Jenny Davidson, assistant professor of English and comparative literature, has been named one of eight Visiting Scholars at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
The Academy's Visiting Scholars Program supports promising scholars and practitioners in the early stages of their careers who show potential for becoming leaders in the humanities and social sciences. This year's scholars, selected as part of a national competition, are studying topics including gender equality and social policy, history, literature, visual arts in society, science and global security.
Davidson's research project, Breeding: Nature and Nurture Before Biology, is an examination of how 18 th-century scholars thought about the concept of breeding. At the time, prior to the development of scientific terms like heredity and genetics, breeding was a catch-all term that could refer to pregnancy, nature or nurture, hereditary resemblance, manners, moral character, social standing and more. By exploring the works of literary figures such as Shakespeare, Locke, Defoe and Swift, Davidson offers a fresh perspective on a world that was struggling between the belief that a person's birth determined his place in the world and one where virtually anyone could be transformed through education.
The fellowships combine the scholars' individual research with participation in ongoing programs and activities at the Academy. In addition, a major archival initiative will make available historical records that capture firsthand perspectives of the nation's academic, political and business leaders since its founding.
Davidson also is a 2005-2006 Guggenheim Fellow.