Lana Dee Povitz

Visiting Assistant Professor of History

 Spring 2022: Wednesdays 3:00 - 6:00 PM and by appointment, Axinn 329
 Axinn Center 329

Lana Dee Povitz is Visiting Assistant Professor of History at Middlebury College. Her research and teaching focus on U.S. social movements and grassroots politics, women and gender, oral history, food politics, and contemporary North American Jewish history.

She is currently working on a historical biography of the feminist writer Shulamith Firestone. Her first book, Stirrings: How Activist New Yorkers Ignited a Movement for Food Justice, was published in fall 2019 by the University of North Carolina Press (Justice, Power and Politics series). 

Professor Povitz's work has been supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Mellon Foundation, and the New York Council for the Humanities. In Fall 2020, she held a fellowship at the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Along with Steven High, she is co-editor of a recent special issue of Histoire sociale /Social History on Activist Lives (October 2020). She has published scholarly articles on transnational feminism, urban food politics, and oral history, and has written for the Los Angeles Review of Books about the feminist author Vivian Gornick. She currently serves on the nominating committee of the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians.

For more information visit



Course List: 

Courses offered in the past four years.
indicates offered in the current term
indicates offered in the upcoming term[s]

FYSE 1578 - Activism & U.S. AIDS Crisis      

Activism and the U.S. AIDS Crisis *
The history of HIV/AIDS has much to teach us about the politics of late twentieth-century and early twenty-first century American life. Building on foundations laid by earlier generations, people with AIDS in the 1980s organized against government neglect, homophobia, and a profit-driven pharmaceutical industry to demand treatment and care. Using historical scholarship, oral history, digitized archival collections, and film, we will explore a rich yet hidden history of grassroots activism, and consider how race, sexuality, gender, and class shaped responses to HIV/AIDS. In addition to readings-based discussion, students will conduct multi-staged research projects to explore AIDS activism in historical perspective.

Fall 2021

More Information »

HIST 0201 / JWST 0201 - Modern American Jewish History      

Modern American Jewish History
What characterizes the modern American Jewish experience? Is it the effort to assimilate into the American mainstream? Is it about the struggle to preserve Jewish distinctiveness? Drawing on historical scholarship and primary sources (films, art, cartoons, newspapers, literature), we will consider the many meanings of American Jewish identity, particularly its religious, racial, ethnic, and national connotations. We will begin in the 1880s, during the largest wave of Jewish immigration to the U.S. Topics will include “Americanization,” labor, political activism, religious reform, World War II and the Holocaust, “Jewish continuity,” gender roles, race relations, urbanization, suburbanization, and the relationship of Jews to white flight, Zionism, anti-Semitism, and philanthropy. 3 hrs. lect. AMR HIS NOR

Fall 2021

More Information »

HIST 0205 - American Freedom      

A History of “American Freedom” From the Progressive Era to 9/11
The goal of “freedom” has commanded the attention of the most elite Americans as well as the most oppressed, eliciting a range of strategies for achieving it and an array of visions about how it should look. In what contexts have Americans sought the “freedom to,” as opposed to “freedom from”? We will explore the valences of “freedom” starting in the Progressive Era, at the conclusion of the nineteenth century, and end with the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. We will use primary and secondary sources to examine this history across the political spectrum. AMR HIS NOR

Spring 2022

More Information »

HIST 0209 - History of US Food Politics      

History of US Food Politics
In this course we will use U.S. food politics as a lens for understanding developments in political economy, changes in the role of the state, and evolving attitudes toward gender, race, labor, childhood, citizenship, health, and the body during the twentieth century. How have government, corporations, and scientists shaped U.S. foodways? How have people been affected by broad trends in food politics, and how have they resisted, as consumers, citizens, and activists? To answer these questions, we will use methods of social and cultural history to explore food politics from the top down and the bottom up. 3 hrs. lect. AMR HIS NOR SOC

Spring 2019, Spring 2020

More Information »

HIST 0210 / GSFS 0210 - History of Sexuality in the US      

History of Sexuality in the United States
In this course we will explore sexuality in relation to race, class, gender, and religion in US history using primary and secondary sources. We will study indigenous sexualities and the impact of settler colonialism, sex work during the American Revolution, sexuality under slavery, the medicalization and criminalization of homosexuality, urban gay subcultures, Cold War sexuality, the politics of birth control, sex during the AIDS epidemic, and sexuality from transgender and non-binary perspectives. Beyond learning historiography, we will examine methodological issues with writing histories of sexuality. When relevant, we will study examples from Europe and Canada. 3 hrs. lect. AMR HIS NOR SOC

Fall 2019, Spring 2021, Fall 2022

More Information »

HIST 0311 / GSFS 0311 - Gender, Sexuality & Psychiatry      

Gender, Sexuality, and Psychiatry in US History
In this seminar we will examine how gender and sexuality have intersected with the psychiatric profession since the nineteenth century, focusing mostly on women, and to a lesser extent gender-nonconforming people and men. Course material will be rooted in the U.S. but will occasionally also cover Europe and Latin America. Topics will include racialized notions of madness and hysteria, depression, psychoanalysis, “deviant” genders and sexualities, the rise of psychotropic prescription drugs, addiction, PTSD, eating disorders, and the medicalization of heterosexual women’s desire. Students will explore relevant historiography and will conduct oral histories of a related topic. (Counts for HSMT credit) 3 hrs. lect. AMR CMP HIS NOR SOC

Spring 2020

More Information »

