The University of Massachusetts Amherst
HFA - College of Humanities & Fine Arts view HFA submenu
Section Menu

Nicholas Bromell

Professor Emeritus

picture of Nicholas Bromell

W339 South College

Nick Bromell has a longstanding interest in showing how literature and popular culture (even rock and roll) can be expressions of philosophy and political theory. Recently, he has explored the ways works of literature, especially African American literature, address deeply rooted problems of U.S. democracy and democratic citizenship. His publications also reflect his interest in bridging the gap between academic discourse and public debate. His teaching is shaped by his commitment to contemplative pedagogies, and he incorporates meditation and other forms of awareness practice in all his classes.

Bromell received a BA in Classics and Philosophy from Amherst College and a PhD in English and American Literature from Stanford University. He was the founding editor of The Boston Review, and he serves as an advisory editor to the Class: Culture series published by the University of Michigan Press. He served a term as President of the New England American Studies Association, and he was a founder of Democratic Vistas: An Interdisciplinary Seminar in Political Theory and Cultural Studies. He has received fellowships from the Charlotte W. Newcombe Foundation, the Massachusetts Artists Foundation, the Fulbright Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Charles Warren Center at Harvard University. In 2016 he received the University’s Award for Outstanding Accomplishments in Research and Creativity.

Research Areas

  • African American Political Thought
  • Nineteenth-Century American Literature
  • Nonfiction Writing



  • Power, Dignity, Struggle: The Black Political Philosophy of Frederick Douglass (Duke University Press: forthcoming 2020)
  • The Norton Critical Edition of My Bondage and My Freedom, co-edited with R. Blakeslee Gilpin (Norton: forthcoming 2020)
  • A Political Companion to W.E. B. Du Bois (University Press of Kentucky, 2018)
  • The Time Is Always Now: Black Thought and the Transformation of US Democracy (Oxford University Press, 2013)
  • Tomorrow Never Knows: Rock and Psychedelics in the 1960s (University of Chicago Press, 2000)
  • By the Sweat of the Brow: Literature and Labor in Antebellum America (University of Chicago Press, 1992)

His articles, essays, and reviews have appeared in Critical Philosophy of Race, Political TheoryAmerican Quarterly, American LiteratureAmerican Literary History, American MusicThe Boston ReviewHarper'sRaritan, The Boston GlobeThe Sewanee ReviewThe Georgia Review, and on-line at Exquisite Corpse, Alternet, and Salon.

Courses Recently Taught

  • Frederick Douglass’s Nineteenth Century
  • Emerson and Du Bois
  • Writing in an Age of Revolution and Reform: American Literature 1830-1860.
  • Walt Whitman In His Times
  • Literature and Democratic Theory