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Academic Seminars


Audubon's Burden: Materiality and Transmission in The Birds of America


Jennifer Roberts

(Gardner Cowles Associate Professor of History of Art and Architecture Harvard University)

Friday, April 24, 2008, at 4:30 p.m.
Elmarion Room, Goddard-Daniels House
190 Salisbury Street, Worcester, Massachusetts

PRÉCIS: Although John James Audubon's work has often been equated with the lightness and grace of its avian subject matter, his stacks of actual-size bird drawings and "double elephant" prints were in fact massive, cumbersome cargoes that had to be hauled around the trans-Appalachian West by flatboat and horseback. Audubon's pictures of birds, in other words, had a much more difficult time moving through the early American landscape than did the birds themselves. This presentation will explore this paradox in The Birds of America in light of broader questions about scale, transmission, and visual representation in the early nineteenth century.


Refreshments will be provided after the paper, which will be followed by a dutch-treat dinner in Worcester. If you plan to attend, please notify Ann-Cathrine Rapp at AAS no later than Monday, April 20. Email her at arapp[at]

The Society regrets that it is unable to make refunds after that date.

Reservations are suggested (and deeply appreciated) for attending the seminar. Reservations are required to attend the supper.