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News from our Graduate Students: PhD Candidate Justin Mohler

Submitted by Michael Neininger on March 6, 2017 - 11:10am
Justin Mohler
Justin Mohler

"Writing (Off) the Animal: German Romanticism and the Animal-Human Divide"

In the year to come I will have the opportunity to take some of the most significant and exciting steps toward completing my PhD that have yet been available to me. With my exams behind me, I look forward to beginning a project which I hope will provide a new and vital perspective on a relationship as old as humans themselves. Attitudes toward animals and the place afforded to them within western society have undergone radical changes over the last two centuries. In his seminal essay, “Why Look at Animals?”, John Berger locates the most significant rupture in human-animal relations in North America and Western Europe around the nineteenth century. By analyzing texts from writers uniquely positioned as both observers and agents of the changes taking hold in their society, my dissertation seeks to highlight the ways in which these men and women attempted to come to terms with the increasingly disturbing absence of animals within the human sphere. German Romanticism in particular is rife with human-animal encounters, each of which offers a chance for the author to address, reconfigure, or even reject the concept of a clear animal-human divide. While scholars such as Derrida have criticized western philosophy and theology in perpetuating this divide, I believe that literature has played a fundamentally different and previously unexplored role. My contribution will be to identify this unfortunate gap and to show how language inherited from the Romantic tradition carries the potential to bridge the very divide it sought to describe.


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