English-Philosophy Building (EPB)

English-Philosophy Building (EPB)

251 W. Iowa Ave

The English-Philosophy Building, known on campus as EPB, has been home to these two humanities departments and the Department of Linguistics since its construction, and to the Department of Rhetoric since 1970.


A History of Writers in the English Philosophy Building

Just west of the Main Library is the English-Philosophy Building. From the time it was built in the late 1960s until 1997 it housed the Workshop. Its gray, utilitarian classrooms were the location of much beauty and heartbreak. Its small lounge on the third floor was the space where visiting writers for all those years endured the question and answer sessions that take place the morning after heralded readings. I have heard Robert Hass, Louise Glück, James Tate, James Merrill, John Ashbery, W. S. Merwin, Seamus Heaney, and Helen Vendler all answer questions in that room.

-Jan Weissmiller

Weissmiller, Jan. “Iowa City: City Guides.” Poets & Writers. Poets & Writers, 1 May 2012. Web. 15 July 2016.


Carolyn Kizer’s work in the Iowa Review

Carolyn Kizer’s translation of Bogomil Gjuzel’s poem Professional Poet appeared in the Iowa Review, Vol 7 Issue 2, in 1976. Kizer was a faculty member at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the time, and Gjuzel was a resident at the International Writing Program in 1972.

The translation can be found in the Iowa Review archives online.

Kizer, Carolyn and Bogomil Gjuzel. “Professional Poet.” The Iowa Review 7.2 (1976): 56-56. Web.


Frank Conroy at the English Philosophy Building

Frank Conroy held classes in the English Philosophy Building (EPB) during his time as faculty at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. The Workshop moved from the EPB to its current home in the Dey House in 1997.

“Dey House.” Dey House | Campus Maps & Tours, maps.uiowa.edu/dh.


Gail Godwin at the English-Philosophy Building

Gail Godwin recalls her first time as a student in the English-Philosophy Building (home of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the time) on the University of Iowa campus:

‘So? What do I risk? Obscurity?’ This riposte, which a fiction workshop student flung back at her peers after their critique of her story in the spring of 1967, just after I arrived in Iowa City, reverberated through the fourth-floor halls of EPB and was quoted with awe and respect by her colleagues.

Godwin, Gail. Publishing: A Writers Memoir. NY, NY: Bloomsbury, 2016. Print.


James McPherson Reading, 1981

James McPherson reads his short story “There was once a State Called Franklin,” to an audience at the University of Iowa Main Library in 1981.

The Virtual Writing University Archive, University of Iowa Libraries


John Cheever in the English Philosophy Building

From a letter in the University of Iowa Special Collections, revealing details about Cheever’s time teaching at Iowa:

November 27, 1973
Dear Professor Cheever:

A student in your course Seminar Problems in Modern Fiction (8W:490), which meets in room 215 EPB, has reported to this office that smoking is permitted in this course. A policy which precludes smoking in classes was recently adopted with the concurrence of Student Senate, Collegiate Associations Council, and the Faculty Council. I’m certain the student in question and perhaps others in the course would appreciate your cooperation in the effort to provide a setting free from what some regard as the objectionable presence of cigarette and other smoke.

Sincerely yours,

Richard E. Gibson


University of Iowa Main Library, Special Collections


John D’Agata celebrates the Nonfiction Creative Writing Program 40 year Anniversary

The University of Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year and the program’s director John D’Agata has hundreds of lapel pins and rub-on tattoos in his office to help celebrate.

The design for that tattoo and pin is a bright red heart on fire with a pencil stabbed through it. On it, in cursive, is written a single word: “Essay.”

If such an image doesn’t do justice to the kind of passion D’Agata has for the essay, the fact that he just finished a three-volume, 1,786-page anthology, “A New History of the Essay,” dedicated to celebrating the art of the essay, does.

“It was absolutely the collection of essays I love,” D’Agata said in his fourth-story office of the English Philosophy Building where the lapels and tattoos are kept. “This is, for a lack of a better way to say it, a selfish way of saying it’s my anthology.”

Berg, Zach. “UI’s John D’Agata Celebrates Nonfiction Program’s 40 Years.” Iowa City Press-Citizen, Press Citizen, 6 Apr. 2016, www.press-citizen.com/story/news/2016/04/06/uis-john-dagata-celebrates-nonfiction-programs-40-years/82673302/

Literary Reference

John Irving’s Fictional Character works at EPB

In John Irving’s The World According to Garp, T.S. Garp writes about a visiting professor looking out of his office window in the English-Philosophy Building (EPB). Garp’s father-in-law “had been a two-time Big Ten wrestling champion at the University of Iowa.”

Irving, John. The World According to Garp: A Novel. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1978. Print.


John Irving: English-Philosophy Building

In John Irving’s ‘The World According to Garp’, T.S. Garp writes about a visiting professor looking out of his office window in what might be the English-Philosophy Building in a university town. Garp’s father-in-law ‘had been a two-time Big Ten wrestling champion at the University of Iowa.’

Irving, John. The World According to Garp. Pocket Books, 1979.


Raymond Carver interview at the English-Philosophy Building

In a little known interview taken a few hours before Carver’s reading in the English Lounge at the EPB (English Philosophy Building) on the night of April 15, 1978, the writer admits: “A year ago I thought I’d never write another poem. I don’t know exactly what it is, but since I’ve been in Iowa City I’ve written an entire book.”

Carver, Raymond; Gentry, Marshall Bruce; Stull, William L. Conversations with Raymond Carver. Univ. Press of Mississippi, 1990: http://bit.ly/1HsG91J


W.S. Merwin interview with Ed Folsom

Ed Folsom and Cary Nelson interviewed W.S. Merwin in The Iowa Review, Volume 13 Issue 1, 1982: “The foolish thing is to take that world which we have made as the real, total, absolute final world, and say we have it — it’s ours.” Read more…

From the Archives: “Fact Has Two Faces: An Interview with W.S. Merwin.”

Folsom, Ed, and Cary Nelson. “Fact Has Two Faces: An Interview with W.S. Merwin.” The Iowa Review, vol. 13, no. 1, 1982, pp. 30–66.: https://ir.uiowa.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2862&context=iowareview


Yiyun Li’s Path to Writing in Iowa

She planned to become a scientist, and in 1996 came to the United States to study immunology at the University of Iowa. “I passed my qualifications for my Ph.D., and I started to panic,” she recalls. “I was a capable scientist, but not passionate. Not dedicated. Pretty soon, I quit the Ph.D. program. I got my master’s and worked in a hospital doing research.”

Meanwhile, her college sweetheart from Beijing University had joined her in Iowa City and they soon married. She signed up for an eight-week evening writing course. When she submitted her first story, the teacher asked her to stay behind after class and asked if she’d thought of publishing.

Heidi Benson Chronicle Staff. “People on the Edge Intrigue Writer Yiyun Li.” SFGate. Hearst Communications, Inc., 27 Feb. 2009. Web. 01 Dec. 2016.