Featured Lecturer: Shannon Pufahl

Lecturer of the Month May 2015: Shannon Pufahl


About Shannon:

I grew up in Kansas on 180 acres of family land.  My father was first a hog farmer and then an excavator, and my mother moved to Kansas at 13 from the suburbs of Los Angeles.  So our house was an interesting one, culturally.  As a teenager, I knew all the albums of Jefferson Airplane & Buffalo Springfield, and the going price of a soybean bushel.

Many of my favorite books are still those very American ones of my young adulthood – HousekeepingLeaves of GrassLonesome Dove, and many adolescent novels of animals, like The Yearling and Gentle Ben.  Later, in college, I discovered writers from other places – Nadine Gordimer, J. M. Coetzee, Michael Ondaatje, Javier Marias.  I’m also a voracious reader of poetry, and I’ve loved the recent books of Frank Bidart, Richard Siken, Sara Peters, Tracy K. Smith, Natalie Diaz and many others.

This quarter, I’m teaching an intermediate level class called “Storytelling in the Arts,” in which we’re investigating the visual and performing arts, and using them to create a craft vocabulary for creative writing.  I’m also teaching English 94: Writing Across Genres, which has been great fun.  That class gives me the opportunity to teach poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, and to reach back into literary and formal histories.  I also teach Creative Nonfiction, one of my favorite classes in the Program, for its camaraderie and transformative power.  My teaching philosophy involves breadth, exposure, and close-reading – part of our job as writers, I believe, is to keep literature alive through the act of reading and through broad experiences in the arts.

I am a great lover of animals, especially dogs, and I have a marvelous young terrier who seems poised to take over the world.  In graduate school I studied early American literature and history, so any talk of the eighteenth-century is likely to spark my interest.  Car travel, casinos, poker, weather, and other obsessions of the American West are favorite topics.  I love a good joke, a terrible pun, and any mention of the Kansas City Royals, past or present.