Laura Dassow Walls

Laura Dassow Walls
  • University of Notre Dame
  • William P. and Hazel B. White Professor of English
  • Residential Fellow (2018-2019)
  • "Children of the Fire: The Many Lives of American Transcendentalism"

Laura Dassow Walls is the William P. and Hazel B. White Professor of English and a Reilly Fellow in the History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Notre Dame. She works in the field of literature and science with a focus on nineteenth-century literature and the history of ecological thought. While her research centers on Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and American Transcendentalism more generally, her quest to understand these American authors in both transdisciplinary and cosmopolitical contexts has led to a continuing interest in British, French, and German philosophers and scientists, with the goal of bringing the insights of science studies into literary theory and criticism.

Professor Dassow Walls’s book Henry David Thoreau: A Life (Chicago, 2017) won the 2018 Los Angeles Times Book Award for Biography and was named one of the "Notable Books of 2017" by The New York Times. Her other recent books include the co-edited Views of Nature by Alexander von Humboldt in a new translation by Mark Person (2014) and The Passage to Cosmos: Alexander von Humboldt and the Shaping of America (2009), which won the OAH Merle Curti Prize for intellectual history and the MLA James Russell Lowell Prize for literary studies. Her earlier books include Seeing New Worlds: Henry David Thoreau and Nineteenth-Century Natural Science (1995), Emerson’s Life in Science: The Culture of Truth (2003), and co-edited Oxford Handbook of Transcendentalism (2010).

Professor Dassow Walls has received numerous awards, including the Ralph Waldo Emerson Society Distinguished Achievement Award (2012), two National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowships, a Guggenheim Fellowship (2010-11), and the Russell Research Award for the Humanities and Social Sciences (University of South Carolina, 2010).