Thursday, June 5, 2008, 5:30–7:00 p.m.
Apes, Frogs, and Dogs: The Physiology of Democracy in Early Nineteenth-Century American Culture
Justine Murison, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
This paper argues that the cultural and political disruptions posed by studies of nervous physiology during the mid-nineteenth century, particularly the physiology of the reflex arc, threatened to turn the Great Chain of Being into a horizontal web of analogical relationships, tying animals and humans intimately together through their internal functions and opening the door for human bodies operating without mind or sympathy. The reflex therefore posed a problem for the two most prominent antebellum theories of subjectivity: the liberal democratic subject and the sympathetic subject, which this chapter traces through Marshall Hall, one of the discoverers of the reflex function, and Edgar Allan Poe.
All papers are pre-circulated electronically to those who plan to attend the seminar in person. For a copy of the paper, e-mail Jenny Butler at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (312) 255-3524.
The Newberry Library Seminar in Early American History and Culture is co-sponsored by the University of Chicago,DePaul University, the University of Illinois at Chicago, Northern Illinois University, and Northwestern University
The Newberry Library
Dr. William M. Scholl Center for
Family and Community History
60 W. Walton St.
Chicago, Illinois 60610
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