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OU's Kathleen Pfeiffer awarded Kresge Fellowship in Literary Arts

Friday, June 29, 2012
OU's Kathleen Pfeiffer awarded Kresge Fellowship in Literary Arts
By Katie Land, news editor

Kathleen Pfeiffer, OU English professor, was awarded a prestigious 2012 Kresge Fellowship in Literary Arts. Photograph by Corine Vermeulen.
For her talent and literary contributions, Oakland University’s Kathleen Pfeiffer has been awarded a prestigious 2012 Kresge Fellowship in Literary Arts. 

Designed to reward creative vision and recognize local talent, Kresge fellowships seek to support and advance the work of the literary and artistic community in the Metropolitan Detroit area. This year, the foundation supported two dozen fellowships in all, 12 in the literary arts and 12 in the performing arts.

“I'm thrilled and honored and extremely happy to be selected,” Dr. Pfeiffer exclaimed. “There are so many layers to why this is special to me. For one, it validates my work as a creative writer, and also I'm humbled at the fact that the panelists judging applications included so many writers I admire. These are people whose work I've been teaching, they've been artistic role models to me, and to think that they've now read my work - let alone that they chose my work - is just delightful.”

The professor of English is the author of two books, “Brother Mine: The Correspondence of Jean Toomer and Waldo Frank,” and “Race Passing and American Individualism.” She has also produced numerous critical essays, book introductions, and other academic work. 

Thus far all of Dr. Pfeiffer’s published work has been literary criticism; however it was her creative nonfiction work that impressed the Kresge selection committee. Dr. Pfeiffer’s fellowship proposal outlines her current work in progress, a personal memoir that explores the struggles and marginalization prevalent in step-motherhood. The book also asks deeper questions and seeks to uncover unexpected places readers can find reflections of themselves in literature. 

“That's the story I want to tell, the story of how we all find ourselves in the books we read,” Dr. Pfeiffer said.

“The most important thing to me is not merely telling the story of my experience, but using language to craft that experience into something meaningful, something aesthetically valuable and therefore transcendent, something that is significant apart from the experience itself.” 

Dr. Pfeiffer received an unrestricted $25,000 fellowship for her work, something that will offer a welcome boost. The funds will finish paying for her graduate school students loans and will allow her to take some valuable time off in the summer to work and write. But more than that, the award signifies success as a writer, and provides a new level of commitment and motivation for the craft, she said.

At Oakland, Dr. Pfeiffer teaches a variety of courses in American literature, African American literature, American studies, and biography. She joined the OU community in 1997 and will serve as chair of the English Department beginning this August.

“I couldn't have gotten this far without the encouragement and friendship of my colleagues in the English department,” she said. “I am extraordinarily lucky to be a part of such a wonderful academic community - it truly is rare for academic departments to be as genuinely mutually supportive as we are, and that has made all the difference in my success as a writer.”

For more information about Dr. Pfeiffer and her work, view her website. To learn more about programs and events in Oakland’s English Department, view the website at