Robert Niemi Professor of English

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M.A., Ph.D., University of Massachusetts at Amherst
M.S. Columbia University
B.A. University of Massachusetts at Amherst


Areas of Expertise:

American Studies; American literature and cultural history; film studies; critical theory; popular culture studies


Courses I Teach:

  • Advanced film courses
  • American literature surveys
  • Critical Theory
  • Genres: Film


Most of my research and publishing is in American Studies areas (i.e., contemporary literature, film, cultural studies and critical theory), which makes for a close and lively reciprocity between my research and teaching.

Awards & Recognition

One of my recent booksHistory in the Media: Film & Television — a major reference work covering over 350 films — was published by ABC-Clio in 2006. My fourth bookThe Ultimate, Illustrated Beats Chronology, was published by Soft Skull Press in 2011. I also have a major critical-biographical essay on Depression-era poet Genevieve Taggard coming out in Scribner’s American Writers series in 2011.

Robert James Niemi, Saint Michael’s College professor of English, received the Scholarship and Artistic Achievement Award, presented in ceremonies held September 28 at the annual Saint Michael’s College Academic Convocation in McCarthy Arts Center. Professor Niemi was selected by his faculty colleagues, and the citation was read by last year’s recipient of the award, mathematics professor Joanna Ellis-Monaghan, who also gave the Convocation Address, “Math and the World.”

The citation:

In his 22 years at Saint Michael’s College, Bob Niemi has become one of the most prolific scholars in the English Department and the College.  Though quiet and modest, Bob works with ferocious dedication, discipline, and intellectual passion.  His acumen as a literary critic is grounded in humanistic values and social justice.

From Emily Dickinson to Jimi Hendrix

Bob’s scholarship is notable for its breadth, spanning the fields of film studies, 19th and 20th C. American fiction and poetry, Naturalism and Existentialism, critical theory, music and literature, popular culture, Marxist analysis and working class writers.  He speaks with authority about Robert Musil and Robert Johnson, Emily Dickinson and Jimi Hendrix.

Though strongly grounded in American Studies, he is cosmopolitan in his tastes.  He synthesizes fields in original ways, and routinely assimilates his research into his teaching.  A sampling of course titles indicates his far-reaching interests:  Melville and Pynchon, The Cinema of Stanley Kubrick, Film Noir, the Horror Film, Literature of the American Dream, Literature of the Great Depression, Madness and Modernism, the Life and Art of Bob Dylan, The Beat Generation.  Enlivened by his work as a scholar, such courses have been popular with students and have greatly enriched the English major curriculum.

Niemi’s books

The sheer quantity of Bob’s peer-reviewed scholarship is reason enough for recognition.  He has published four books:  Russell Banks (1997), The Bibliography of Weldon Kees (1997), History in the Media: Film and Television (2006, revised 2013), and The Ultimate, Illustrated Chronology of the Beats (2011).  He has written over 40 articles, book reviews, and encyclopedia entries and gives several conference presentations a year. His writing is of great service to other scholars and is widely cited.

Trained as a librarian as well as a literary critic, Bob’s scholarship is meticulous and his writing is elegant.  He has a particular commitment to the work of recovering lost and overlooked but important American writers, contributing to the important work of enlarging the literary canon.  His work always attends to the complex dynamics of race, class, and gender as they play out textually and in literary history.

His colleagues can be inspired by Bob’s strong work ethic and commitment to the life of the mind.  In recognition of his accomplishments, we, the faculty of Saint Michael’s College, are proud to present the 2012 Scholarship and Artistic Achievement Award to Professor Robert James Niemi.

See the repeat in

Recent News

Bob Niemi, professor of English and American Studies, will be presenting a paper on actor/writer/sailor Sterling Hayden at “Over Seas: Melville, Whitman, and All the Intrepid Sailors,” a literary conference in Lisbon, Portugal, in early July.
(posted June 2019)

Bob Niemi, professor of English, is, a prolific author covering many aspects of American popular culture, particularly film, and he recently published a new book titled 100 Great War Movies: The Real History behind the Films (ABC-Clio, 2018) Bob has published seven books — four in the last seven years – making him among the most published authors (if not the most published) on the St. Mike’s faculty. Here are Bob’s other titles: Russell Banks (Twayne, 1997); The Bibliography of Weldon Kees (with Daniel Gillane, Parish House, 1997); History in the Media: Film & Television (ABC-Clio, 2006); The Ultimate, Illustrated Beats Chronology (Counterpoint Press, 2011); Inspired by True Events: An Illustrated Guide to More than 500 History-Based Films (ABC-Clio, 2013); The Cinema of Robert Altman: Hollywood Maverick (Columbia University Press, 2016); and his latest, 100 Great War Movies—The Real History Behind the Films (ABC-Clio, 2018).
(posted January 2019)

Bob Niemi, professor of English, and Lorrie Smith, 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)

Robert Niemi, professor and chair of English, learned recently that his sixth book, The Cinema of Robert Altman, Hollywood Maverick, is one of the Top 75 Community College Titles named by Choice, a review journal of new academic titles. Bob also chaired and commented on the panel titled “Performance, Memory, and Representation in Modern British ‘Mass’ Media,” at the Northeastern Conference for British Studies, hosted at Saint Michael’s and organized by Jennifer Purcell of the College’s history faculty.
(posted November 2016)

Robert Niemi, professor of English and American Studies and chair of English, gave an invited talk, “Apocalypse Then: A Certain Tendency in Some Key Sixties Counterculture Films,” at the Center for Marxist Education, Cambridge, MA, on. Oct. 23. He also presented papers on film noir at the 36th Annual Northeast Popular/American Culture Conference, Providence College, Providence RI, on Oct. 24, and at the 2014 Film & History Conference, Madison, WI, on Nov. 1.
(posted December 2014)