Selfie of Derek at a bakery in Tokyo

Derek Adams

Associate Professor, Literatures in English
Office: Muller Faculty Center, Ithaca, NY 14850
Specialty: 20th-21st Century African American Literature, Blackness, Feminism, and Intersectionality


Monday, 1:00-2:30; Tuesday, 2:30-3:50 (and by appointment)

Joining the English Department at Ithaca College has proven to be one of the most rewarding experiences in my academic career. Since my arrival in 2012, I have taught courses ranging from a 100-level survey of American literature, to a course focused on narratives of racial passing in American literature, to a course on Black Women writers in the post-Civil Rights era. With the support of my colleagues, I taught an African American literature survey (Spring '14)  in conjunction with my good friend, Dr. Tom Nurmi, who taught the same course that semester at Elmira College. Our students shared readings, gave group presentations, and were partnered up into writing workshop groups to critique one another's written work. We hosted "movie night" at IC midway through the semester that gave our students an opportunity to meet face-to-face and chat casually over pizza. The most entertaining course thus far has been my Ithaca Seminar which focuses on the persistence of racial, gendered, sexual, and socioeconomic discrimination through stereotypes in a country deeply invested in postracial rhetoric. We utilize short stories, op-ed pieces, TV interviews, websites, advertisements, personal essays, and paintings to debunk the notion that these forms of discrimination have ceased to exist or no longer matter. The in-class discussions are entertaining, yet powerful, and the students enrolled in this class regularly demonstrate what I have always known to be true - that they are a generation of creative, innovative, mature, and insightful young scholars ready to tackle the difficult challenges of this century.  

The faculty in my department also strongly support me in accomplishing my research goals. As someone with a wide array of research interests - the redefinition of African American literature in the context of post-racial discourse, hip-hop's impact on global societies and social movements, and reappropriating the concept of the "student-athlete" in higher education, for instance - and who needs to continue developing as a writer, I am always spying forums to have my work critiqued. Thankfully, the junior faculty cohort has invited me to join their writing group, becoming a human sounding board for me to work out some of the complexities of my research. As a result, they helped me wrap up a project on Robert Downey Jr's use of blackface in the film Tropic Thunder, published in Robert Downey Jr. from Brat to Icon (2014), and were instrumental in pushing me to complete a book chapter on ZZ Packer's short story "Drinking Coffee Elsewhere" that has been included in the collection Neo-Passing: Performing Identity After Jim Crow (2018). I have received some of the best possible constructive feedback on my work while enjoying baked goods, frothy beverages, and even lighthearted conversation. Very quickly, my colleagues have also become some of my truest, closest friends.   

I consider myself incredibly fortunate for this opportunity to work with such knowledgeable, hardworking scholars and students!  


Ph.D. University of Arizona (2012)                                                      

M.A. University of Arizona (2008)

B.A. California State University Bakersfield (2006)


ICSM 105: [THIS TITLE HAS BEEN CENSORED]: The Language of Hatred in a Postracial World

ENGL 220: Black Women Writers: Writing as Resistance in the Post-Civil Rights Era

ENGL 371: Select Topics in African American Literature: Global Blackness

ENGL 46902: Toni Morrison Across the Decades

IISP 205: Intergroup Dialogue (race/ethnicity)


President Shirley M. Collado Award winner (2023)

IC Faculty Excellence Award winner (2016)

Sigma Tau Delta Faculty Co-Sponsor (2013-present)


"The Path of Least Resistance: Sexual Orientation and Race in ZZ Packer's 'Drinking Coffee Elsewhere'" in Neo-Passing: Performing Identity after Jim Crow:

"Layers of Lazarus: Robert Downey Jr. Hits 'True Emotional Paydirt' Through Blackface in Tropic Thunder" in Robert Downey Jr. from Brat to Icon

Banned Books Op-Ed:…

What We Mean by 'We Want Dialogue" Op-Ed:…

Get it Together interview:


file-outline ENGL 220 - Black Women Writers - engl-220-syllabus_0.docx (436.45 KB)
file-outline ENGL 469 - Toni Morrison Across the Decades - 469-course-syllabus.docx (189.68 KB)
file-outline ENGL 371 - Global Blackness - engl-371-syllabus.doc (575 KB)
file-outline ICSM 105 - [THIS TITLE HAS BEEN CENSORED] - icsm-23-syllabus.docx (47.35 KB)