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University of Iowa News Release


Nov. 13, 2007

Historian describes emotional impact of poetry in America Nov. 15

Historian Joan Shelley Rubin will discuss the emotional weight poems carried in American homes, schools and other settings between 1880 and 1950 in a free public lecture at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 15, in the Senate Chamber at the University of Iowa Old Capitol Museum.

Rubin's lecture, "Poetry in Place and Practice: American Readers and the Uses of Verse," is the Brownell Lecture in the History of the Book. Rubin's visit to the UI campus is sponsored by the UI Center for the Book, a unit of the Graduate College.

Rubin is an American cultural and intellectual historian with a special interest in the history of books, reading and literary culture between 1880 and 1960. She will reflect on themes of her recent book, "Songs of Ourselves: The Uses of Poetry in America" (Harvard University Press, 2007).

Poet Robert Pinsky describes the book as "a model of what scholarship can do: knowledge, imaginatively applied to matters of importance. Joan Rubin gives an understated but forceful history of poetry's readership, fads, attainments and allegiances in the United States."

Tom Sleigh in The New York Times Book Review called "Songs of Ourselves" a "humane, at times exhaustingly detailed literary history [that] dignifies, against the critics' aesthetic judgments, the comfort, pleasure, emotional richness found in popular poetry."

In The Wall Street Journal, Brad Leithauser wrote, "Ms. Rubin has chosen to survey some of these surprises over 70 years of explosive American history, from the lingering aftermath of the Civil War through the ravages of two world wars to the technological wizardry of the 20th century. She has chosen a field where the eternal and the temporal contend -- just the sort of terrain where poetry has always been most at home."

Rubin is the author of "The Making of Middlebrow Culture" (1992) and "Constance Rourke and American Culture" (1980), along with numerous groundbreaking essays in American studies and book studies. A leading practitioner of book history, she is co-editor of the concluding volume of "A History of the Book in America" and contributing editor to "The Oxford Companion to the Book."

The Center for the Book is an innovative, interdisciplinary research and arts unit of the UI Graduate College. The center's mission is to integrate study of the book in society with practice in the art of book production. It offers courses in book technologies and book history to graduate and undergraduate students, as well as to the Eastern Iowa community.

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

MEDIA CONTACTS: Matthew P. Brown, UI Center for the Book, 319-335-0447,; Nicole Riehl, University News Services, 319-384-0070,