Laura L. Mielke

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


Areas of Research

Nineteenth-Century U.S. Literature and culture, Early American Literature, American Indian Literature, Performance Studies, American Studies, Sentimentalism

Selected Publications

Native Acts: Indian Performance, 1603-1832. Edited with Joshua David Bellin. Afterword by Philip J. Deloria. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 2011.

Moving Encounters: Sympathy and the Indian Question in Antebellum Literature (U Massachusetts P, 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 21.2 (2009)

“‘The Saga of Third World Belle’: Resurrecting the Ethnic Woman in Ishmael Reed’s Flight to Canada,”MELUS 31.2 (2007)

Biography and Areas of Interest

I am deeply interested in the political work of literature and have sought time and again to challenge easy judgements of works as either "conservative" or "subversive." 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. I consider the wide variety of ways in which works of American Indian, African American, transcendental, sentimental, dramatic, and oratorical literature 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. More recently 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.

At present I am writing a book titled Provocative Eloquence: Theatre, Oratory, and Collective Violence in America, 1820-1860 in which I explore how theatrical performances prompted Americans to reflect on and critique the volatile nature of political oratory in the decades prior to the Civil War. I am also editing a collection of previously unpublished dramas by Kate Edwards Swayze, author of Ossawattomie Brown; or, The Insurrection at Harper's Ferry (1859).


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