Carrie Tirado Bramen

Carrie Bramen.

Carrie Tirado Bramen

Carrie Tirado Bramen


nineteenth-century American literature, U.S. Latinx literature, the transatlantic 19c, cultural history, feminist and gender studies, critical race studies, and intellectual history


  • Ph.D., Modern Thought & Literature, Stanford, 1994
  • M.A., Critical Theory, University of Sussex, 1988
  • B.A. (Honors), English with a minor in Latin American Studies, University of Connecticut, Storrs, 1987


Carrie Tirado Bramen is the author of American Niceness: A Cultural History (Harvard UP 2017), a study of the role niceness has played in configuring a democratic personality that is apparently free from Old World snobbery. Bramen explores the conflicting ways that niceness has figured in the nineteenth century from Native American hospitality, feminine niceness, and the rise of the nice Jesus to the significance of the slave’s smile in antebellum rhetoric. The book concludes with the emergence of the “democratic empire”—where the US occupation of the Philippines was claimed by some to be a kinder, gentler form of imperial dominance, epitomized in Civil-Governor William Howard Taft’s hearty laughter, firm handshake, and affable manner. This cultural history of the United States demonstrates the centrality of sociality for thinking about national and political cultures. Her essay, “Niceness in a Neoliberal Age,” appeared in Public Culture (May 2018).

Her first book, The Uses of Variety: Modern Americanism and the Quest for National Distinctiveness (Harvard UP 2000), was co-winner of the Thomas J. Wilson prize for best first book published by Harvard University Press.  It explores how the language of ‘variety—a Victorian precursor to diversity—became synonymous with Americanism in the late nineteenth century from literary regionalism and biracial fictions to intra-urban walking tours and the emergence of the urban picturesque to religious pluralism and the World’s Parliament of Religions in 1893.  William James’s philosophy of pluralism frames this study of how to imagine “manyness-in-oneness,” where oneness offers little in the way of stability and security.

She is currently working on an essay about Harriet Beecher Stowe in Florida, and writing a book-length cultural history of astrology.

Bramen has written for the Washington Post, The Conversation, the Black Agenda Report, and the Political Theology Network.

The recipient of three teaching awards including the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, Bramen teaches courses in nineteenth-century American literature, American 1890s, US Latinx literature, travel writing and creative nonfiction.

Since 2017, she has been Director of the Institute for Research and Education on Women and Gender at the University at Buffalo (aka the UB Gender Institute).  From 2007-2013, she served as Executive Director of the UB Humanities Institute. She was elected Program Chair of C19: Society of Nineteenth-Century Americanists (2016-2018). 

In the News

Jan 25, 2024: The Colin McEnroe Show: “From Iowa Nice to New England blunt: How do we define nice in America?” CT Public Radio.

August 4, 2021GI Director Carrie Tirado Bramen reacting to NY Attorney General’s Report on Governor Cuomo. Radio Station WBFO

August 11, 2021: UB Gender Institute leader: Cuomo resignation a milestone in views on sexual harassment

Buffalo News Article

Syndicate Network: Book Forum on Kathryn Lofton’s Consuming Religion (Chicago UP 2017). Response from Carrie Tirado Bramen, “Varieties of Religious Experience from Justin Bieber to Beyoncé.”

“Happy Birthday, Mr. Clemens: How Buffalo defined Mark Twain’s Legacy.” Interview with Carrie Tirado Bramen on WBFO.

Black Agenda Report Book Forum: Suzy Hansen's "Notes on a Foreign Country" and Carrie Bramen's "American Niceness"

Carrie Tirado Bramen, “In the DACA debate, which version of America—nice or nasty—will prevail?” The Conversation (February 13, 2018)

Carrie Tirado Bramen, “Americans have always been nice. But is it just a sham?” Washington Post (June 30, 2017)

Thinking Aloud Podcast: Marcus Smith speaks with Carrie Tirado Bramen, a professor of English who has written a cultural history of American niceness. Join them as they discuss the often contradictory nature of national stereotypes.—Original airdate: 10/9/2017

Bramen named director of UB Gender Institute

Selected Publications

  • American Niceness: A Cultural History (Harvard UP, 2017)
  • The Uses of Variety: Modern Americanism and the Quest for National Distinctiveness (Harvard UP 2000)
  •  “Niceness in a Neoliberal Age,” Public Culture (May 2018)
  • “Flirting in Yankeeland: Rethinking American Exceptionalism through Argentine Travel Writing,” The Latino Nineteenth Century, ed. Rodrigo Lazo and Jesse Alemán  (NYU Press, 2016), 230-254.
  • “The Christology of Niceness: Harriet Beecher Stowe, the Jesus Novel and Sacred Trivialities,” in Beyond Protestant Modernism: American Religious Liberalism Revisited. ed Leigh Schmidt and Sally Promey (Indiana UP, 2012), 39-75.
  •  “James, Pragmatism and the Realist Ideal,” in The Cambridge History of the American Novel, ed. Lenny Cassuto, Associate editors Benjamin Reiss and Clare Eby (Cambridge UP, 2011), 304-321.
  • “An Insolent Style--Leslie Fiedler, 1941” in A New Literary History of America, eds. Werner Sollors and Greil Marcus (Harvard University Press, 2009), 747-752.
  • “Speaking in Typeface: Characterizing Stereotypes in Gayl Jones' Mosquito," Modern Fiction Studies  49:1 (Spring 2003): 124-154. Special Issue on "Fictions of the American (Trans)Imaginary."
  • "Why the Academic Left Hates Identity Politics," Textual Practice 16:2 (Spring 2002): 1-11.
  • "The Urban Picturesque and the Spectacle of Americanization," American Quarterly 52:3 (September 2000): 444-477.
  • "Christian Maidens and Heathen Monks: Oratorical Seduction at the 1893 World's Parliament of Religions," The Puritan Origins of American Sex.  ed. Tracy Fessenden et al. (Routledge, 2000), 191-212.
  • "Translating Exile: The Metamorphosis of the Ordinary in Dominican Short Fiction," Latin American Literary Review 26 (January-June 1998): 63-78.
American Niceness book cover.
The Uses of Variety book cover.