Laura Mielke

Dean's Professor
Primary office:
3032 Wescoe Hall


I was born and raised in Boone, North Carolina, majored in English and Philosophy at Saint Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, and earned an MA and PhD from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I joined the KU faculty in 2007.


I teach a wide range of courses in literary studies and writing, from a first-year seminar on historical fiction to a graduate course on methodology and theory. I am most passionate about teaching “American” Literature from its “beginnings” (such contested terms!) through the early twentieth century. In addition to literary surveys, I have taught courses on abolitionist literature, women’s writing, castaway fiction, transcendentalism, drama and oratory, the captivity narrative, and a variety of nineteenth-century authors.



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

My research focuses on the intersection of literature, politics, and performance in America before the twentieth century, and especially in the first half of the nineteenth century. In Moving Encounters: Sympathy and the Indian Question in Antebellum Literature (University of Massachusetts Press 2008), I treat sentimental representations of exchange between American Indians and Euro-American in the literature of the Removal Era. More recently I have studied the impact of the theater on the struggle to end slavery. In Provocative Eloquence: Theater, Violence, and Antislavery Speech in the Antebellum U.S. (University of Michigan Press in 2019), I uncover how those who spoke out against slavery in the years leading up to the Civil War drew upon dramatic works and performance, especially as they faced violent censorship.

Selected Publications


Provocative Eloquence: Theater, Violence, and Antislavery Speech in the Antebellum U.S. University of Michigan Press, 2019.

Native Acts: Indian Performance, 1603-1832, edited by Laura L. Mielke and Joshua David Bellin, introduction by Mielke, 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.”

Selected Articles & Book Chapters (many available via KU ScholarWorks)

“Performative Cultures of Early America.” Cambridge History of Native American Literature, edited by Melanie B. Taylor. Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2019,

“Performance, Theatricality, and Early American Drama." Companion to American Literature, Volume 1, edited by Theresa Strouth Gaul. Blackwell Publishers, forthcoming 2019.

“Native American Presence.” Hawthorne in Context, edited by Monika Elbert. Cambridge University Press, 2018.

“Transforming Captivity Narratives in Kevin Willmott’s The Only Good Indian.” American Studies, vol. 55, no. 1, May 2016, pp. 5-30.

“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

 “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.


General editor for Broadview Anthology of American Literature, in progress, anticipated 2021.

Scholarly digital edition of John Brougham’s Columbus burlesques, with Rachel L. Brown, in progress.

“‘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, vol. 36, 2015:



Selected Awards & Honors

Friends of the Hall Center Book Subvention Award (2018)

Byron T. Shutz Trust Award for Excellence in Teaching (2017)

KU Senior Administrative Fellow, KU (2016-17)

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)

Byron Caldwell Smith Book Award (2009)


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