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Natural History and Personhood in Early America

November 28, 2016 @ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm

Portrait image of Julia Dauer seated in front of a window wearing a bright yellow scarf

Monday Seminar:

Julia Dauer

Dana-Allen Dissertation Fellow (2016-2017)

English, UW-Madison


How did transatlantic writers use “I” in their discourse?  When did “I” become the familiar protagonist of American letters?  What can first-person prose tell us about the category of the “person”?  My dissertation approaches these questions by considering the relationship between natural history, personhood, and first-person prose in the United States between about 1780 and about 1830.  In this talk, I’ll focus especially on John James Audubon’s Ornithological Biography and its account of flocking birds.  These flocks overwhelm first-person observational norms and threaten the boundaries of the human person.  I’ll suggest that the Biography’s first-person prose and its impersonal tendencies direct our attention towards the gaps in and alternatives to more masterful models of American individuality.


Julia Dauer is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of English at UW-Madison.  Her research focuses on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century American literature and the history science.  Her dissertation uses natural history to access a much larger crisis of personhood that characterized literary, scientific, and political discourse at the turn of the nineteenth century and continues to resonate in the contemporary United States.  Dauer has taught literature and composition courses at UW-Madison and worked as an instructor in the Writing Center.  Her dissertation research has been supported by fellowships from the Department of English, the Graduate School, and the Library Company of Philadelphia.  She is currently at work on her dissertation entitled “Natural History and Personhood in Early America.”


November 28, 2016
3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
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University Club, Room 212
432 East Campus Mall
Madison, Wisconsin 53703 United States