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 

BA, Denison University

Areas of Interest & Expertise

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

Recent Upper Division & Graduate Courses Taught

  • ENGL 6220, Slave Narrative Tradition: Past, Present, Future 
  • ENGL 5660, Whitman and Dickinson
  • 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:

"Dynasty, Declension, and the Endurance of the House of Adams." Reviews in American History 49:2 (June 2021). 

"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

"Cartographies of Fugitivity, Heterotopias of Revolt: Martin Delany to Alexandra Bell." American Studies Association Meeting, San Juan, Puerto Rico, October 12, 2021.

"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.

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
  • 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.