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College of Arts and Sciences

Derrick R. Spires

Associate Professor, English

 Derrick SPires

Academic focus:

African American and American literature, print culture, citizenship and democracy

Current research project: 

My current project, tentatively titled “Serial Blackness: Periodical Literature and African American Literary History,” asks two interrelated questions: 1) what happens to our narratives of black literary history if we center it on periodical literature and serial narratives (sketches, letters to the editor, pseudonymous writing, comics, etc.) instead of the completed volume (such as the slave narrative, novel, or poetry collection); and 2) what happens to our histories of blackness, if we think of blackness as always defined serially and contextually? The project begins in the late eighteenth century with Phillis Wheatley and will likely conclude with black science fiction published in magazines at the turn of the twentieth century.

Previous positions:

  • Associate Professor, Department of English, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 2018-2019
  • Assistant Professor, Department of English, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 2012-2018
  • Mellon Caltech-Huntington Postdoctoral Instructor, California Institute of Technology, 2013-2014
  • Coordinator, American Studies Sustainability Project, Vanderbilt University, 2011-2012

Academic background:

  • Ph.D., English, Vanderbilt University, 2012
  • M.A., English, Vanderbilt University, 2005
  • B.A., English, Tougaloo College, 2004

Last book read:

“Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval” by Saidiya Hartman

In your own time/when not working:

Walking trails, video games, cleaning, soaking up sun

Courses you’re most looking forward to teaching:

A graduate seminar on black aesthetics in the long nineteenth century and any course that allows me to introduce undergraduates to William J. Wilson, aka “Ethiop”

What most excites you about Cornell:

Working in spaces where the people I study were most active and engaging with a vibrant community of scholars studying literature, race, gender, and citizenship

Twitter handle/blog url:

Twitter: @drkmttr82