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Potsdam Prepared: Fall 2021 Updates


Derek C. Maus

Professor / Lead Advisor / Chair, Interdisciplinary Studies

Morey Hall 244
TEL: (315) 267-2196

View CV

Who me? A description?!? Yeah, well...I guess you could say at root I'm just a guy who likes comparing things, especially if those things happen to be literary in some way. I got my start back in the early 1990s, comparing medieval history and postmodern literature under the tutelage of amazing professors like Lynda Coon, William Tucker, Keith Booker, Margaret Bolsterli, and Janet Tucker at the University of Arkansas. Got my introduction to the practice of comparing Russian and American literature there as well and ended up writing an undergraduate honors thesis that, with many twists and turns, additions and cuts, elaborations and simplifications, ended up turning into both my doctoral dissertation and my first book (see below).

After a few years (unintentionally) comparing being in academia with not being in academia, I went to the University of North Carolina, where I got both my M.A. and my Ph.D in English, in the process getting the chance to work with such amazing mentors as Linda Wagner-Martin, Madeline Levine, Christopher Putney, Julius Rowan "Jack" Raper, and many others. My mania for comparison broadened to include not only cross-cultural comparisons of Russian and American literature during the Cold War, but also inter- and intra-cultural comparisons within American (and especially African American) literature. I published my first scholarly articles while at UNC, on such diverse topics as devilish figures in the works of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Nikolai Gogol, paternalistic colonialism in novels by Thomas Pynchon and J. M. Coetzee, religious satire in works by Nikolai Gogol and Flannery O'Connor, as well as editing several collections of essays for introductory-level scholars on topics including Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Albert Camus, Russia, postmodernism, and the Cold War.

I was fortunate to land a job at SUNY Potsdam in 2001 and started teaching a wide range of courses in September of that year. In ten years at SUNY Potsdam, I've taught over seventy sections of thirty-two different courses, ranging from introductory-level composition and literature surveys to graduate-level seminars. Most of my courses look at how writers from a variety of backgrounds approach similar topics, looking for how and why a careful reader can gain insight from noting both the similarities and the differences among such writers. A full list of the courses I've taught can be found by clicking the link for my CV above.

While at SUNY Potsdam, I've managed to find time to continue my scholarly work as well, producing several articles and conference presentations, almost all of which are products of my desire to compare things. For example, I published an article on teaching war fiction by Tim O'Brien and Duong Thu Huong side-by-side and I gave a conference presentation comparing the satirical techniques of Herman Melville and Nikolai Gogol. I also had the pleasure of working with my friend and colleague Owen Brady of Clarkson University in co-editing a collection of scholarly essays on Walter Mosley ( that was published by the University Press of Mississippi in 2008. My own book on Russian and American satirical fiction during the Cold War ( was published by the University of South Carolina Press in 2011. I am currently working on two book-length projects: a collection of scholarly essays on contemporary African American satire that I am co-editing with my colleague James J. Donahue, and a monograph on Colson Whitehead for the University of South Carolina Press's Understanding Contemporary American Literature series.

Finally, I was fortunate enough to be selected for a Fulbright Lecturing Award for the spring 2010 semester, during which I taught three courses in the American Studies program at Karl-Franzens Universitaet in Graz, Austria. In addition to getting to compare the cultures of Austria and the United States while on this grant, I also got to give lectures to academic audiences in Turkey, Croatia, Italy, and Germany, as well as to (re)visit Switzerland, Belgium, Hungary, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic. In short, it was a dream come true for an ardent comparer like me and I am grateful to everyone that made it possible.