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Faculty and Staff

Dr. Tom C. Hunley
Dr. Tom C. Hunley
- Professor
Advanced Creative Writing Workshop; Advanced Poetry Writing; American Poetry; Intermediate Poetry Writing; Introduction to Creative Writing Studies; Reading as a Writer

Poetry Writing, Creative Writing Pedagogy, Literary Editing, American Poetry, and World Poetry
Potter College Faculty Research/Creativity Award winner, 2008
Tom C. Hunley holds degrees from University of Washington, Eastern Washington University, and Florida State University. He is the author of seven full-length poetry collections, most recently What Feels Like Love: New and Selected Poems (C&R Press, 2021); seven chapbooks, most recently Adjusting To The Lights (winner of the 2020 Rattle Chapbook Prize); and two textbooks, most recently The Poetry Gymnasium: 110 Proven Exercises to Shape Your Best Verse (McFarland & Co., Inc., 2012, second edition 2019).  He is the co-editor, with Alexandria Peary, of Creative Writing Pedagogies for the Twenty-First Century (Southern Illinois University Press, 2015). He has also written for a variety of literary publications such as Another Chicago Magazine, Crab Orchard Review, Crazyhorse, Five Points, Michigan Quarterly Review, New Orleans Review, New York Quarterly, North American Review, Rosebud, TriQuarterly, Verse Daily, The Writer, The Writer’s Chronicle, and Poetry Daily. His poems have been featured several times on Garrison Keillor’s NPR program, The Writer’s Almanac. He and his wife, Ralaina, have been married since 1996, and they have four children. In his spare time he enjoys playing guitar and bass guitar.

Teaching Philosophy

Fundamental to my teaching is the fact that I enjoy my students.  After all, without them, I wouldn’t be a teacher.  I try to have an impact on them, but I know for a fact that they have an impact on me.  As Peter Elbow wrote in Writing Without Teachers, “students can learn without teachers, even though teachers cannot teach without students.”  I view my role as that of a guide, a facilitator, and a more experienced member of the class.  I’m not a judge, an advocate for any particular social agenda, or a dispenser of knowledge.  I have been an outspoken critic of the “workshop” approach to teaching creative writing.  In my book, Teaching Poetry Writing: A Five-Canon Approach (Multilingual Matters LTD., 2007, New Writing Viewpoints Series), I contend that the workshop model is a grossly inefficient method that has achieved widespread acceptance more because of its convenience for instructors than because of any measurable pedagogical value.  Critique is one valuable aspect of creative writing instruction, but it is not so important that it ought to take up the bulk of class time.  In my creative writing classes, the majority of class time is spent on a rigorous battery of writing exercises based on the five canons of rhetoric: invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery.  In “Diving In: An Introduction to Basic Writing,” Mina Shaughnassy quotes Leo Strauss’s advice to “always assume that there is one silent student in your class who is far superior to you in head and in heart.”  How different this attitude is from the ones I sometimes hear expressed by writing instructors!  I believe that if I respect my students enough to have high expectations for them, they will meet and surpass those expectations.  As far as that silent student with the superior head and heart is concerned, I want to draw her out of her silence.  I want him to lead class discussions, actively critique the writing of other students, and share his own writings with the class. I want my class to be a safe but challenging place where she can discover herself and explore the world around her.

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 Last Modified 4/24/18