SEA Junior Scholar of the Month, November 2021: Molly Nebiolo
How did you become interested in studying early American literature?
I found the early American period to be extremely fascinating once I started studying it at the graduate-student level. I grew up in New England and participated in all the usual field trips to Salem and Sturbridge Village, so I thought I knew the whole story about the early colonial period. But, of course, I did not. Since immersing myself in the field at a higher academic level, I have become enthralled with the history of early American colonialism, settlement, and the voices that are now being heard as the field expands and becomes more inclusive. It’s really fascinating and makes me want to help to rewrite the curriculum of early American history for the students who are growing up to learn a certain type of early American history in schools.
Who is your favorite early American writer, or what is your favorite early American text, and why?
Right now, I would say the diaries of Elizabeth Drinker are great. It’s always astounding to have diaries covering an entire person’s life to survive generations, let alone a female who saw everything that was happening in Philadelphia – from the Seven Years War to British occupation during the fight for independence, and she survived the Yellow Fever epidemic! She’s seen it all. Having those diaries made available online are also what make this early American piece one of my favorites at the moment.
What are you currently working on?
I am currently writing my dissertation, which looks at the history of public health in early American cities. Write now I’m digging into the pamphlets and meeting minutes of Philadelphia in 1793 during the Yellow Fever epidemic to piece together how this event reflected or altered public notions of health in city-space.
What is something you are reading right now (EAL related or otherwise) that inspires you, either personally or professionally?
I recently finished an Agatha Christie novel, which is the type of literature I lean into during the summer and when I have free time. I love how Mrs. Marple, one of the detectives of Christie’s works, studies her surroundings, and interviews people to piece together the events that led to a murder. In a way, it reminds me of how historians need to do a similar type of analysis in the archives to piece together the events of the past.
Is there a scholar in the field who inspires you, and why?
Sari Altschuler is a fantastic scholar. Her kindness and ability to produce such thoughtful, trailblazing, interdisciplinary work is always inspiring. I think she is a great role model for rising female academics in the field.
Molly Nebiolo is the 2021-2022 Friends of the APS Predoctoral Fellow in Early American History. She is a doctoral candidate in history at Northeastern University.