"A Delicate Aggression" The Iowa Writers' Workshop

Jun 26, 2019

University of Iowa Associate Professor of Journalism, David O. Dowling

The Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa has a storied history of producing authors like Flannery O'Connor, Kurt Vonnegut, TC Boyle, and Jane Smiley.  The workshop is also known for its rigorous, and sometimes merciless, peer review process. University of Iowa Associate Professor of Journalism David O. Dowling describes this process, and the history of the workshop in his book, A Delicate Aggression: Savagery and Survival in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Dowling says the Iowa Writers' Workshop was formed before WWII.  But the workshop really came into its own after poet, teacher, literary critic, and novelist Paul Engle began his long tenure there during the war years.  Dowling says Engle did not believe in writing by inspiration alone and forced writers to face the brutal realities of the publishing world.

That was University of Iowa Associate Professor of Journalism David O. Dowling, the author of A Delicate Aggression: Savagery and Survival in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.  He spoke to Mary Hartnett on The Exchange this week. The book chronicles the history of the writers' workshop and how it evolved into the world-renowned program it is today.  Dowling is also the author of  Literary Partnerships and the Marketplace: Writers and Mentors in Nineteenth-Century America and The Business of Literary Circles in Nineteenth-Century America.