SEA Junior Scholar of the Month for May 2020: Kade Ivy
How did you become interested in studying early American literature?
I’ve always been drawn to the history and literature of early America, entered my MA program planning to specialize in twentieth-century American drama. In my second semester, I took a graduate seminar focused on early American letter writing that was taught by Hilary Wyss. It was there that I fell in love not only with the literature of the period but also with our field and its methodologies. I was drawn to the commitment to literary and cultural history but also the commitment to close reading with which early Americanists approach their scholarship, and I knew I wanted these commitments to be guiding principles in my own work. On a more specific level, I also realized that the drama and theater of the early period offered very fruitful opportunities for research and discovery.
Who is your favorite early American writer, or what is your favorite early American text, and why?
I can never pick one favorite, so I’ll briefly mention two I often think about. I can never read Anne Bradstreet without being moved. Her poetry is theologically and philosophically rich yet eminently accessible, making her work a treat to both read and teach. Crèvecoeur is also moving, but in completely different ways, and in ways that diverge depending on which Crèvecoeur one reads!
What are you currently working on?
I just defended my proposal for a dissertation on unperformed drama in America before 1865. I’m hoping to offer a literary history and genre study of the precarious genre of closet drama and how it appears in this period. Authors whose work I’m planning to explore in the project include Revolution-era dramatists like Mercy Otis Warren and Hugh Henry Brackenridge, as well as authors who experimented with dramatic form, like Cotton Mather, Benjamin Franklin, and, into the nineteenth century, Herman Melville.
What is something you are reading right now (EAL related or otherwise) that inspires you, either personally or professionally?
After I defended my prospectus, I ordered the published scripts of two contemporary American plays, Downstate, by Bruce Norris, and The Sound Inside, by Adam Rapp. I’ve seen both plays in performance fairly recently, and revisiting them as printed texts is a rewarding mix of fond remembrance and uncanniness.
Is there a scholar in the field who inspires you, and why?
I’m continually humbled and moved by the kindness and generosity of everyone I meet in the field, just a few of whom I’d like to recognize here.
Though I wasn’t an early Americanist when I was his student, Derrick Spradlin, my undergraduate mentor, was and continues to be a source of encouragement and grounding. Hilary Wyss, my MA adviser, introduced me to the field and remains a professional role model. My dissertation director, Sandra Gustafson, is a source of brilliance, generosity, and encouragement. Her encyclopedic knowledge of the field is extraordinary, and her advice always educates me and makes my work better.
In the SEA, Jason Shaffer has gone above and beyond as I’ve sought to learn more about the early American theater. Kristina Bross, Dennis Moore, and Tom Hallock have also been incredibly generous, encouraging, and welcoming to me. I’m also continually in awe of my fellow junior scholars like Stacey Dearing, Jay Miller, and Anton Povzner.
Kade Ivy is a PhD candidate in the Department of English at the University of Notre Dame.