Amy Martin

Mount Holyoke College Faculty Award for Teaching

It is appropriate to begin a discussion of Amy Martin’s teaching with two quotes from students in her popular Victorian Literature and Visual Culture course: first, “Amy is scary brilliant without being intimidating”; and second, “Amy Martin is an actual Goddess sent from the heavens above.” Whether the class is a first-year seminar or an advanced course on Victorian literature, Amy’s teaching is described as “great,” “brilliant,” “amazing,” “fantastic.”

Amy’s courses invariably involve a mixture of lecture and discussion, but no matter what the size, her classes are always “open and welcoming,” as a student puts it. Amy facilitates an atmosphere where all participants speak, for she guides discussions with a gentle hand. Students describe her teaching style as supportive and the class atmosphere as warm. But warmth does not preclude rigor. Students also state that Amy pushes them to think in new ways, that she constantly challenges them, does not oversimplify the material, and expects them to cover a considerable amount of material, no matter the level of the course. Students are exposed to difficult literary theory, but Amy explicates these approaches masterfully. While she clearly explains the readings and concepts in her classes, she does so in a way that excites the imagination. As a student puts it, Amy “offers elegant insights into the course materials.” Another tells Amy, “You speak so poetically.” Many comment that her courses are a joy to attend.

Among Amy’s specialties are nineteenth- and twentieth-century Irish literature and nationalism, and she has published widely in these areas, including her book, Alter-Nations: Nationalisms, Terror, and the State in Nineteenth-Century Britain and Ireland, published by the Ohio State University Press in 2012. She has also written many articles on Irish anticolonial struggles and Irish visual culture. She ably communicates this material to her students in her course Modern Irish Literature, for they consistently comment on their new appreciation for the richness and complexity of Irish literature and history after completing the class. 

Another key strength of Amy’s teaching—one of her major accomplishments—is that students leave her courses as better writers. Students in every course comment on Amy’s ability to improve their writing proficiency. In the words of one student, “My writing has improved a hundredfold.” Amy devotes an enormous amount of time to improving student writing and has succeeded admirably. It is not surprising then that since 2012 Amy has served as the faculty director of the Speaking, Arguing, and Writing Program. She is the ideal director for the program.

Amy Martin is richly deserving of the Mount Holyoke Faculty Award for Teaching. Since arriving at Mount Holyoke in 2001 from Columbia University (where she graduated with distinction), she has been a central presence on the campus, as a teacher, scholar, and College citizen. We are here today to celebrate Amy as an inspiring, motivating, and passionate teacher. Amy is a great professor and role model, as her students state—and, to top it off, she brings them treats (like pizza)! Congratulations, Amy.