The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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Tracy Daugherty Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Janice Dilg.

June 2, 2015


“A Citizen, Novelist and Biographer at OSU”  June 2, 2015  Location: Valley Library, Oregon State University.  Watch Video | Download Transcript (PDF)

In the interview, Daugherty provides an overview up his upbringing in west Texas, including the role that his grandfather played in his love of literature, and his own early interests in astronomy and drumming. From there he charts his path as a student, discussing his decision to pursue both bachelor's and master's degrees at Southern Methodist University, and the vibrant literary culture that thrived at SMU during those years. He then recalls his Ph.D. studies at the University of Houston and, in particular, the crucial role that his mentor, Donald Barthelme, played in his growth as a writer. He likewise notes his early use of a manual typewriter to compose texts while a graduate student and the differences in his creative process that arose out of the introduction of computers to his work.

The session next turns its attention to Daugherty's experiences at Oregon State, and as part of this conversation Daugherty recalls his initial interview for the OSU position, his first impressions of the university, his duties as a junior faculty member, and colleagues who became important to him as his career progressed. He likewise recounts the lengthy process by which OSU was able to establish its Master of Fine Arts program in Creative Writing, and provides a broader perspective on the gradual blossoming of a strong literary culture on campus and in the community.

In its final third, the interview focuses more intently on Daugherty's teaching and writing. He discusses changes in the courses that he taught during his years at OSU, evolving trends in literature and literacy, and the impact that receiving awards can have on an author. He also shares his perspective on the challenges of writing various forms of fiction versus researching and composing a biography, notes the circumstances that have led him to select the three subjects of the biographies that he has penned thus far, and describes the often uncomfortable obligations associated with the modern-day book tour. The interview closes with Daugherty's thoughts on future projects, his engagement with professional organizations, and his pride in having been a part of creating a Creative Writing program at OSU that finds itself in high demand today.