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Dr. Hannah Spahn


Campus Neues Palais
Building 22, room 0.35/36

Teaching and education

since 04/2013Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin, Department of English and American Studies, University of Potsdam
10/2006  - 03/2013Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin, Department of Culture, John F. Kennedy-Institute for North American Studies, Freie Universität Berlin
10/2011 - 01/2012Guest Professor (Vertretung Juniorprofessur Kultur), John F. Kennedy-Institute for North American Studies, Freie Universität Berlin
09/2007 - 09/2011Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin, DFG-Project "American Cosmopolitanism," Department of Culture, John F. Kennedy-Institute for North American Studies, Freie Universität Berlin
02/2007Dr. phil. (American Studies), Freie Universität Berlin
07/2001Magister Artium (American Studies, French Literature, Comparative Literature), Freie Universität Berlin / University of Freiburg

Awards and fellowships

04/2017-03/2020Principal Investigator, “Cosmopolitanism and Character in Nineteenth-Century African American Literature,” German Research Foundation (DFG)
08/2016Peter Nicolaisen Fellowship, Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies, Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Charlottesville, VA
06/2016Summer Institute Fellowship, Jack Miller Center, Chicago, IL
10/2014 - 07/2015Mentoring Plus Fellowship, Potsdam Graduate School
09/2008 - 05/2009The Gilder Lehrman Junior Research Fellowship 2008/2009, Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies, Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Charlottesville, VA
05/2008 - 08/2008Postdoctoral Fellowship, Institute for Advanced Studies, University of Edinburgh
01/2005 - 12/2005Dissertation Completion Fellowship, Berliner Graduiertenförderung/ NaFöG
01/2002 - 12/2004Dissertation Fellowship, FAZIT-Stiftung
01/2002 - 12/2004Dissertation Fellowship, Berliner Graduiertenförderung/ NaföG  (declined)
09/2003 - 10/2003Short-term Fellowship, Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies, Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Charlottesville, VA
05/2003 - 06/2003Young Scholars’ Forum, German Historical Institute, Washington, DC
08/1996 - 05/1997American Studies Fellowship, German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, MA



Thomas Jefferson, Time, and History. Charlottesville and London: University of Virginia Press, 2011. Print.

[Reviews: American Political Thought, 2.1 (2013): 149-152 (Terence Ball).; Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, 121.3 (2013): 288-290 (R. B. Bernstein); Journal of Southern History, 79.2 (2013): 458-459 (Andrew Cayton); History of Intellectual Culture, 10.1 (2012/13) (Kevin R.C. Gutzman); Reviews in History,  (Dan Clinkman); Journal of the Early Republic, 33.2 (2013): 359-363 (Sean P. Harvey); Historian, 75.3 (2013): 588-589 (Michael Schwarz); Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 137.2 (2013): 208-209 (Eran Shalev); American Historical Review, 118.1 (2013): 180 (Peter Thompson);  Amerikastudien/American Studies, 58.2 (2013): 303-305 (Jasper Trautsch); Journal of American History, 100 (Dec. 2013): 818 (Philipp Ziesche).]

Thomas Jefferson und die Sklaverei: Verrat an der Aufklärung? Vol. 12 of the series Berliner Beiträge zur Amerikanistik. Ed. Winfried Fluck. Berlin: Freie Universität, 2002. Print.

Edited volume

Cosmopolitanism and Nationhood in the Age of Jefferson, ed. with Peter Nicolaisen. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2013. Print.

[Reviews: Journal of American History, 102.1 (June 2015): 237-238 (Darren Staloff); Archiv für Sozialgeschichte, 56 (2016), library.fes.de/pdf-files/afs/81674.pdf (Malte Hinrichsen).]

Selected articles and book chapters

“Erasing the Stamp of Toussaint L’Ouverture? The Haitian Revolution and the Question of Character.” Hemispheric Encounters: The Early United States in a Transnational Perspective. Eds. Gabriele Pisarz-Ramirez and Markus Heide. Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2016. 133-153. Print.

“Blood and Character in Early African American Literature.” The Politics of Blood, 1500-1900. Eds. Kimberley Anne Coles, Ralph Bauer, Carla L. Peterson, Zita Nunes. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2015. 146-167. Print.

“’Cruel war against human nature itself’: Krieg und Kosmopolitismus in der amerikanischen Revolution.” Krieg und Frieden im achtzehnten Jahrhundert. Ed. Stephanie Stockhorst. Hannover: Wehrhahn, 2015. 331-346. Print.

“Eliza Potter’s ‘Barberous Profession’: Self, Race, and Nation in A Hairdresser’s Experience in High Life.” American Lives. Ed. Alfred Hornung. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2013. 189-206. Print.

“Cosmopolitan Imperfections: Jefferson, Nationhood, and the Republic of Letters.” Cosmopolitanism and Nationhood in the Age of Jefferson. Eds. Peter Nicolaisen and Hannah Spahn. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2013. 113-135. Print.

“Lost in a Boudoir of Mirrors: The Pursuit of Recognition in the Biographical War.” Amerikastudien/American Studies, 57.4 (2012): 533-552. Print.

“’The Silent Course of Happiness’: Domesticity and Politics in Jefferson’s Presidency.” The American Presidency: Multidisciplinary Perspectives. Eds. Dietmar Schloss, Martin Thunert, Wilfried Mausbach. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2012. 187-209. Print.

“Character and Cosmopolitanism in the Scottish-American Enlightenment.” Character, Self, and Sociability in the Scottish Enlightenment. Eds. Susan Manning and Thomas Ahnert. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2011. 207-224. Print.

“Thomas Jefferson, Cosmopolitanism, and the Enlightenment.” A Companion to Thomas Jefferson. Ed. Francis D. Cogliano. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2011. 364-379. Print.


in American Historical Review, American Political Thought, Early American Literature, Intellectual History Review, Journal of American Studies, Journal of the Early Republic, Journal of Southern History.

Current project (funded by the German Research Foundation): 

“Cosmopolitanism and Character in Nineteenth-Century African American Literature”

The book project takes its symbolic point of departure from the first preserved use of character in 463 BC, when the term in fact referred, not to the Greeks, but to their African cousins, fifty fugitive women who are included into the polis after the first democratic decision in Greek literature. While these literary “firsts” may be incidental, I argue that conceptions of cosmopolitanism and character played a similarly central, if often overlooked, role in African American literature, whether in Equiano, Haynes, Walker, McCune Smith, Douglass, Harper, Chesnutt, Hopkins, or Du Bois. Joining the perspectives of intellectual history, literary and cultural studies, the project examines the imbrications of two modes of thinking that were, unlike today’s discussions of transnationalism and identity, directly available to the contemporaries of the long nineteenth century: the period between the first major wave of national cosmopolitanism during the founding of the American republics, when ideas of world citizenship became politically relevant and character began to move beyond Theophrastan notions, and the age of intense cosmopolitan thought that preceded the “war to end all wars” in the early twentieth century, when the coherence of character came to be questioned in psychoanalysis and modernist literature.