward to many sunny days floating around Barton Springs in my donut inner tube.
This summer, I’m looking forward to heading to Barcelona to TA for a UT Austin study abroad course. My goals while abroad are to keep the undergrads out of trouble and engaged in their class, to make it two months in Europe without being pickpocketed, and to catch up on all the pleasure reading that I put off while studying for my oral exams. If all goes according to plan, you’ll find me drinking cerveza on the beach surrounded by novels and stacks of months-old New Yorkers.
This summer I look forward to reading without a highlighter, playing video games until my eyes glaze over, and bobbing in the pool with my family and friends.
I’ll be working at the Bullock Museum this summer, helping with summer programming for kids and families. I’m most looking forward to the museum’s Juneteenth celebration. Last year we made quilt squares with early twentieth century photographs of Juneteenth parades in Texas, and this year we will be creating our own prints based on the work of African American artist John Biggers. I really enjoy being able to share African American history and culture with the families who come visit the Bullock Museum, and it will be a nice break from writing my prospectus!
I will work periodically over the summer with Six Square: Austin’s Black Cultural District to curate an art exhibition and focus on special projects related to cultural preservation. This semester, I conducted research to produce a historic tour video for Six Square as a result of taking Dr. Janet Davis’s Cultural History of the US Since 1865 class. It will be featured on the institution’s website this summer.
This summer I’ll be finishing my term as Interim Chair, though I have a few small trips planned. In late May, I am off to Detroit for a week-long workshop run by the Ex-Situ group, an experimental affect theory/cultural studies project. Our theme this year is “Structures of Anticipation” (ooo, I can’t wait). A few weeks later I’ll be going to Victoria BC and Seattle for a cool weather vacation with Monti. When I’m back, I’ll spend some free time working on the 1955 Cree camper trailer that I bought–the interior feels like a set from Mad Men, but I want to install some retro formica and make some other improvements to my future writing studio. Later in the summer I’ll be gearing up for a project about the world’s largest post-apocalyptic festival–I’ll be shooting a documentary in the Mojave desert for a week and editing it in the fall (I hope to have it ready by January 2020). Finally, I’m also going to be promoting the Part Time Genius album, which we recently released on iTunes, Spotify, Bandcamp, YouTube, and other platforms. In short, I’m looking forward to a happy and productive summer.
This April, UT AMS PhD candidate Josh Kopin co-edited “Seeing Sounds/Hearing Pictures – a Roundtable on Sound & Comics,” now live on The Middle Spaces. The roundtable features fifteen scholars exploring the diverse manifestations of sound in comics.
“Seeing Sounds/Hearing Pictures,” which you can find here, builds on Kopin’s PhD thesis research on 19th century comics. Kopin, who is a Swan Foundation Fellow, also delivered an illustrated lecture at the Library of Congress on March 31, 2019.
UT AMS Associate Professor Dr. Nicole Guidotti-Hernandez, along with Dr. Lorgia Garcia-Peña, Associate Professor of Latinx Studies at Harvard University, will co-edit a new series with University of Texas Press, Latinx: The Future is Now.
According to UT Press, the new series “will focus on ways in which the racial, cultural, and social formations of historical Latinx communities can engage and enhance scholarship across geographies and nationalities” through “projects that consider the multiple queer and gender-fluid possibilities that are embodied in the “x”; projects that have a feminist critique of patriarchy at the center of their intellectual work; projects that deploy a relational approach to ethnic and national groups; and projects that address the overlapping dynamics of gender, race, sexual, and national identities.”
Forthcoming projects in the series will be listed on the UT Press Website as they are published.
Check out Andrew Busch (UT AMS PhD, 2011) give a talk on his 2017 book City in a Garden: Environmental Transformations and Racial Justice in Twentieth-Century Austin, Texas (UNC) this Thursday, April 25th, at 6:30 P.M. The talk will be held at the Austin History Center at 810 Guadalupe Street. Details can be found at the History Center website.
Drawing from City in a Garden, Busch will consider Austin’s historical development through the twentieth century, and ask audience members to consider the social ramifications of sustainable urban development. Austin’s story helps us to understand the limits of liberal public policies as they apply to racial discrimination and segregation. The talk should be of interest to city planners, environmentalists, and people interested in Austin’s history and future. There will be ample time for a community discussion about the book as well as about Austin’s contemporary development. Event is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served.