This fall, John D’Agata ’95 will return to Hobart and William Smith Colleges as the 2017-18 Trias Writer-in Residence.
D’Agata, professor of English and director of the Nonfiction Writing Program at the University of Iowa, is the author of The Lifespan of a Fact (with Jim Fingal) and About a Mountain, which was named by the New York Times as one of the 100 Best Nonfiction Books Ever Written. His first collection of lyric essays, Halls of Fame, was published by Graywolf Press and was a finalist for the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for First Nonfiction.
As this year’s Trias resident, D’Agata will teach a nonfiction workshop and mentor students who have shown distinction in writing at the Colleges. He will teach one class in the fall and work with a number of select students the following spring. Additionally, he will curate a speaker series, inviting his contemporaries to give readings of their work throughout the 2017-18 year.
This fall the inventive, experimental essayist Thalia Field will read in October and the memoirist Melissa Febos will give a reading in November; the poet, novelist, essayist and biographer Wayne Koestenbaum will read in the spring.
D’Agata has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Lannan Foundation, the Howard Foundation, and the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies. He is the editor of A New History of the Essay, a groundbreaking three-volume series from Graywolf that includes “The Next American Essay” (2003), “The Lost Origins of the Essay” (2009) and “The Making of the American Essay” (March 2016).
In the introduction to “Making of the American Essay,” the writer and literary critic James Wood calls D’Agata “the renovator-in-chief of the American essay. As practitioner and theorist, writer and anthologist, as example and the enabler of examples, D’Agata has refused to yield to the idea of non-fiction as stable, fixed, already formed…Instead, he has pushed the essay to yield more of itself, to find within itself an enactment of its own etymology—an essaying, a trying, a perpetual attempt at something (after the French verb essayer, to try).”
A summa cum laude Hobart graduate, D’Agata was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and earned High Honors. He later completed an M.F.A. in both poetry and nonfiction at the Iowa Writers Workshop, but says, “The Colleges are where I first learned how to write, and where I was first encouraged as a creative thinker to imagine a place for myself in the literary world. It was a tremendous gift to have such an experience.”
In 2006, he joined the faculty at the University of Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program, the top-ranked program in the country, which D’Agata now directs. At Iowa, he teaches courses on the history of the essay, experiments in essaying, and a variety of workshops.
The Trias Residency for Writers is supported by The Peter Trias Endowed Fund for Poetry and Creative Writing. The series was created through a generous bequest from Peter J. Trias ’70, and is designed to give distinguished writers of fiction and poets time to write, while mentoring students of the Colleges. The writers are active in contributing to the artistic community of the Colleges and the City of Geneva.