Screen readers: Two navigational links to follow.Skip to site navigation.Skip to page content.
The University of Iowa News Services
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us

University of Iowa News Release


Oct. 15, 2007

Oct. 20 Saturday Scholars talk focuses on 'ethical activism' in poetry

An upcoming lecture will examine how poetry can serve as a call to action, specifically in the work of acclaimed poets Adrienne Rich and Mary Oliver.

Linda Bolton, associate professor of English in the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS), will speak on "Ethical Activism in the Poetry of Adrienne Rich and Mary Oliver" at 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 20 in Room 40 of Schaeffer Hall, the southeast building in the UI Pentacrest.

The free, public lecture is part of the "Saturday Scholars" series, sponsored by the CLAS to showcase research and innovations by some of its top scholars. The hour-long event includes a presentation with recorded readings by the poets and a question and answer session. Refreshments will be served.

Bolton plans to discuss how Rich, a passionate social activist and artist, uses poetry to advocate a more just world. Rich's work encourages people to strive for justice as they make choices and interact with one another. She was awarded the National Medal of Honor in the Arts by President Bill Clinton but refused the award, fearing that the ethical and political critique of her work would be forever compromised because of the affiliation with a political agenda.

Oliver, who won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1983, writes poems that celebrate the majestic, yet endangered beauty of the natural world. Some literary critics have dismissed her as the female imitator of her Romantic predecessors like Whitman, Wordsworth, Emerson, and others, or as a "poet-hippie" who is disconnected from the "real" world as she travels the woods and ponds of New England in search of beauty, truth and solace. Bolton argues that Oliver's poetry challenges us to address to the environmental crisis we face.

"Poetry has a unique ability to wake us and shake us and call us to attention in a way that no other genre can," Bolton said.

Bolton is the author of "Facing the Other: Ethical Disruption and the American Mind" (Louisiana State University Press, 2004), a study of six moments in 18th- and 19th-century America, when the presence of the "other" -- specifically, the Indian and the African -- disrupted the American discourse on freedom. The book was nominated for The Modern Language Association's prestigious First Book Award.

Bolton's scholarship and teaching explore issues of difference in race, culture, disability, class, and environment through literature, art and ethics. Working with public art sculptor Barbara Grygutis, Bolton helped design and build the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Monument at Battle Creek in Columbia, Mo. She is working on a second book manuscript, "The Anatomy of Shame," which explores the experience of shame through an interdisciplinary study, integrating ethical philosophy, psychoanalytic research and memoir. Bolton is also a recipient of the 2007 CLAS Collegiate Teaching Award.

The final event in the Saturday Scholars series is "Animated Culture: Contemporary Experimental Art Practices," Jon Winet, School of Art and Art History, 10 a.m. Nov. 3, Room 40, Schaeffer Hall

For additional information on the Saturday Scholars series, visit

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all UI-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires an accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact the CLAS in advance at 319-335-2610.

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

MEDIA CONTACTS: Linda Bolton, Department of English, 319-335-0451,; Nicole Riehl, University News Services, 319-384-0070,