James Schiff

James A Schiff


Professional Summary

Born and raised in Cincinnati, Jim Schiff received his B.A. from Duke University and his M.A. and Ph.D. from New York University. He is the author or editor of five books on contemporary American fiction, including John Updike Revisited, Understanding Reynolds PriceUpdike's Version: Rewriting The Scarlet Letter, and Updike in Cincinnati. He was named by the John H. Updike Literary Trust to edit a volume of Updike's letters, which will be published in 2022. His essays and interviews have appeared in American Literature, Critique, Missouri Review, Southern Review, South Atlantic Review, Studies in American Fiction, Tin House, and elsewhere. He reviews books for newspapers, magazines and journals, and serves as the editor of the John Updike Review as well as a consulting editor of Critique and Philip Roth Studies. He has served on various boards, including the Duke University Trinity Board of Visitors, the University of Cincinnati Foundation, The Seven Hills School, the Community Learning Center Institute (CLCI), WCET-TV, and the Mercantile Library.


Ph.D., 20th-Century American Literature: New York University 1990

M.A., English, Creative Writing: New York University 1985

B.A., English, cum laude: Duke University 1981

Research and Practice Interests

   American Literature
   Creative Writing
   Contemporary Fiction
   Contemporary Novel
   History of the Novel

Positions and Work Experience

- Professor of English , University of Cincinnati, 1989 -,

Abbreviated Publications


John Updike: Selected Letters (2022).  
Updike in Cincinnati: A Literary Performance (Athens: Ohio UP, 2007). 
John Updike Revisited (New York: Twayne, 1998).
Critical Essays on Reynolds Price (New York: G. K. Hall, 1998).  
Understanding Reynolds Price (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1996).
Updike’s Version: Rewriting “The Scarlet Letter” (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1992).
Books reviewed in the Chicago Tribune, New York Times, American Literature, Vanity Fair, Booklist, The Southern Review, Mississippi Review, Critique, American Literary Scholarship, Modern Fiction Studies, Duke Magazine, Spectator Magazine, Christianity & Literature, Choice, North Carolina Libraries, American Studies International, and elsewhere.


Essays and Book Chapters:
Approximately 30 essays in such journals as: American Literature, Critique, The John Updike Review, South Atlantic Review, Southern Review, and Studies in American Fiction; and in such books as The Cambridge Companion to American Novelists, The Cambridge Companion to John Updike, Critical Insights: John Cheever, New Essays on Marilynne Robinson, Philip Roth in Context, Updike and Politics: New Considerations.

Sample of essays:

“Philip Roth on Philip Roth,” Philip Roth in Context, edited by Maggie McKinley (Cambridge University Press 2020).
“Updike and the American Presidency,” Updike and Politics: Due Considerations, edited by Matthew Shipe and Scott Dill (Lexington Books 2019): 11-25.
“John Updike and David Foster Wallace: Of Binaries, Sports Writing, and Transcendence,” Critique 59.1 (2018): 15-26.
“Robinson and Updike: Houses, Domesticity, and the Numinous Quotidian,” This Life, This World: New Essays on Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping, Gilead, and Homeedited by Jason W. Stevens
(Brill/Rodopi Dialogue Series 2016): 237-53.

“John Updike,” The Cambridge Companion to American Novelists, edited by Timothy Parrish (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 250-59.

“Reading and Writing on Screen: Cinematic Adaptations of McEwan’s Atonement and Cunningham’s The Hours,” Critique 53.2 (2012): 164-73.

 “Updike, Film, and American Popular Culture,” The Cambridge Companion to John Updike (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), ed. Stacey Olster, 134-48.

“Rewriting Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway: Homage, Sexual Identity, and the Single-Day Novel by Cunningham, Lippincott, and Lanchester,” Critique 45.4 (Summer 2004): 363-82.

"'The Pocket Nothing Else Will Fill': Updike's Domestic God," John Updike and Religion (Eerdmans, 1999), ed. James Yerkes, 50-63.
"Contemporary Retellings: Smiley's A Thousand Acres as the Latest Lear," Critique 39.4 (Summer 1998): 367-81.
“Fathers and Sons in the Fiction of Reynolds Price: ‘A Sense of Crucial Ambiguity,” Critical Essays on Reynolds Price (G. K. Hall, 1998), 261-78. A revised and much expanded version of an essay which appeared earlier in Southern Review.
"Updike Ignored: The Contemporary Independent Critic," American Literature 67.3 (September 1995): 531-552.

