Karah M. Mitchell

Karah Mitchell
Visiting Assistant Professor
233 Tate Hall

PhD, English, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2024

MA, English, University of Missouri at Columbia, 2016

BA, English, Minor in French, Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge, 2014 

Research and Teaching

American literature from beginnings to 1914; animal studies; archive studies; children’s literature; history and literature.


Karah Mitchell researches the various relationships between literary texts and historical developments in how humans think about and interact with animals. She concentrates on American literature of the long nineteenth century, but she also has research interests in early European contact and colonization and how previous historical developments continue to shape our current moment. She has taught courses on animals in literature, poetry, science writing, and composition, and her research and teaching frequently emphasize interdisciplinary inquiry and collaboration. 

Her current book project, Animals, Children, and Learning How to be Human(e) in Nineteenth-Century American Literature, investigates how materials written for and by children generated and consolidated “humane” values that continue to shape animal and human lives today. Work by historians has considered how the nineteenth-century United States witnessed enormous developments in humane education and animal welfare initiatives—developments that ultimately influenced how we interact with animals today and that continue to be inculcated into children from a young age. Karah’s project contributes new knowledge to the field of literary studies by demonstrating how and why literature—and specifically children’s literature—profoundly shaped these historical developments in animal welfare and humane education. Her work is largely grounded in working with archival materials and sits at the crossroads of several different fields, specifically animal studies, archive studies, childhood studies, and historical studies; while she focuses on the United States, she also considers the transatlantic and transnational dimensions of animal welfare discourse. She has held research fellowships from the American Antiquarian Society and the Massachusetts Historical Society, and her most recent scholarship is forthcoming in American Literature and The Oxford Handbook of Henry David Thoreau. In her future work, Karah plans to build on her current project by investigating the relationship between literature and the development of veterinary science as a medical field. On a larger level, Karah is also interested in the history of public education in the United States. 

Awards and Honors

Lapides Fellowship in Pre-1865 Juvenile Literature and Ephemera, 2023-2024, American Antiquarian Society, Worcester MA

Andrew Oliver Research Fellowship, 2022-2023, Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston MA

Tanner Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching by Graduate Teaching Assistants, UNC Office of the Provost, 2024

Krista Turner Award for Excellence in Student Support for Spring 2022, UNC Dept. of English & Comparative Literature

Student Undergraduate Teaching Award, UNC Chancellor’s Awards, 2022

Selected Publications

“A More ‘Human(e)’ Society? Animal Autobiography and the Shaping of Race, Species, and Gender,” forthcoming in American Literature, vol. 96, no. 3, September 2024.

“‘Our School House is the Universe’: Thoreau on Education,” forthcoming chapter in The Oxford Handbook of Henry David Thoreau, 2025.

“A Posthumous Life: Thoreau and the Possibilities of Posthuman Biography,” The Concord Saunterer: A Journal of Thoreau Studies, vol. 27, 2019, pp. 127-142.