SEA Junior Scholar of the Month for January 2018: Rebecca M. Rosen
How did you become interested in studying early American literature?
I first became interested in early American literature during my sophomore year of college, when I took a class on American Literature to 1800 with Lisa Gordis at Barnard College. The combination of that class and a SHEAR/Mellon seminar for undergraduates, led by Mary Kelley and Jim Stewart, convinced me that I would pursue a career as an early Americanist.
Who is your favorite early American writer, or what is your favorite early American text, and why?
There are so many (Rowlandson; Equiano; Thomas Shepard) that it’s difficult to choose, but two are always on my mind: Anne Bradstreet’s “Upon the Burning of Our House” (1666) is the poem that I return to whenever I need an example of the humanity and beauty that early Americanists look for in the texts we teach. William Apess’s “Eulogy on King Philip” (1836) is a clear-eyed, prophetic meditation on the Native American encounter with colonizers that still demands our attention.
What are you currently working on?
I’ve just turned in final edits on an article, “Copying Hannah Griffitts: Poetic Circulation and the Quaker Community of Scribes,” that will be coming out in New Critical Studies on Early Quaker Women, 1650-1800 (eds. Michele Lise Tarter and Catie Gill, Oxford University Press: April 2018). Also, I’m working on a proposal for a critical edition of an early American surgeon’s diary and, of course, finishing my dissertation! My study, Making the Body Speak: Anatomy, Autopsy and Testimony in Early America, 1639-1790, explores how early Americans used postmortem practices to extract testimony from deceased bodies, and how anatomical reading practices were used to control the living. I’m currently drafting a chapter on the origins of the satirical autopsy. Finally, I’ve been asked to join Princeton’s re-formed NAGPRA (Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act) committee; I’m eager to be of service.
What is something you are reading right now (EAL related or otherwise) that inspires you, either personally or professionally?
At the moment I’m reading Daina Ramey Berry’s The Price for their Pound of Flesh: The Value of the Enslaved from Womb to Grave, in the Building of a Nation (2017). I’m in awe of Berry’s research and scholarship, and what she’s revealed about the role of anatomy in the history of slavery in this country. I’m also getting ready to dive into Louise Erdrich’s latest, Future Home of the Living God, which is winging its way to my door.
Is there a scholar in the field who inspires you, and why?
I’m always inspired by Sarah Rivett, whose advice and scholarship has guided my work, particularly my approach to Native American and Indigenous Studies and medical humanities research. I’ve also been influenced by Bill Gleason, who’s been a terrific mentor; Sari Altschuler, who’s been a guiding presence to so many junior scholars in the profession; and Krista Turner, who taught me what it means to be a generous colleague.
Rebecca M. Rosen is a PhD Candidate in English at Princeton University.