Joseph Thomas

Undergraduate Discipline


BA, Arcadia University. MA, Saint Joseph’s University. MFA, University of Notre Dame. PhD, University of Pennsylvania. Author of Sink, A Memoir, winner of the Chautauqua Janus Prize; the forthcoming novel, God Bless You, Otis Spunkmeyer; as well as the short-story collection, Leviathan Beach. Thomas’s short fiction, essays, and poetry can be found in The Kenyon Review, The New York Times, Gulf Coast, Dilettante Army, and elsewhere. SLC, 2024–

Previous Courses


Game Life

Open, Seminar—Spring

In addition to being the title of Michael Clune’s memoir or a theory in the hands of McKenzie Wark, video games have now invaded social space—and, therefore, our literary imaginations—in a way that would have been unthinkable 30 years ago. And yet, how do we write about games? About the experience both of playing these aesthetic objects and living in an arguably gamified world with the same intensity, curiosity, and rigor that we might otherwise bring to any centuries-old ekphrastic attempt? In this course, we will query the limits, techniques, and new forms of nonfiction writing made possible through video games, taking the anthology Critical Hits: Writers Playing Video Games as a springboard for our own experiments through short exercises and workshop. We will focus on the interplay between social position and form where, rather than an escape, video games pose new questions of difficulty in prose and in life. No experience playing video games will be required, though this will certainly not hurt; smaller indie games may be used as examples.


The Fantasy of Reality

Open, Seminar—Fall

This course is for students interested in the relationship between nonfiction and reality; that is, how nonfiction writers—that’s us—construct reality on the page rather than assume its coherence. Each week, in class, we will discuss nonfiction by writers like Ursula Le Guin and Samuel Delany, alongside a wide array of writers who trouble the distinction of what we consider possible. Our aim in reading as writers will be in metabolizing the formal strategies of language situated across “genres” in order to make something new through short exercises and longer workshops. Likely writers we will read include Jami Lin Nakamura, Saidiya Hartman, Tanya Tagaq, and Fernanda Melchor, among others. We will pay special attention to the relationship between difference and truth across a range of perspectives, making difficulty our focus and vantage point.