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University of Iowa News Release

Feb. 23, 2004

Alumnus James C. Hall To Discuss Poetry Of Protest Feb. 27

The American studies department in the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences will welcome back James C. Hall as the Albert E. Stone Distinguished Alumnus Speaker on Friday, Feb. 27 at 4 p.m. in Room 704, Jefferson Building. Hall will speak on "Lyric Protest: Robert Hayden's 'Peacock Room'" in a free, public lecture.

Hall earned his doctorate in American studies in 1992 and is now the director of New College at the University of Alabama. He is the author of "Mercy, Mercy, Me: African-American Culture and the American Sixties" (Oxford University Press, 2001). He will speak about one African American poet's response to American art and national museums as a way of examining the themes of protest and commemoration that are at the heart of the department's yearlong lecture series, "Cultural Frameworks for Civil Liberties." The series was organized to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education.

The "Peacock Room" in the title of Hall's lecture is an 1876 English dining room lavishly painted by the famous American Impressionist painter James Whistler. In 1904 art collector Charles Freer had the entire room transported and reassembled in his Detroit home and, after his death in 1917, the Peacock Room was transported and installed in the Freer Gallery of Art that is part of the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.

In 1973 the poet Robert Hayden, who was significantly troubled by the cultural upheaval of the Civil Rights era, responded to the room and its history in his poetry. For Hayden, the entanglement of beauty and violence in commemorative art was a disturbing paradox similar to the intermingling of memory, pain, and understanding characteristic of African-American literature in the post-Brown era.

The "Cultural Frameworks" series is co-sponsored by the department of American studies, department of history, African American world studies program, American Indian and native studies program, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Perry A. and Helen Judy Bond Fund for Interdisciplinary Interaction, and the Office of the Provost Ida Cordelia Beam Distinguished Visiting Professorships Program.

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 American studies department in advance at 319-335-0320.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACT(S): Media: Mary Geraghty Kenyon, 319-384-0011, Program: American studies department 319-335-0320.