Portrait of Derek F. DiMattteo
Dr. Derek F. DiMatteo is Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Gannon University in Erie, PA.


In the Fall of 2021, I will be teaching courses in freshman composition, prose literature, and young adult literature. In Spring 2020, I have been teaching a course on critical analysis and composition.

Current Research

I am working on a chapter contribution to a forthcoming edited collection on Donald Glover's series Atlanta and African American satire since 2014.

Critical Ethnic Studies Symposium

I am a past-organizer of the symposium and the coordinator of its graduate student workshop. The 2019 symposium examined the conjunctures of nationalism, borders, and personhood through interdisciplinary lenses on dissent, social movement, ideological restriction or contestation, and state violence.

My Research Interests

My disciplinary homes are English and American Studies, and my dissertation research focused on forms of social protest in education. My dissertation is a mixed-methods project that analyzes sculpture, film, novels, and life writing by academics within the context of the history and sociology of higher education. My research and teaching interests include American literary and cultural studies since 1945, multi-ethnic literatures, social protest literature, contemporary world literature, first-year composition, argumentative writing, and critical pedagogy.

About My Dissertation

"Academic Dissent: US Higher Education Protest Literature, 1985-2015"

This dissertation is a mixed-methods American Studies project in which I analyze cultural works such as life writing by academics, John Singleton’s campus film Higher Learning, and campus novels such as Jane Smiley’s Moo. In particular, I focus on representations of academic capitalism in these narratives and show that they protest against higher education's increasingly private-good orientation, which undermines its democratic citizenship aims and common good mission.

Critical work on protest literature tends to ignore the realm of education, scholarship in the area of critical university studies tends to be quantitative and policy-oriented, and criticism of university fiction (both literary and cinematic) approaches it (often dismissively) as humor, satire, and parody. In contrast, this dissertation project applies the protest literature lens to argue for a re-evaluation of university fiction as making a serious contribution to the higher education reform movement; analyzes the human dimension to academic protest literature, thereby adding a qualitative and cultural dimension to the field of critical university studies; and defines the particular characteristics of academic protest literature, thereby creating a space for education protest within the larger field of American protest literature.

The cultural works chosen for this study include novels by contemporary authors such as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Teju Cole, Mohsin Hamid, James Hynes, Alex Kudera, Ishmael Reed, and Jane Smiley; films by directors such as Steve Miner and John Singleton; personal essays and life writing by various academics; and visual art such as Margaret DeLima’s sculptures of adjunct reliquaries. These works of protest call attention to the cracks that have appeared and the damage that has occurred, and they urge us to take action before it is too late.


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