Research InterestsNonfiction Writing
I am a proud two-time alum of the University of Iowa, where I came to study nonfiction and poetry as a graduate student back in the 1900s. I returned to Iowa fifteen years ago to join the faculty of The Nonfiction Writing Program where I’ve developed a few of the graduate program’s core courses, including “History of the Essay,” “The Essay Prize,” “Performance and Profession,” and the “Thesis Workshop.” I’ve also helped revamp each of the new undergraduate nonfiction workshops, curated several summer internships for students in the summer, and founded the English Department’s semi-annual creative writing trip abroad entitled “The Land of the Muses,” which brings writing students to Greece for ten days during the Winter Break.
Essays are what really excite me—even the stuff that’s not clearly essayistic—and my goal is to share that excitement with my students, helping them to explore the genre’s every crevice so that they can discover new forms of expression inspired by the essay’s deep history, its surprisingly experimental tendencies, and the awesome possibilities for its future. I believe it’s our most diverse literary form, and to that end I believe it needs as many varied voices as possible to contribute to its cannon.
That starts by being committed to creating equitable, inspiring, and challenging experiences for all students in my classrooms. As part of that commitment, I participate in the Building University of Iowa Leadership for Diversity program (BUILD), through which I am working toward both a BUILD certificate and LGBTQ Safe Zone membership. Some other training I’ve received includes “Reimagining Graduate Education” through Liberating Structures, “Power, Privilege, and Leadership” through the City of Iowa City, the “21-Day Racial Equity Challenge” with Dr. Eddie Moore Jr, “Violent Incident Survival Training” through the University of Iowa’s Department of Safety, and a variety of sexual harassment courses.
A few of my books include Halls of Fame, About a Mountain, and The Lifespan of a Fact, which was turned into a Broadway play starring Daniel Radcliffe, Cherry Jones, and Bobby Cannavale. I’ve also edited a 3-volume series entitled A New History of the Essay, which includes the anthologies The Next American Essay, The Making of the American Essay, and The Lost Origins of the Essay. My new writing projects involve a super loose translation of the ancient Greek writer Plutarch and a book-length essay on mirrors and masks.