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Release: Oct. 15, 2001

Deem to discuss perceived epidemic of 'rude and crude' at Oct. 20 Saturday Scholars

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A wide variety of events and issues including harassment of Arab- Americans and Arabs in America in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, sexual harassment, road rage, and school shootings have raised the specter of a loss of civility in American culture and public life.

Melissa Deem, an assistant professor of rhetoric and women's studies at the University of Iowa, will examine this perceived "crisis of civility" during her presentation, "The Civility Trap: America's Nostalgia for a More Civil Time," on Saturday, Oct. 20, at 10 a.m. in Room 40, Schaeffer Hall. The discussion is part of the Saturday Scholars series, presented by the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

"We need to try to understand this civility crisis in the context of more general anti-60's rhetoric that laments the cultural and political changes that resulted from civil rights and feminist movements," Deem said. In examining some key moments of "incivility," she will ask the question that has been almost impossible within this context—Does civility have a politics? And if it does, what are the politics of civility?

Deem's research is concerned with an understanding of the connections between rhetoric, the body, and political space and the possibilities for transformations of oppressive cultural/political/discursive practices. Her interests extend into traditional rhetorical concepts such as decorum and civility. In May 2000, she held an interdisciplinary civility symposium that drew speakers from across the country. Deem has published essays in Public Culture and Critical Studies in Mass Communication and Blackwell's Companion to Cultural Studies. She is currently completing a manuscript titled, "Riding the Waves to Their Own Demise: Feminism and the Transformation of the U.S. Public," which is a history of feminist rhetorical practices in the United States.

In a preview of her Oct. 20 presentation, Deem will be a guest on "Iowa Talks," WSUI AM- 910, on Friday, Oct. 19, at 10 a.m.

Upcoming lectures in the Saturday Scholars series include:

Nov. 3 A reading from the novel "Carry Me Across the Water," Ethan Canin, professor of English

Nov. 17 "Lessons on Empowerment: Listening to the Voices of Entrepreneurial Women," Salome Raheim, director of the UI School of Social Work.

All presentations will begin at 10 a.m. in Room 40, Schaeffer Hall, the southeast building on the UI Pentacrest. Each session will last about an hour, including a 20-30 minute presentation, followed by a question-and-answer session. Refreshments will be served.

Additional information is available at

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires an accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in advance at 335-2610.