Home Creative writing Carl H. Klaus leaves a legacy at UI, Nonfiction Writing Program

Carl H. Klaus leaves a legacy at UI, Nonfiction Writing Program

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Through his work as an author, teacher, and friend, Carl H. Klaus changed the writing community locally and nationally.


As a freshman at the University of Iowa, Michele Hinz wanted a challenge.

She had surpassed the requirements of her freshman literature class through a series of lectures and tests, and asked UI professor Carl H. Klaus to apply to be enrolled in his class called the English Semester. . The 12-hour course was taught by three teachers.

Klaus said no.

Hinz declined this response. By asking over and over again for permission to register, she manages to change Klaus’s mind. Years later, he became her thesis supervisor in graduate school, and the two stayed in touch until Klaus died on February 1 at age 98.

Hinz is just one example of the immense impact Klaus has had on the people and communities around him through his work as a teacher, author and friend. Regarding Klaus’ work as a teacher, Hinz said his work influenced his practices as a writing and literature teacher at Kirkwood Community College in Iowa City.

“There must be thousands of us who have taught, who have these anthologies on our shelves, because these are the essays that we learned from, with which we learned to love non-fiction,” said Hintz. “These are the trials from which he taught.”

Klaus’ work as a teacher is still visible both on the UI campus and nationally. In addition to writing textbooks that are widely regarded and used, Klaus pioneered one of UI’s most recognized areas of study – the non-fiction writing curriculum.

John D’Agata, current faculty member of the Nonfiction Writing Program, called Klaus’ work groundbreaking. Giving non-fiction writers space to grow and thrive on their selected writing style, he said Klaus transformed the world of literature.

“In the mid-1970s, when ‘non-fiction’ was barely used as a literary term, Carl helped found the NWP, which would become a creative writing program devoted exclusively to exploring historical depth and of the cultural range of non-fiction,” D’Agata wrote in an email to The Iowan Daily. “He was literally decades ahead of his time.”

D’Agata explained that before the non-fiction writing program was created, students who wanted to study non-fiction writing in graduate school had to attempt to practice their discipline by enrolling in the fiction or poetry department.

RELATED: Ask the Author – Carl H. Klaus

Klaus’ work within the Iowa City literary community has had a huge impact on the writing world. Every student who has entered UI’s non-fiction writing program over the past 45 years has been directly or indirectly influenced by Klaus.

“His influence has since spread across the United States and around the world, now that his alumni themselves teach all over the map, run publishing houses, organize radio programs, make documentary films, write bestsellers and MacArthur award-winning books,” D’Agata wrote.

Apart from his work in education, Klaus was also an accomplished author. Best known for his journals, Klaus would take a specific topic related to his life, expand on what it meant, and give it applicable meaning.

John Kenyon, executive director of the UNESCO City of Literature of Iowa City, said that even if the reader was unfamiliar with the subject Klaus was writing about, the work itself still held significant significance.

“It’s the kind of writing style that you’ll read what he puts on the page, maybe because it interests you, but also just because you’re interested in what he has to say at this topic, which are not always necessarily the same,” Kenyon said.

Kenyon attested to Klaus’ skill, as well as his ability to support his peers in the writing community. Acting as both an instructor and a freelance creator, Klaus has certainly contributed to the impressive intellectual culture of Iowa City.

“People like that, that you took for granted as these incredibly smart, incredibly talented people who are here among us – that’s part of the reason why this is such a special place,” Kenyon said. “When people like that die, it definitely leaves a hole that will be felt for a while.”