One particular focus of the English Department at the University of Colorado Boulder that has become essential to literature and creative writing programs is popular culture. Many undergraduate and graduate students alike concentrate on pop culture in their studies in English, constantly creating fresh connections and pushing academic boundaries. One of the most vital foundations of this intersectionality is Dr. Adam Bradley, Director of the Race and Popular Culture Laboratory (RAP Lab) and full Professor of English.
Bradley, a Salt Lake City native, entered his second decade in teaching at CU Boulder this fall.
In an educational journey that started when he was homeschooled until high school by grandmother and grandfather, an art history teacher and dean of the College of Business at the University of Utah, respectively, and moved to receiving degrees from Lewis & Clark College and Harvard University, Bradley says that what unites these experiences is the gift of great teaching and mentorship.
As a Professor in the English Department, Bradley has worked on developing a suite of courses that focus on song lyrics – courses like The Poetics of Song Lyrics offered at the undergraduate and graduate level. “It’s a wonderful challenge to get students to take the music they love seriously without being too serious about it. Whether I’m teaching The Beatles’ White Album or Beyoncé’s Lemonade, I’m always encouraging students to bring their passion for the music into their studies and learn to harness that energy in the name of intellectual discovery.”
In addition to teaching, Adam founded the RAP Lab almost seven years ago with the purpose of creating a space to talk about difficult and essential matters while reaching out to the community beyond the campus. This work has taken the shape of K-12 education programs that “harness the power of popular music to help students learn the fundamental concepts of Language Arts education to collaborations with a group of inmates at a Colorado correctional facility.”
Bradley continues: “What unites these and other of the Lab’s efforts is a common belief that art—music, literature, and beyond—can help us speak to one another at times and in places that often push us toward silence.”
One exciting project from the RAP Lab is the partnership with Australian hip-hop artist Nelson Dialect. Through this partnership, they are putting on a series of school assemblies and classroom workshops across the Front Range of Colorado.
When asked what makes working at the institution of CU Boulder so rewarding, Bradley was quick to answer that it was the people that make the job so great. “I’ve forged friendships with colleagues from across the campus—from Physics and Business, Engineering and Ethnic Studies. I’ve worked alongside staff in the admissions office, the alumni office, and the athletics to shine a light on what CU can bring. And I’ve taught a decade’s worth of undergraduate and graduate students, hundreds of them now, who have left enduring impressions on me and helped to shape my thinking.”
Currently, Bradley has a good number of projects he is excited about personally and professionally. “The first is a new digital edition of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, which I’m preparing for Ellison’s longtime publisher, Random House. It will help bring the novel into the 21st century by providing young readers—really, all readers—with the necessary context to understand Ellison’s America and the tools to help us think about our America through the rich world Ellison created.” He is also working on a new edition of The Anthology of Rap. His plans are to bring the anthology up to date with some of the groundbreaking artists who have emerged in the last ten years since the original edition of the anthology was published.
“It’s been an eventful ten years, both personally and professionally. My two daughters were born here. My wife, the law professor Anna Spain Bradley, and I have both built our academic careers here. We’ve made a home for ourselves at 5,328 feet.”