8 Interviews with George Saunders, John Updike, Michael Cunningham, Jonathan Lethem, Margot Livesey, Chang-rae Lee, Julian Barnes, Jeffrey Eugenides in Tin House, Southern ReviewMissouri Review, et al.

3 Bibliographies, including "John Updike" in the Oxford Bibliographies Online: American Literature (Oxford UP 2015).


The John Updike Review. Founding editor. Edit two issues per year, beginning Fall 2011.

Honors and Awards

Boyce Teaching Award, Nominated by student letter: 1991, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1997, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2008, 2012, 2014, 2015

Boyce Teaching Award, Runner-Up, 2003

Boyce Teaching Award, 2015

“Evening with a Great Professor,” Recipient, 2006

Nominated for Barbour Teaching Award in 2001

Other Information

Conference Papers, Invited Presentations and Lectures, Public Interviews:
“Updike and the American Presidency,” Fifth Biennial Updike Society Conference, Belgrade, Serbia, June 2018.
“A Conversation with Zadie Smith,” 30th Annual Niehoff Lecture, Cincinnati, OH, November 2017.
Panelist, roundtable discussion of Philip Roth’s Kepesh Novels and The Professor of Desire, American Literature Association, Boston, MA, May 2017.
“’That a marriage ends is less than ideal’: Revisiting Updike’s Maples Stories,” American Literature Association, Boston, MA, May 2017.
 “Novelist as Sportswriter: David Foster Wallace and John Updike,” Fourth Biennial Updike Society Conference, Columbia, SC, October 2016.
“‘Rabbit Remembered’ and Its Various Intertexts,” American Literature Association, Boston, MA, May 2015.
“The Future of Updike Studies,” Third Biennial Updike Society Conference, Reading, PA, October 2014.
Keynote Event, Panelist, Coalition for Community Schools National Convention, Cincinnati, OH, April 2014.
“Updike and Other Writers,” Updike in Boston: Second Biennial Updike Society Conference, Boston, MA, June 2012.
“A Conversation with Nicholson Baker,” an interview, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH, May 2011.
“Resources for Teaching ‘A & P,’ ‘Pigeon Feathers,’ and ‘Separating,’” Pedagogical Session, Updike in Pennsylvania: The First Biennial Updike Society Conference, Reading, PA, October 2010.
“Resistance to Rabbit Is Rich,” Updike in Pennsylvania: The First Biennial Updike Society ConferenceReading, PA, October 2010.
“Updike Abroad,” panel chair, American Literature Association, San Francisco, CA, May 2010.
“Breaking the Rules,” panel on “John Updike: Fifty Years of Influence,” American Literature Association, Boston, MA, May 2009.
“Remembering John Updike,” Remembering John Updike, Reading Public Library, public memorial for John Updike, Reading, PA, April 5, 2009.
“John Updike on God, Sex and Witches,” The Spirit of Things, ABC National Radio, Australia, March 1, 2009.
“The Death of John Updike,” BBC, United Kingdom, January 27, 2009.
“Lessons in Paying Attention,” invited speaker and panelist, “Reynolds Price Jubilee,” Duke University, Durham, NC, January 2008.
Keynote Speaker and honoree, “Evening with a Great Professor,” University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH, September 2006.
“A Conversation with Chang-rae Lee,” an interview, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH, May 2006.
“A Conversation with Margot Livesey,” an interview, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH, April 2006.
“A Conversation with Julian Barnes,” an interview, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH, January 2006.
“A Conversation with Jeffrey Eugenides,” an interview, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH, April 2005.
“A Conversation with Jonathan Lethem,” an interview, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH, March 2005.
Keynote Speaker, Cum Laude Society Dinner, Seven Hills School, Cincinnati, OH, April 2005.

Academic and Community Service:
University of Cincinnati, Dept. of English and Comparative Literature
   Undergraduate English Society, Advisor, 2014-16
   Chair, Contemporary Anglophone Fiction Search, 2013-14
   Graduate Studies Committee, 2011-12
   Fiction Writer Search Committee, 2010-11
   Visiting Fiction Writer Search Committee, 2010
   Director of Undergraduate Studies, 2006-07, 2008-10
   Undergraduate Studies Committee, 2004-10, 2012-14
   Chair, Undergraduate Studies Committee, 2006-07, 2008-10
   Undergraduate Advisor, 2004-14
   Steering Committee, 1998-2002, 2003-04, 2006-07, 2008-10
   Headship Search Committee, 2006-2007
   Short Story Festival, Conference Organizer & Co-Director, 2001
            (Received a grant from the Ohio Arts Council)
   Fiction Search Committee, 2001-2002
   Visiting Poet/Fiction Search Committee, 2001
   Fiction Search Committee, 2000-2001
   Ropes Lecture Committee, 1999-2007
   Taft Dept. Enhancement Grant Committee, 1999-2000
   Boyce Teaching Award Committee, 1998, 2016
   Special Events Committee, 1997-2014
   Special Events Committee, Chair, 2010-11
   Development and Grants Committee, 1997
   General Education Course Development, 1995
   Literary Prize Committees, 1989-91, 1997-,

