Skip to ContentSkip to Navigation
About us Practical matters How to find us K.S. (Kathryn) Roberts, Dr

K.S. (Kathryn) Roberts, Dr

Senior Lecturer in American Studies
Profile picture of K.S. (Kathryn) Roberts, Dr

The New Monastics: Creative Community and Literary Form

I am completing a book that explores the relationship between the communities that writers participate in and literary representations of the social world in classic American Literature. We usually associate Anglo-American modernism with a few key cities: Paris, London, New York, Chicago. But I’ve found that many U.S. writers in the modernist period were involved in a quiet exodus from cities to “writers’ colonies,” rural enclaves in places like Cape Cod, New Mexico, New Hampshire, and upstate New York. The book is a history of the writers' colony as a social form, containing four in-depth case studies of colonies (Provincetown, Taos, the MacDowell Colony, and Yaddo) and the writers whose work was changed by them. The colonies, which opened in the first three decades of the twentieth century and still operate today, were aggressive interventions into the “form” of a writer or artist’s life. Often compared to monasteries, these isolated communities removed writers from urban centers, set new daily and seasonal rhythms, and created new relationships among formerly unconnected artists, scholars, and patrons. A formal analysis of writers’ colonies, along with the texts that emanated from them, can help to explain key features of U.S. literature in this period. In particular, the colony experience nurtured a fascination with the literary possibilities of alternative spaces, or heterotopias.

The Political Podcast in the United States:
Collectivism, Narrative Culture, Political Fragmentation, and the Digital Age
With Dr. Tim Jelfs, American Studies, University of Groningen

This project considers the roles played by podcasts in contemporary U.S. culture and politics. Researchers in the Center for the Americas (RuG), Dr Jelfs and Dr Roberts, are investigating the different ways that podcasts and podcasting have combined a rhetoric of collectivism, storytelling techniques, and political didacticism in ways that they hypothesize may be deepening the ideological consolidation and differentiation of three different political formations in the contemporary US: the alt right, the liberal center, and the millennial or “dirtbag” left.

Each of these political groupings are strongly represented in the landscape of contemporary podcasting, and our project seeks to explore divergences and continuities in the way podcasting functions as a new cultural practice with potentially profound political implications in the present-day United States. 

In contrast to traditional political media outlets (print newspapers and magazines, cable television), podcasts are a new media technology with unique affordances that researchers believe contribute to their popularity as a political medium, especially among young and emergent groups. These affordances include 1) inexpensive, decentralized production by individuals and small, entrepreneurial groups; 2) targeted access to potential listeners via ratings, sharing, and recommendation algorithms on platforms such as Apple Podcasts and Spotify; and 3) direct feedback from listeners via reviews and social media (dedicated Facebook groups, hosts’ Twitter handles, etc.)

Creative Ecologies: Artist Residencies and 21st-Century Culture
with Dr. Sara Malou Strandvad, Arts and Society, University of Groningen

This new project is a collaboration with arts sociologist Sara Strandvad, investigating the global phenomenon of the artist residency as one of the major institutions structuring "creative work(s)"--both artistic practice and art objects--in our time. We are embarking on empirical study of the residency phenomenon through ethnography, institutional history, and cultural criticism, but also thinking though recent methodological debates in both literary studies and cultural sociology--specifically, the perceived opposition between critical theory and Actor Network Theory. We believe the phenomenon of contemporary artist residencies opens up new avenues for multidisciplinary collaboration, in part because doing justice to it will mean, at minimum, bringing together ethnography, art criticism, and structural analysis.

Last modified:25 June 2022 09.50 a.m.