William Merrill Decker


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Address: 211A Morrill Hall
Phone: 405-744-8949
Message: 405-744-9474 

E-mail: william.decker@okstate.edu 

Areas of Interest & Expertise

  • American literature colonial to contemporary
  • Ethnicities and color lines
  • Literature of travel and migration
  • Autobiography, memory, epistolarity

Recent Upper Division & Graduate Courses Taught

  • ENGL 6220, Travel Writing, Writing Travel
  • ENGL 5480, American Expatriates: Henry James to James Baldwin
  • ENGL 4520, Remembering the Sixties
  • ENGL 4300, Exotic Destinations
  • ENGL 3200 (Cambridge, UK), Traveling and Telling: Mobility and the Art of Narrative

Selected Publications


Geographies of Flight: Phillis Wheatley to Octavia Butler. Northwestern University Press, 2020. 

Kodak Elegy: A Cold War Childhood. Syracuse University Press, 2012.

Epistolary Practices: Letter Writing in America before Telecommunications. University of North Carolina Press, 1998.

The Literary Vocation of Henry Adams. University of North Carolina Press, 1990. 

Edited Volumes:

Daisy Miller (Introductions, annotations, bibliography). Bedford/St. Martin's Press, 2013.

Henry Adams and the Need to Know, co-edited with Earl N. Harbert. Massachusetts Historical Society and University of Virginia Press, 2005.

Articles and Book Chapters:

"Autobiography, Education: Henry Adams and the Definition of a Genre." a/b: Auto/Biography Studies 33.1 (Winter 2018). 

"Longing in Long-Distance Letters: Nineteenth Century and Now," in Celeste-Marie Bernier, Judie Newman, Matthew Pethers ed., The Edinburgh Companion to Nineteenth Century American Letters and Letter-Writing. Edinburgh University Press, 2016.  

"'Who Aint a Slave?' Moby-Dick and the Slave Narrative Tradition." Literature in the Early American Republic, 2009.

"Americans in Europe: Henry James to the Present," in Alfred Bendixen, ed. The Cambridge Companion to American Travel Writing Cambridge University Press, 2008.

“'Surely Cora Was Not Forgotten’: Remembering Africa in the Leatherstocking Tales,” in Jeffrey Walker, ed., Reading Cooper, Teaching Cooper AMS Press, 2007.


Recent Conference Presentations and Invited Lectures

"Henry Adams: Knowledge and Neglect." Society for US Intellectual History, Chicago, Illinois, November 8, 2018. 

"Fugitive Geographies: The Slave Narrative and the Myth of American Space." Universität Erfurt, June 7, 2017. 

"Autobiography, Education: Henry Adams and the Definition of a Genre." Modern Language Association Convention, Austin, Texas, January 9, 2016.

"Geography, Empathy: Octavia Butler and the Perils of Sharing." American Studies Association Meeting, Toronoto, Ontario, October 8, 2015. 

"Travel Writing, Travel Industry: A Brief History of Travel Writing." American Literature Association Conference, Washington D.C., May 25, 2014.

"Isabel Archer and the Economy of Travel." Canadian Association of American Studies, Toronto, Ontario, October 27, 2012.  

“Consuming Europe: Daisy Miller and the Package Tour.” Buying America: Literature and Consumption in the Nineteenth Century, Universität Paderborn, Paderborn, Germany, June 13, 2012.

“The Epistolary Diary: Henry Adams’s Letters from the South Seas.” Le journal intime: Enjeux et mutations d’un genre hybride, Colloquium, Université Catholique de Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium, May 21, 2011.

Honors & Offices

  • OSU Regents Distinguished Research Award 2016
  • DAAD Visiting Professor, Universität Paderborn, Germany, May-July, 2012
  • Fulbright Lecturer, Université Catholique de Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium, 2008-2009
  • Corresponding Fellow, Massachusetts Historical Society 2005
  • OSU Arts and Sciences Junior Faculty Research Award 1999
  • Modern Language Association Prize for Independent Scholars 1990 

Current Research & Projects

Book in progress: Writing Distance: Genres of Travel and Separation.