HIST 0325 - Reconstructing Women's Lives      

Reconstructing Women’s Lives
This seminar we will consider history as a written craft, placing academic historical scholarship on women's lives in conversation with other genres that address the same subject, chiefly historical fiction, memoir, and creative nonfiction. We will explore questions of voice, narrative, argument, and evidence within these genres. What makes a piece of writing persuasive? How do readers come to feel like they "know" something about the past? Students will discuss and write review essays of works from these different genres. The final project will be a piece of original historical research presented in a non-traditional format. 3 hrs. sem. HIS SOC

Spring 2019

More Information »

HIST 0326 - Hist of U.S. Radicalism      

Histories of U.S. Radicalism, 1917-2017
From communism to libertarianism, Black Nationalism to radical feminism, this seminar examines the many facets of radical social movements in the United States during the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. In particular, we will draw on individual and collective biographies of radicals to explore chronological linkages and social connections between apparently discrete political tendencies. We will also consider the political, social, cultural, and economic contexts that catalyzed these movements, the various forms of backlash and repression they faced, and the changing political uses to which these historical movements have been put. 3 hrs. sem. AMR HIS NOR SOC

Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Spring 2021

More Information »

HIST 0330 / JWST 0330 - Jewish Oral History      

Jewish Oral History
In this weekly seminar students will learn the basics of oral history—research, interview skills, processing, archiving, and presentation—by conducting interviews with members of Kolot Chayeinu, a Brooklyn-based Jewish congregation. Students will work with congregants to create an oral history archive. Depending on student interests and abilities, additional outcomes may include films, audiowalks, social media presence, listening parties, or podcasts. Students will also study oral history theory, the evolution of American Jewish spirituality, and New York City social movements. An oral history of Kolot encompasses Jewish histories of feminism, LGBTQ and AIDS activism, peace and human rights work, death and dying, childhood and adult education, antiracism, theatre, art, music, nonprofit development, politics, rabbinical training, coalition work, and more. AMR HIS

Fall 2022

More Information »

HIST 0373 / GSFS 0373 - History of American Women      

History of American Women: 1869-1999
This course will examine women's social, political, cultural, and economic position in American society from 1869 through the late 20th century. We will explore the shifting ideological basis for gender roles, as well as the effects of race, class, ethnicity, and region on women's lives. Topics covered will include: women's political identity, women's work, sexuality, access to education, the limits of "sisterhood" across racial and economic boundaries, and the opportunities women used to expand their sphere of influence. 3 hrs lect./disc. AMR CMP HIS NOR

Fall 2018

More Information »

HIST 0448 / JWST 0448 - Black&Jewish Feminist Perspect      

Black and Jewish Feminist Perspectives
Feminism has a rich history in the United States. In this course we will study feminism from the perspectives of two distinct, sometimes intersecting groups: Black Americans and Jewish Americans. We will explore major feminist texts, writers, and collectives, from Angela Davis, bell hooks, Audre Lorde, and the Combahee River Collective to Shulamith Firestone, Judith Plaskow, B’Not Esh, and Di Vilde Chayes. Through their work and activism, we will study in this reading-intensive course how race, class, spirituality, and sexuality have shaped and reshaped feminist concerns. 3 hrs. sem. AMR HIS NOR SOC

Spring 2022

More Information »

HIST 0700 - Senior Independent Study I      

Senior Independent Study I
The optional History Senior Thesis is written over two terms, with the final grade applying to both terms. Approval is required. Students submit thesis proposals in the spring before the year that they choose to write their thesis. Students generally begin their thesis in the fall and complete it during winter or spring. Approval is required to begin the thesis in winter or spring. All students must attend the Thesis Writer's Workshops in fall and winter semesters and work with a faculty advisor to complete a 55-70 page paper. Please see detailed guidelines under history requirements.

Fall 2018, Winter 2019, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Winter 2022, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Winter 2023, Spring 2023

More Information »

HIST 0701 - Senior Independent Study II      

Senior Independent Study II
With departmental approval, senior history majors may write a two-term thesis under an advisor in the area of their choosing. The final grade is applied to both terms. Students must submit thesis proposals in the spring before the academic year that they choose to write their thesis. They must attend the Thesis Writers' Workshops held in the fall and winter of the academic year in which they begin the thesis. The department encourages students to write theses during the fall (0700) and winter terms (0701), but with the permission of the chair, fall/spring and winter/spring theses are also acceptable. Under exceptional circumstances, the department may approve a thesis initiated in the spring of an academic year and finished in the fall of the following year. Further information about the thesis is available from the department.

Winter 2021, Spring 2021, Winter 2022, Spring 2022, Winter 2023, Spring 2023

More Information »

HIST 1028 - Practicing Oral History      

Practicing Oral History
In this intensive, hands-on workshop, students will prepare for, conduct, and process their own oral histories. We will decide collectively on an overarching theme to investigate through the interviews, such as work, friendship, or mental illness. The first week will be introductory and theoretical. We will explore what oral history is, why historians do it, how the interview fits as an historical source among other sources, and the problem of memory. During the second week, students will focus on preparing for and conducting the interview. This will include conducting background research, developing consent forms, and refining interview techniques. The third week will be about making sense of the interview and exploring different ways to process it (indexing, abstracting, transcribing, storyboarding). Students will also write a reflective paper on the interview process. The fourth week will consist of historical presentations in which the interview is supplemented with other historical sources. The workshop will be grounded in the methodological concerns and questions of the discipline of history. It may also be of special interest to those interested in journalism, sociology, and anthropology (among other fields!). Students from any discipline, with prior oral history experience or none at all, are all welcome. This course is part of the Public Humanities Labs Initiative administered by the Axinn Center for the Humanities.* WTR

Winter 2019, Winter 2020, Winter 2022, Winter 2023

More Information »

Program in Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies

Chellis House Women's Resource Center
56 Hillcrest Road
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753