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University of Iowa News Release


April 10, 2007

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Two College Of Liberal Arts And Sciences Professors Win Guggenheim Awards

Two professors in the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences have won the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship. Rick Altman (photo, left), professor of cinema and comparative literature, and Ed Folsom (photo, right), Roy J. Carver Professor of English, are among the 189 artists, scholars and scientists the Guggenheim Foundation selected for the 2007 awards from almost 2,800 applicants.

Guggenheim awards recognize past accomplishment and offer significant support for a new project, and both Altman and Folsom said the awards would provide the invaluable gift of time for research and writing their next book projects.

Altman's book, "Classical Hollywood Sound," will examine Hollywood's use of new sound technology. The new book will be a follow-up to Altman's award-winning "Silent Film Sound," published in 2004. The earlier book was the first to tell the whole story of film accompaniment during the silent film years, from player pianos to mighty Wurlitzers, and from solitary pianists to 100-piece orchestras. Funded by the Guggenheim, Altman's new project will bring the same detailed analysis to the next era in film sound.

Altman said the award is a tremendous personal honor, and also a long-awaited recognition for his scholarly field. "Guggenheim fellowships are the most prestigious fellowships awarded in the arts and humanities," he said, "and have only rarely been given to people working in film studies or related fields. This award helps to put film studies 'on the map.'"

Altman, who joined the UI faculty in 1974, teaches courses on American cinema, film sound, cinema theory and the history and theory of narrative. He has published extensively on Hollywood genres, especially the musical, and on film sound. His books and articles have won numerous prizes, including the French film critics' prize for best film book, Katherine S. Kovacs prize for best film book, Limina prize for best film book and the Theatre Library Association Award.

Folsom will use his Guggenheim award to write "Walt Whitman's 'Leaves of Grass': The Biography of a Book." "Leaves of Grass" is one of the most influential, textually complex and puzzling books in all of American literature, Folsom said. Even to call it a "book" is problematic, because the title refers to six different books Whitman published over a course of 40 years, three editions before the Civil War and three editions after, each one dramatically different from the others.

"Because the process is dynamic over four decades, Whitman's 'Leaves' becomes thoroughly entwined with Whitman's life," Folsom said. "The biography of the book is inseparable from the biography of the author. My book, then, will be the biography of a man writing a book (and, in Whitman's case, of a book writing a man), a book that is at once a single evolving text and a shifting set of wildly various book objects."

Folsom has been a member of the English faculty since 1976. He is one of the world's leading experts on the life and writings of Walt Whitman and has been editor of the Walt Whitman Quarterly Review since 1983. He also serves as co-director of the Walt Whitman Archive, an online scholarly and teaching resource. He won a Regents' Award for Faculty Excellence in 1996 and a Collegiate Teaching Award in 2003. Folsom was an early innovator in classroom technology, developing the online Walt Whitman Archive and participating in a joint effort with colleagues nationwide to create The Classroom Electric, a web-based resource for teaching the poetry of Whitman and Emily Dickinson.

Not only are Altman and Folsom colleagues in scholarship and teaching, but they also are neighbors who have lived a mere "snow blower throw away" from each other on Clark Street in Iowa City for more than 15 years.

The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation was established in 1925 by United States Senator Simon Guggenheim and his wife as a memorial to a son who died in 1922. The foundation offers fellowships to further the development of scholars and artists by assisting them to engage in research in any field of knowledge and creation in any of the arts.

The fellowships are awarded to men and women who have already demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts. What distinguishes the Guggenheim Fellowship program from all others, and plays a role in its prestige, is the wide range in interest, age, geography and institution of those it selects as it considers applications in 78 different fields, from the natural sciences to the creative arts.

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

CONTACTS: Mary Geraghty Kenyon, 319-384-0011,