Caitlin Silberman

Position title: Dana-Allen Dissertation Fellow (2015-2016)

Art History, UW-Madison

Portrait image of Caitin Silberman

Thinking with Birds in British Art and Visual Culture, 1840-1900

Expanding upon the current scholarly turn towards mining the history of the unstable boundaries between human and non-human animals, my research considers visual responses to Darwinism and other challenges to interspecies difference in nineteenth-century Britain. Through a focus on the figure of the bird, my project reveals a Victorian visual culture which participates in two projects: one anthropocentric, justifying human dominion; the other more egalitarian, allowing that boundaries between “us” and “them” may be less secure than once imagined. Considering a range of visual media, from painting and illustration to cartoons and taxidermy, my project examines the complex, often contradictory relations between ourselves and the many species with whom we share our world.

Caitlin Silberman is a PhD candidate in Art History at UW-Madison. Her research centers on intersections between art, visual culture, and the sciences in nineteenth-century Britain. Her dissertation considers Victorian strategies for visualizing difference between humans and non-human animals. Silberman has taught Art History and History of Science at UW-Madison and worked at a variety of museums, archives, and libraries, including the Stanley Kubrick Archive, London’s Natural History Museum, and the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, CA. Her Dana-Allen Dissertation Fellowship is bracketed by two semesters as a 2015-16 CIC/Smithsonian Institution Predoctoral Fellow, where she is based at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC. She is at work on her dissertation entitled “Thinking with Birds in British Art and Visual Culture, 1840-1900.”