Adam Gordon portrait

Associate Professor of English

Olin Hall 223
(509) 527-5416

Adam Gordon received his B.A. in English from the University of Pennsylvania in 2003 and his Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2011.  He teaches early and nineteenth-century American literature, specializing in print culture, the history of the book, and the development of literary criticism in America.

Before coming to Whitman College, Adam served as the 2011-2012 John B. Hench Post-Dissertation Fellow at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts.  In 2010-2011, he held the Greenfield Dissertation Fellowship at the Library Company of Philadelphia, and he has received both William K. Peck and Mellon Foundation Fellowships from the Huntington Library in San Marino, California.  At UCLA, Adam was the recipient of numerous graduate teaching accommodations including the 2007 Outstanding Teaching Award.  His article on Poe and critical culture, "'A Condition to Be Criticized': Edgar Allan Poe and the Vocation of Antebellum Criticism," appeared in the Summer 2012 issue of Arizona Quarterly

His current book project, Cultures of Criticism in Antebellum America, examines the relationship between authors and critics in mid-nineteenth-century America.  Whereas critics have often been popularly dismissed as parasites, or critical reviews segregated within academic literary study as either theory or as secondary texts, Cultures of Criticism instead views criticism as a constitutive cultural force and a dynamic field of reciprocal interactions deeply intertwined with the act of literary creation.  While the figure of the literary critic was hardly new in the nineteenth century, in the decades leading up to the Civil War the rapid expansion of American publishing gave critics a newfound cultural importance.  To write in mid-nineteenth-century America meant to grapple with this culture of criticism, and in texts by writers across the literary spectrum from Poe, Hawthorne, and Melville to Fanny Fern and George Lippard, authors registered the critical presence with reactions ranging from anxious ambivalence, to accommodation, to vituperative resistance.  The province of criticism was not limited to book reviews or to the authors who took them into account, moreover.  Rather, the critical impulse expressed itself through a variety of genres and material forms, from puffs and prefaces to public lectures and literary compilations, while serving an array of social uses.  As such, Cultures of Criticism marks the intersection of a number of intellectual disciplines-literary theory, aesthetics, poetics, hermeneutics, history-as well as methodological approaches-new historicism, print culture, post-Marxist sociology, history of the book-in a study that traces the practical effects of the historical institution of literary criticism upon the development of contemporaneous literature.