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English professor to present Shutz lecture on Oct. 19

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

LAWRENCE — William Shakespeare‘s influence on the American anti-slavery movement leading up to the Civil War will be the focus of an upcoming public lecture at the University of Kansas.

Associate Professor of English Laura Mielke will deliver the 2017 Shutz lecture, “Shakespeare’s Portia and the North’s Argument Against Slavery: an American Performance History” on Thursday, Oct. 19. Mielke was selected to receive the 2017 Byron T. Shutz Award for Excellence in Teaching.

“In my lecture, I will unpack an obscure but fascinating story about how Portia from Shakespeare’s ‘Merchant of Venice’ provided inspiration for many anti-slavery activists,” Mielke said. The topic is drawn from a recently completed book manuscript by Mielke that looks at the effects of theatre on anti-slavery speech prior to the war. The presentation, which is free and open to the public, begins at 3:30 p.m. in the Summerfield Room of the Adams Alumni Center. A reception will follow in the Phillips Board Room.

Mielke’s research interests include 19th century U.S. literature and culture, early American literature, Native American and African-American literature before 1900 and early American drama. Before joining KU in 2007, Mielke was an assistant professor at Iowa State University, and she completed her graduate studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her scholarly works include two books, a co-edited essay collection titled “Native Acts: Indian Performance, 1603-1832,” and the monograph “Moving Encounters: Sympathy and the Indian Question in Antebellum Literature.”

In addition to winning the Shutz Award, Mielke has been honored with the Mabel S. Fry Graduate Teaching Award, a Hall Center for the Humanities Research Fellowship and the Conger-Gabel Teaching Professorship in the Department of English. She was selected to take part in the KU Senior Administrative Fellows during the 2016-2017 academic year and from 2012 to 2017 was associate chair for her department. 

The Shutz award was established by the late Byron T. Shutz in 1978. Faculty members are nominated for this annual award by deans, department chairs or faculty colleagues. The honoree receives a one-time stipend and delivers a public lecture later in the academic year. The award alternates between recognizing excellent teaching in business and economics in even-numbered years, and outstanding teaching in any discipline in odd-numbered years.

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