Derrick R. Spires

Associate Professor


Derrick R. Spires is Associate Professor of Literatures in English and affiliate faculty in American Studies, Visual Studies, and Media Studies. He specializes in early African American and American print culture, citizenship studies, and African American intellectual history. His first book, The Practice of Citizenship: Black Politics and Print Culture in the Early United States (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019), traces the parallel development of early black print culture and legal and cultural understandings of U.S. citizenship. Considering a variety of texts by both canonical and lesser-known authors, Practice demonstrates how black writers articulated an expansive, practice-based theory of citizenship. Practice won the Modern Language Association Prize for First Book, the Bibliographical Society/St. Louis Mercantile Library Prize and the M/MLA Book Prize and was a finalist for the Library Company of Philadelphia’s First Book Prize. He has also edited a special issue of American Literary History dedicated to “Genealogies of Black Modernity” (Winter 2020). His work on early African American politics and print culture appears or is forthcoming in African American Review, American Literary History, and edited collections on early African American print culture, time and American literature, and the Colored Conventions movement. He is working on a second book, Serial Blackness: Periodical Literature and Early African American Literary Histories in the Long Nineteenth Century, that takes up seriality as both the core of early African American literary history and a heuristic for understanding blackness in the long nineteenth century.

His research has been supported by fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Antiquarian Society, the Library Company of Philadelphia, Oberlin Archives, the Social Science Research Council, and the UNCF/Mellon-Mays and Ford Foundations.

Research Focus

  • African American Literature and Culture
  • Black Print Culture
  • African American Intellectual History
  • Pre-20th Century American
  • Black Speculative Fiction
  • Critical Race Studies
  • Politics and Aesthetics

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