Zachary Calhoun


Office:425 Ross Hall
527 Farm House Ln
Ames IA


I am a writer from New Mexico and an English Lecturer at Iowa State University, where I teach creative writing, public speaking, and environmental humanities courses. I have a PhD in Philosophy from Tulane University, where I taught existentialism and the history of philosophy. My fiction and poetry is generally set in the deserts of the American Southwest. In my recent work in creative writing and philosophy, I explore intersecting questions of class, environment, imperialism, and colonialism. I am a Book Review Editor of Flyway: Journal of Writing & Environment, as well as a Faculty Steward of the Everett Casey Nature Center & Reserve.

Courses I Teach at Iowa State University
  • English 304: Creative Writing – Fiction
  • English 305: Creative Writing – Nonfiction
  • Honors 322: Class Politics and Environmental Philosophy
  • Speech Communication 212: Fundamentals of Public Speaking
  • PhD in Philosophy, Tulane University
  • MFA in Creative Writing and Environment, Iowa State University
  • MA in Philosophy, Tulane University
  • BA in Liberal Arts, St. John’s College
Teaching Philosophy

My teaching at Iowa State University spans multiple departments, but all of my courses emphasize the importance of student writings, student ideas, and student concerns. I do not treat the classroom as a space where students passively memorize information or perform repetitions of the past. Instead, I see the classroom as a creative space where students are encouraged to challenge themselves and one another in their collaborative attempts to develop new perspectives and transform their world. In my creative writing courses, this means we spend many weeks of class on close discussions of student writing. We collectively strive to help students further hone their unique voices, aesthetics, and intellectual concerns. I am convinced that it is not my job to command particular writing styles, genres, or aesthetic choices from my students. Rather, I aim to help students see new aspects of their own writing—elements in their own art that they may not have noticed before—until they can become more intentional stewards of their poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. I try to prioritize student self-determination in the other courses I teach, as well, whether that’s in public speaking, environmental literature, or philosophy courses.

In this respect, I am often reminded of Paulo Freire, the author of Pedagogy of the Oppressed. In a conversation with his friend Myles Horton in 1987, Freire famously said that “the teacher is of course an artist, but being an artist does not mean that he or she can make the profile, can shape the students. What the educator does in teaching is to make it possible for the students to become themselves.” As far as I am concerned, I have succeeded as a teacher when my students feel that they have learned to live a little more critically, originally, and actively in their world.

Research Areas
Creative Writing, Climate Fiction, American Southwest Literature, Latin American Literature, Kant & German Idealism, Marx, Jonas, Fanon, Environmental Ethics, Existentialism, Moral & Political Philosophy, Eco-Feminism, Environmental History, History of Mathematics & Science.

Selected Awards and Fellowships
Research Excellence Award, Iowa State University, 2022
Writer-in-Residence Fellowship, Iowa Lakeside Laboratory, 2022
Summer Research Assistantship Award, Iowa State University, 2021
Graduate College Scholar Award, Iowa State University, 2019
Aristotle Prize, Metaphysical Society of America, 2018

Selected Publications
“The Unexpected Empathy in Cormac McCarthy’s The Passenger: A Review Essay,” Flyway: Journal of Writing & Environment, 2022.

“Two Poems,” After the Pause, 2022.

“Kant on Positing: Being as Self-Determination,” The Review of Metaphysics, 73:1 (2019).

“Hegel and Jonas on the Ethical and Onto-Theological Implications of Life,” Pli: The Warwick Journal of Philosophy, 31:1 (2019). Co-authored with Paul Wilford and Nicholas Anderson.

“Second Comings,” Eunoia Review, 2017.

“Rabbit Mind,” From Sac, Vol. 4: Outsider, 2016.

  Selected Conference Presentations and Literary Readings
“Excerpt from The Generation of Leaves: A Novel,” Literary Reading, May 2022 CWE Thesis Festival, Iowa State University.

“Excerpt from The Generation of Leaves: A Novel,” Literary Reading, April 2022 Emerging Writers Series.

“Uses and Abuses of Homer in Kant’s Critiques,” 2021 American Philosophical Association Central Division Meeting. Delivered during the “Poetry in Philosophy” panel.

“Jonas, Kant, and the Ethical Ground of Environmental History,” Plenary Session on Hans Jonas, 2021 Meeting of the Metaphysical Society of America: Nature and its Meanings.

Metaphysica Naturalis: Kant on History and the Discipline of Reason,” 2019 Northeastern Political Science Association Conference.

“Revitalizing the Good: Hans Jonas and the Outcry of Mute Things,” 2019 Meeting of the Metaphysical Society of America: Metaphysics and Political Thought.

Aristotle Prize Lecture, “Kant on Positing: Being as Self-Determination," 2018 Meeting of the Metaphysical Society of America: Philosophy of Action. Winner of the 2018 Aristotle Prize.

“Hegel on Ethical Love,” 2017 Braniff Conference in the Liberal Arts (University of Dallas).

“Kant’s Other Peace,” 2016 Kant Multilateral Colloquium (Hofstra University).

“John Locke on Mother’s Grief and Personal Identity,” 2016 North Carolina Colloquium in Medieval and Early Modern Studies (Duke University).