American Interiors: Beneath the Surfaces of Natural History in Early U.S. Writing.

Show simple item record Carr, Alison L. en_US 2015-05-14T16:25:22Z NO_RESTRICTION en_US 2015-05-14T16:25:22Z 2015 en_US 2015 en_US
dc.description.abstract This dissertation examines natural interiors – spaces below visible surfaces of bodies and land – in the scientific and cultural literature of the early United States. My archive of scientific societies’ transactions, personal letters, journals, advertisements, as well as more familiar works like Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia and Bartram’s Travels, shows early U.S. writers engaging with subjects excluded from or “unpremeditated” by typical organizational apparatuses of natural history: the collection, the classification grid, the geodetic system. Instead, they present the un- or partially perceptible interior as critical to ontological and epistemological understanding: a space within an outwardly visible form that differs substantively – either in its hollowness or its contents – from the surface but is nevertheless essential to and inextricable from the whole of the form in question. This pervasive sense of physical interiority challenges historiographies of both early national natural history, generally understood as explaining the natural world by classifying its surfaces, as well as that of the early republic’s preoccupation with things hidden: secret conspiracies and disguised identities that threatened to undo the representations on which the new nation was structured. I argue, however, that these interiors resist and problematize the possibility of representation itself, because interior and exterior never match – not as a function of dichotomized truth and falsity, but rather as a function of the essential multiplicity of identity: of animal and human bodies, of the physical earth – forms which are irreducibly multi-layered and ceaselessly shifting. Furthermore, I contend that this awareness of internal process and transformation develops prior to or separately from the nineteenth-century intellectual movements typically associated with it: comparative anatomical and geological study, European Romanticism, or the Emersonian erosion of subject/object dualism within American literature. This interiorized thinking, proceeding not linearly from point to point, but elliptically, internally, and a-rationally, is seen in the tracings of the embodied eye, the infectious fascination of American writers and readers, the a-linear, multi-branched skeletal frame of the mammoth and its “framed” history of submerged monuments and chronologically displaced and displacing discoverers, and the hyper-linear narrative threads of sub-geographies and chronologies. en_US
dc.language.iso en_US en_US
dc.subject U.S. Literature en_US
dc.subject History of Science - Eighteenth-Century en_US
dc.title American Interiors: Beneath the Surfaces of Natural History in Early U.S. Writing. en_US
dc.type Thesis en_US
dc.description.thesisdegreename PHD en_US
dc.description.thesisdegreediscipline English Language and Literature en_US
dc.description.thesisdegreegrantor University of Michigan, Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies en_US
dc.contributor.committeemember Parrish, Susan Scott en_US
dc.contributor.committeemember Carson, John S. en_US
dc.contributor.committeemember Larson, Kerry C. en_US
dc.contributor.committeemember Silver, Sean R. en_US
dc.subject.hlbsecondlevel English Language and Literature en_US
dc.subject.hlbtoplevel Humanities en_US
dc.owningcollname Dissertations and Theses (Ph.D. and Master's)
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