Lorrie Smith Professor of English and American Studies

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M.A., Ph.D. Brown University
B.A. University of Massachusetts-Boston

Areas of Expertise:

African American literature, especially poetry

Courses I Teach:

  • African American Literature
  • American Literature I and II
  • First-Year Seminar on Race and Culture
  • Genres: Poetry; Senior Seminar on various topics (latest: Literature and the Blues)
  • The Middle Passage (Transatlantic Slave Trade in History, Memory, and Imagination)

My Saint Michael’s:

My classes offer the opportunity to engage students in discussions of race, racism, African American literature and history. I have worked hard to develop strategies for safely approaching what can often be loaded material that challenges students’ comfort zones. I often incorporate experiences that combine classroom study with activities in the community. This includes overnight field trips to Charlestown, Massachusetts with my First-Year Seminar course and a three-week service-learning program in Ghana with students from my Middle Passage class. Through these cross-cultural encounters, students have a chance to examine and enlarge their own perspectives. I am also a faculty member in the college’s American Studies program.

There is a real commitment here to teach the whole student. I enjoy having a chance to shape hungry young minds and develop personal relationships with students. Saint Michael’s students have open minds and good hearts. They are very empathetic, kind, and friendly, and many are interested in finding ways to connect what they learn in classes to the larger world. They also have a strong desire to contribute to the community through service. My favorite class to teach is African-American Literature and The Middle Passage, because it’s a chance to introduce our students to a tradition they know little about, and to push their comfort zones.


Research Interests:

American poetry, African-American literature

Awards & Recognition

I am currently working on a book entitled Reports from Vernacular Valleys: Post-Sixties Black Poetry and the Public Sphere. I published a book chapter, “Hungry Ghosts and Restless Spirits: Lyric Voices of the Middle Passage” in Africa and Its Diaporas: History, Memory, and Literary Manifestations (Eritrea: African World Press, 2008).

Recent News

Jacob Pelletier, assistant director of alumni engagement, and Saint Michael’s English Professor Lorrie Smith (recently emeritus), on November 19 led an online discussion of Angie Thomas’ book The Hate U Give for the book group SMC Reads —  a relatively new initiative that includes participants from both the campus community and alumni/parents.
(posted February 2021)

Lorrie Smith, professor of English and American studies and English Department chair, the Saint has been appointed by President Lorraine Sterritt to serve as Acting Dean for the balance of this academic year and into the first part of the summer.
(posted January 2018)

Lorrie Smith, professor of English, and Bob Niemi, professor of English, traveled to Washington, DC, on August 11, 2017 to celebrate the swearing-in as a federal immigration judge of English Department graduate Charles Conroy ’93. The investiture took place at a Department of Justice building in Falls Church, VA.  Charles was one of nine new Federal Immigration Judges sworn in. Says Lorrie, “He also wrote a play about immigration that was produced off-Broadway a few years ago, so he has kept his English/Creative Writing interests going!” Bob explained how he, Smith and George Dameron of the History Department all “had Chuck as a student during his years at SMC (1989-1993). He was an Air Force vet and somewhat older than the average undergrad and far more mature and personable. We’ve kept in touch over the years and he invited us to his investiture.” George and Lorrie also attended Chuck’s graduation from Vermont Law School several years ago.
(posted December 2017)

Lorrie Smith, professor of English and American Studies, has accepted an offer to participate in the NEH Summer Institute “Don’t Deny My Voice: Reading and Teaching African American Poetry,” to be held July 14-August 3, 2013 on the campus of the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas. NEH Summer Scholar in this three-week institute receive a stipend for travel, housing and food.