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Non/human: (Re)seeing the "Animal" in Nineteenth-Century American Literature

Matthew Guzman, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Non/human: (Re)seeing the “Animal” in Nineteenth-Century American Literature uses canonical literary texts as specific anchor points for charting the unstable relations between human and nonhuman animals throughout the century. I argue that throughout the nineteenth century, there are distinct shifts in the way(s) humans think about, discuss, and represent nonhuman animals, and understanding these shifts can change the way we interpret the literature and the culture(s). Moreover, I supplement and integrate those literary anchors, when appropriate, with texts from contemporaneous science, law, art, and other primary and secondary source materials. For example, the first chapter, “Cooper’s Animal Movements: Across Land, Sea, and Species,” centers on James Fenimore Cooper’s use of nonhumans in two of his early novels, The Spy and The Pilot. The chapter then integrates an analysis of two influential early American painters, John Trumbull and Thomas Cole. The unique pairing of Cooper’s early work with these two stylistically and ideologically different painters of the early nineteenth century gives insight into key tensions between Cooper, nonhuman animals, and the culture that influenced (and was influenced by) these individuals. The pairing also bridges themes and disjunctions across disciplines, developing a dialogue between art history and literary criticism. The subsequent chapters follow a similar approach; other chapters include: “Transcending Animals: Breathing Machinery, Personhood, and Law,” “Whitman’s Abattoir: Industrial Slaughter, Dis-member/Re-membered Bodies, and the American Civil War,” and “Vivisecting Mark Twain’s Animals.”

Subject Area

American studies|Literature|American literature

Recommended Citation

Guzman, Matthew, "Non/human: (Re)seeing the "Animal" in Nineteenth-Century American Literature" (2019). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI13856268.