The history of animals is the final frontier of the historical discipline, a discipline that has traditionally been concerned with human ideas, human activity and human development. Meanwhile, animals have always been historical actors. Their interaction with one another and people has shaped the common history of all species. To understand how non-humans have shaped North American entertainment Susan Nance has turned to the circuses of the 19th century. The paradox of commercial circuses was this: such companies offered the public idealized animal behaviour in narrative shows that asserted human dominance over the natural world. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, circus staff realized their livelihood was dependent upon animal power they barely controlled.
December 5 Humanities Lecture Theatre, 303 Paterson Hall, from 1:00-2:30 pm.