Derek Adams

Associate Professor, Literatures in English
Office: Muller Faculty Center, Ithaca, NY 14850
Specialty: African American Literature

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 that will be published in fall 2014, and currently are helping me work through an article on ZZ Packer's short story "Drinking Coffee Elsewhere" that will be included in a collection on neo-passing narratives. 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)