UMass Amherst Professor Nick Bromell Named Guggenheim Fellow

Scholar also awarded fellowship at Harvard's Charles Warren Center
Nick Bromell
Nick Bromell

AMHERST, Mass. – Nick Bromell, professor of English at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who has undertaken a major new work on the thinking of abolitionist Frederick Douglass, is one of only 178 scholars in the U.S. and Canada to be named a Guggenheim Fellow for 2016.

The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation announced the awards in The New York Times on April 6, saying that the 2016 fellows were chosen “on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise” from about a group of 3,000 applicants in the Guggenheim 92nd competition.

“These artists and writers, scholars and scientists, represent the best of the best,” said foundation president Edward Hirsch. “Each year since 1925, the Guggenheim Foundation has bet everything on the individual, and we’re thrilled to continue to do so with this wonderfully talented and diverse group. It’s an honor to be able to support these individuals to do the work they were meant to do.”

At the same time, Bromell has also been named a 2016-17 Fellow of the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History at Harvard, which will take up the theme “Imagining History, Doing Politics: The Uses and Disadvantages of the Past.”

An intellectual historian, Bromell focuses at the intersection of literary and cultural studies and political theory. Of this year’s Guggenheim fellows, Bromell is one of only two in the American literature category. His current work on the political philosophy of Frederick Douglass grows out of two of his earlier books, “By the Sweat of the Brow: Literature and Labor in Antebellum America” (1992), and “The Time Is Always Now: Black Thought and the Transformation of US Democracy” (2013).

“This book will take seriously Douglass’ own claim that his philosophy had its origins in his experience of being enslaved,” said Bromell. “What that experience enabled, I believe, is a radically different perspective on all the keywords and ideas of democracy, including freedom, equality, rights, power, law and citizenship. Douglass believed, and I agree, that that perspective had important insights into democracy and politics that all citizens can benefit from.”

Bromell is also the author of “Tomorrow Never Knows: Rock and Psychedelics in the 1960s” (2000).

His research has appeared in numerous academic journals, including American Quarterly, American Literary History, American Literature, American Music and Political Theory, and his essays have been published in The Boston Globe, Harper’s, Raritan, Sewanee Review, The Georgia Review and The American Scholar, as well as on-line at Alternet and Salon. His is also the founding editor of The Boston Review and a former president of the New England American Studies Association.

Bromell earned a B.A. in classics and philosophy at Amherst College and a Ph.D. in English and American literature at Stanford. He joined the English faculty at UMass Amherst in 1987.