University of Cincinnati
   University of Cincinnati Foundation Board, Trustee, 2008-20
                        Development Committee, Foundation Board, 2008-17
                        Trustees & Governance 2014-16, 2017-20
                        Herschede Society, 2020-
   Campaign Leadership Committee, 2007-13
   Judge, Midwestern Assoc of Graduate Schools Thesis Competition,
   Distinguished Alumni Prize Committee, 2000
   Future Search, 1997
   Consultant/Introduction, Evening with a Great Teacher Award, 1997-99
Consulting Editor, Philip Roth Studies, 2011-
Editor, John Updike Review, 2009-
Consulting Editor, Critique, 2003-
Outside reader of manuscripts and essays:
   The Ohio State University Press
   University of Missouri Press
   University of Florida Press
   University of Kansas Press
   Ohio University Press
   Lehigh University Press
   Journal of American Studies
   Studies in American Fiction
   Religion & Literature
   South Atlantic Review
   Christianity & Literature
   Mississippi Quarterly
   Philip Roth Studies
   The John Updike Review
   Papers on Language and Literature
Staff Reviewer
   Book Magazine, 2000-2003

 Duke University, Trinity College Board of Visitors, 2007-14
   Board Chair, 2011-13
   Undergraduate Life Committee, 2007-11
   Undergraduate Life Committee, Chair, 2010-11
Duke University, Trinity College, Dean’s Search Committee, 2014-15
Duke University, Braxton Craven Society, Co-Chair, 2013-15
Duke University, Duke Forward Capital Campaign Steering Committee,                                                                                                         2013-17
 The John Updike Society
   Director, 2009-
   Vice-President, 2011-
Community Learning Center Institute
   Board Member & Vice-Chair, 2009-

Robert and Adele Schiff Family Foundation
   Trustee, 2004-
Robert C. and Adele R. Schiff Foundation
   Trustee, 2000-2007
The Seven Hills School, 1998-
   Advisory Council, 2010-
   Board Member, 1998-2010
   Board Chair & President, 2004-09
   Executive Committee, 2002-09
   Governance Committee, 2002-09
   All Board Committees, ex officio, 2004-09
   Diversity Coordinator Search Committee, 2005
   Upper School Design Review Committee, 1998-2001
   Land Use Committee, 1998-2001
   Books for Lunch, Author Selection, 1998-2000
   Diversity Review Committee, 1999-2000
   Parent Leadership Committee, Capital Campaign, 1999-2002
   Educational Policy and Values Committee, 2000-2004
   ISACS Steering Committee, 1999-2000
   Strategic Planning Steering Committee, 2001-2002
   Strategic Planning Diversity Committee, Chair, 2001-2002
   Strategic Planning Governance Committee, 2001-2002
   Head of School Search Committee, 2002
   Head of School Search Committee, 2008
   Summerbridge Ad-Hoc Committee, 2002-2003
   Evaluation Sub-Committee, 2003-07

CET-TV, formerly WCET-TV or Channel 48
   Board Member, 1993-99
   Vice-Chair, 1998-99
   Secretary, 1996-98
   Executive Committee, 1996-99
   Nominating Committee, 1996-98
   Development Committee Chair, 1993-99
   Strategic Planning Committee, 1997-99
   Capital Campaign Planning Committee, 1998-99

Cincinnati Preservation Association
   Board Member, 1993-1994

Judge, Cincinnati Magazine Short Story Contest, 1993

Cincinnati Mercantile Library
   Board Member, 1991-2002
   Vice-President, 1998-2002
   Secretary, 1996-98
   Nominating Committee Chair, 1997-99
   Executive Committee, 1996-2002
   Literary Events Chair, 1991-2002
   Development Committee Chair, 1997-99
   Collection Committee, 2000-2002

Cincinnati Association for the Blind
   Development Committee, 1991-1993

Languages: French, Spanish

Professional Organizations: John Updike Society, National Book Critics Circle, Modern Language Association,

Contact Information