Welcome John D’Agata!

We’re pleased to welcome talented essayist John D’Agata for a writing workshop on Saturday, November 18 at 3:30 pm.

A creative nonfiction writing workshop that intentionally combines different forms of the genre—personal essays, travelogues, biographies—will encourage exploration in essay-writing. Participants will examine and discuss short 1-page essays, as well as receiving feedback on their personal essays. There will be also be some discussion on finding an agent and publisher, giving a reading, and surviving as a writer in the world.

There may be spaces available at the time of the workshop. Please stop by the Hermann Room at 3:30 pm if you are interested.


“D’Agata . . . has spent the last 15 years trying to use the essay as Defoe used the novel: to get out of the impasse over what’s real and what’s not, and to solve the anxiety over the veracity of the media we consume, this time by foregrounding that anxiety itself, and asking us to confront it head on. His trilogy, A New History of the Essay, is a thoughtful alternative road map to how we might think of the essay and its role in the current moment.”—Los Angeles Times

“John D’Agata is a champion of the essay, a crusader for lost forms, a defender of nonfiction as an art. . . His project—that of reshaping the genre of creative nonfiction—is a bold one, and in these anthologies, the [essay] becomes a spiritual vessel, a portal to deeper truths.”—Iowa Review

“Quixotic … ambitious….What D’Agata has in mind, on one level, is to push the conversation, to throw a thought-bomb into the center of the room.”—Lit Hub

“John D’Agata is a groundbreaking literary activist. It is due to him and these anthologies that the most exciting writing today is happening in the realm of nonfiction, in particularly the realm of the essay, which he has, near-single-handedly, rescued from the literary dustbin and turned into a vital contemporary art form. A New History of the Essay is essential reading for anyone interested in the future of nonfiction.”—Heidi Julavits

John D’Agata is an innovative essayist (Halls of Fame, 2001) and dynamic anthologist, (The Lost Origins of the Essay, 2009). He is the author of Halls of Fame, About a Mountain, and The Lifespan of a Fact, as well as the editor of the 3-volume series, 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. His work has been supported by a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Howard Foundation Fellowship, an NEA Literature Fellowship, and a Lannan Foundation Fellowship. He holds a B.A. from Hobart College and two M.F.A.s from the University of Iowa, and recently his essays have appeared in The Believer, Harper’s, Gulf Coast, and Conjunctions. John D’Agata lives in Iowa City with a dog named Boeing, and he teaches creative writing at the University of Iowa where he directs the graduate Nonfiction Writing Program.

The Making of the American Essay

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The Making of the American Essay is the final volume in John D’Agata’s landmark series, A New History of the Essay.

For two decades, John D’Agata has been exploring the contours of the essay through a series of innovative, informative, and expansive anthologies that have become foundational texts in the study of the genre. The breakthrough first volume, The Next American Essay, highlighted major work from 1974 to 2003, while the second,The Lost Origins of the Essay, showcased the essay’s ancient and international forebears. Now, with The Making of the American Essay, D’Agata concludes his monumental tour of this inexhaustible form, with selections ranging from Anne Bradstreet’s secular prayers to Washington Irving’s satires, Emily Dickinson’s love letters to Kenneth Goldsmith’s catalogues, Gertrude Stein’s portraits to James Baldwin’s and Norman Mailer’s meditations on boxing.

Across the anthologies, D’Agata’s introductions to each selection-intimate and brilliantly provocative throughout-serve as an extended treatise, collectively forming the backbone of the trilogy. He uncovers new stories in the American essay’s past, and shows us that some of the most fiercely daring writers in the American literary canon have turned to the essay in order to produce our culture’s most exhilarating art.

The Making of the American Essay offers the essay at its most varied, unique, and imaginative best, proving that the impulse to make essays in America is as old and as original as the nation itself.


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