Laura Mielke

Associate Professor
Primary office:
785-864-2568 or 785-864-2516
3032 or 3001H Wescoe Hall


Areas of Research

Nineteenth-Century U.S. Literature and Culture, Early American Literature, American Indian and African American Literature to 1900, Early American Drama, Performance Studies, American Studies

Faculty Profile

I am deeply interested in the political work of literature and have sought time and again to challenge easy judgments of works as either "conservative" or "subversive," both in the classroom and on the page. I have found American Literature from the colonial period through 1900 (and particularly works from the 1830s through the 1850s) to be a treasure trove of case studies. Across my work, I consider the wide variety of ways in which works of American Indian, African American, transcendental, sentimental, dramatic, and oratorical literatures conjure emotional responses not so easily assignable to one social cause or partisan position.

In Moving Encounters: Sympathy and the Indian Question in Antebellum Literature (2008), I argue that in the decades surrounding the 1830 Indian Removal Act, representations of emotional exchanges between Euro-Americans and supposedly doomed American Indians were used by authors both supportive of and resistant to the forced dislocation and assimilation. In the collection Native Acts: Indian Performance, 1603-1832 (2011), my co-editor Joshua David Bellin and I re-theorize the notion of "playing Indian" by bringing together accounts of Native performances of Indianness in a colonial context. I recently completed a book titled Provocative Eloquence: Theatre and the Limits of Anti-Slavery Oratory in the Antebellum U.S. (currently under review) in which I explore the impact of theatrical performances on the struggle to end slavery in the lead up to the Civil War. In particular I ask how theatrical forms contributed to the deliberation over whether abolition required forceful resistance as well as forceful rhetoric.

Selected Publications

  • “Transforming Captivity Narratives in Kevin Willmott’s The Only Good Indian.” American Studies, vol. 55, no. 1, May 2016, pp. 5-30.
  • “‘a black diamond among thim American wifes’: Kate Edwards Swayze’s Anti-Slavery Adaptation of George Colman’s Inkle and Yarico,” edited with Martha Baldwin. Scholarly Editing, 2015, http://www.scholarlyediting.org
  • “Edwin Forrest’s July 4th Oration and the Specters of Provocative Eloquence.” American Literature, vol. 86, March 2014, pp. 1-30. doi: 10.1215/00029831-2395429
  • Native Acts: Indian Performance, 1603-1832, edited with Joshua David Bellin, afterword by Philip J. Deloria. University of Nebraska Press, 2011.
  • Moving Encounters: Sympathy and the Indian Question in Antebellum Literature. University of Massachusetts Press, 2008. Co-winner of the 2009 Byron Caldwell Smith Book Award and a 2009 Choice “Outstanding Academic Title.”
  • “Sectional Patriotism and Heroic Eloquence in William Gilmore Simms’s Norman Maurice.” Journal of American Drama and Theatre, vol. 21, no. 2, 2009, pp. 9-28.
  • “‘The Saga of Third World Belle’: Resurrecting the Ethnic Woman in Ishmael Reed’s Flight to Canada.” MELUS, vol. 31, no. 2, 2007, pp. 3-27.

Selected Honors

  • Byron T. Shutz Trust Award for Excellence in Teaching (2017)
  • Mabel S. Fry Graduate Teaching Award, KU English Department (2015)
  • Humanities Research Fellowship, KU Hall Center for the Humanities (2014)
  • Conger-Gabel Teaching Professorship, KU English Department (2010-2013)

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