Donovan Hohn

Donovan Hohn


English Department, 9305.1

5057 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48202




Donovan Hohn

Donovan Hohn is the author of The Inner Coast: Essays (W. W. Norton, 2020) and Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea, a New York Times Notable Book and runner-up for both the PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction and the PEN/E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award. His essays have appeared in such publications as Harper's, The New York Times Magazine, The Virginia Quarterly Review, Lapham's Quarterly, and The New Republic. A recipient of the Whiting Writer’s Award and an NEA Creative Writing Fellowship, Hohn spent a number of years editing essays, fiction, and literary journalism at Harper’s Magazine. He has taught nonfiction in the MFA program of the University of Michigan and is now Director of Creative Writing at Wayne State University in Detroit. 

Research interest(s)/area of expertise

Creative Nonfiction: Narrative Essay, Literary Journalism, Lyric Essay; Creative Writing: Poetry, Fiction, Nonfiction; Environmental Humanities; American Literature; the Literature of Place. 


MA in Fiction, Boston University (1997); MFA in Poetry, University of Michigan (2004)

Awards and grants

Outstanding Graduate Mentor Award, Wayne State University, 2024.

Murray E. Jackson University Creative Scholar in the Arts Award, Wayne State University, 2020–2021.

Board of Governors Faculty Recognition Award, Wayne State University, 2021.

President's Award for Excellence in Teaching, Wayne State University, 2021. 

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Teaching Award, Wayne State University, 2019.

Career Development Chair, Wayne State University, 2015.

Research Enhancement Program in the Humanities, Wayne State University, 2014.

Finalist and sole runner-up, PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Nonfiction Award (2013), for Moby-Duck.

Finalist and sole runner-up, PEN/E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award (2012), for Moby-Duck.

Finalist, New York Public Library’s Helen Bernstein Book Prize for Excellence in Journalism (2012), for Moby-Duck.

New York Times Notable list, naming Moby-Duck one of the best books of 2011.

New York Times critic Janet Maslin’s Ten Best Books of 2011.

National Public Radio, Best Books of 2011.

National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship, 2010.

Whiting Writers’ Award, Creative Nonfiction (2008), for four essays published in Harper’s.

Long-listed for Best American Science and Nature Writing 2008.

Ocean Science Journalism Fellowship, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, September 2007.

Laurence Goldstein Prize, for best poem published in Michigan Quarterly Review in 2004.

Hopwood Award for Graduate Essay, First Place. University of Michigan, 2004.

John Wagner Prize, for excellence in any genre of creative writing. University of Michigan, 2004.

Roy W. Cowden Fellowship in Creative Writing. University of Michigan, 2004.

Academy of American Poets Prize, Graduate Level. University of Michigan, 2003.

Hopwood Award for Graduate Poetry, Second Place. University of Michigan, 2003.

Colby Fellowship in Creative Writing. University of Michigan, 2003–2004.

Jane Kenyon Prize. For poetry. University of Michigan, 2002.

Selected publications

The Inner Coast: Essays (W. W. Norton, 2020). 

Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools, Including the Author, Who Went in Search of Them (Viking, 2011; Penguin, 2012). 

"Watermarks," introductory essay in Water issue of Lapham's Quarterly, Summer 2018.
“Revival of the Ice Canoe: Into the Lost History and Wild Delights of a Quebecois Sport” (narrative essay), Virginia Quarterly Review, Spring 2018.
“The Zealot” (essay on the tensions between activism and science during the Flint Water Crisis), The New York Times Magazine, August 16, 2016.
“Everybody Hates Henry: Literary Saint or Arrogant Fraud—Why Do We Need Thoreau to Be One or the Other?” (essay), The New Republic, October 21, 2015.
“Can We Reverse-Engineer the Environment?” (essay), The New York Times Magazine, February 6, 2015.
“Escape From New York: The Family Man” (op-ed), The New York Daily News, October 12, 2014.
“Matt Power: Headlamp a Must” (essay), Harpers Magazine, March 19, 2014.
“Time’s Relentless, and Dioramas Are Sad” (essay), Journal of the Knight-Wallace Fellows at the University of Michigan, vol. 22, no. 2, Spring 2013.
“Remembering Evan S. Connell (1924-2013)” (essay), Harpers Magazine, January 14, 2013.
“The Great Escape: The Bath Toys that Swam the Pacific” (book excerpt), The Observer (London), February 11, 2012.
"Moby Duck" (book excerpt), Etiqueta Negra (Peru), February 2012.
“Lost Symbols” (essay), Lapham’s Quarterly, Spring 2011.
“A Super Bowl Spot for Uncle Sam: Can Madison Avenue Make Us Love Our Government?” (forum), Harper’s Magazine, February 2011.
“The Unseen Currents” (feature), Popular Science, February 2011.
“Monsterwellen” (feature), Outside, January 2009.
“Through the Open Door” (essay), Harper’s Magazine, September 2008.
“Sea of Trash” (feature), New York Times Magazine, June 22, 2008.
“Falling: Confessions of a Lapsed Forest Christian” (a novella-length essay), Harper’s Magazine, April 2008.
“Snail-Picking” (essay), Brevity, Spring 2008.
“Moby-Duck, or, The Synthetic Wilderness of Childhood” (a novella-length essay). Harper’s Magazine, January 2007. Reprinted in The Best Creative Nonfiction, Vol. 2. (W. W. Norton, 2008) and in the Italian magazine Internazionale: Ogni settimana il meglio dei giornali di tutto il mondo, August 3–23, 2007. 
“A Romance of Rust: Nostalgia, Progress, and the Meaning of Tools” (a novella-length essay), Harper’s Magazine, January 2005.
“Ars Poetica” and “Autobiography” (poems), Michigan Quarterly Review, Spring 2004.
“Evan S. Connell,” a 12,000-word essay on the life and work of novelist and essayist Evan S. Connell, for Gale/Scribner’s American Writers series, edited by Jay Parini, 2005.
“Anatomy Lessons: Evan Connell and the Documentary School,” Harper’s Magazine, December 2001. Essay-review of Connell’s The Aztec Treasure House: New and Selected Essays.
“Fleurs du Mal: Thorny Truths About the Global Flower Trade” (article), Harper’s Magazine, February 2001 (with Niala Maharaj). Reprinted in The Bedford Reader, Eighth Edition.
“Near-Death Experiences” (short story), Agni Review, Spring 1995.

Courses taught by Donovan Hohn

Fall Term 2024 (future)

Winter Term 2024

Fall Term 2023

Winter Term 2023

Fall Term 2022