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University of Iowa News Release


Sept. 18, 2007

Ida Beam Scholar to discuss the interdisciplinary study of opera Oct. 1-5

Herbert Lindenberger, Avalon Foundation Professor Emeritus of Humanities in Comparative Literature and English at Stanford University, will present two public lectures during a visit the University of Iowa Monday, Oct. 1 through Friday, Oct. 5 as an Ida Beam Distinguished Visiting Professor.

"Lindenberger is a pioneer in the interdisciplinary study of opera. His work has been extremely influential," said Roberta Marvin, co-director of the UI Opera Studies Group.

Lindenberger's public lectures will be:

-- 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 2: "Toward a Characterization of Modernist Opera," Room 140, Schaeffer Hall. Lindenberger will reflect on the last century of operatic history to show what makes 20th-century opera distinct from that of earlier centuries. He will discuss 20th-century opera's retreat from the full-blown opera of the 19th century into what he calls "not quite opera," which he divides into hard- and soft-modernist branches. The former is characterized by its attempt to confound its audiences with an aesthetic of difficulty and also often with theatrically shocking material. He will also compare modernism in opera with that in other art forms.

-- 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 4: "Opera and the Novel: Antithetical or Complementary?" Room E109, Adler Journalism Building. Lindenberger will examine the differing ways scholars have defined and evaluated these genres over the past 60 years. The talk will begin with the relatively narrow conceptions of the novel by critics F.R. Leavis, Ian Watt and Erich Auerbach, and equally narrow conceptions of opera by Joseph Kerman and Theodor Adorno. Lindenberger will then demonstrate how people have broadened their views of both genres to see the novel as comprising a wide range of narrative and opera as encompassing a far more varied canon than could have been imagined half a century ago.

Both lectures will be free and open to the public, and will be followed by a reception.

Lindenberger will also present a seminar at the UI School of Art and Art History at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 3, on the topic "Arts in the Brain: Or What Might Neuroscience Tell Us?" Lindenberger will look at recent experiments in neuroscience, many of them through the use of magnetic imaging, to explore what they might tell us about how the brain processes painting, music and literature. For more information on this event, call 319-335-1772.

Lindenberger received his doctorate in comparative literature from the University of Washington in 1955 and his Bachelor of Arts in literature from Antioch College in 1951. He taught at Stanford from 1969 until his retirement in 2001. While there he began the graduate program in comparative literature, which he headed from 1969 until 1982. During 1991-92, he directed the Stanford Humanities Center, which he helped found a decade before.

He has worked in a variety of national literatures, periods and genres and has written numerous books, including "Opera in History: From Monteverdi to Cage" and "Opera: The Extravagant Art." Lindenberger is the recipient of Fulbright, Guggenheim, National Endowment for the Humanities and Stanford Humanities Center fellowships. He served as president of the Modern Language Association of America for the year 1997.

The UI Office of the Provost sponsors the Ida Cordelia Beam Distinguished Visiting Professorships Program. The Opera Studies Group and UI International Programs are also sponsoring Lindenberger's visit. Additional support comes from the UI departments of Cinema and Comparative Literature, French and Italian, and English, the School of Art and Art History, the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies and the 18th- and 19th-Century Interdisciplinary Colloquium.

The UI established the Ida Cordelia Beam Distinguished Visiting Professorships Program in 1978-79 based on a bequest from the late Ida Beam of Vinton, Iowa, who willed her family farm to the University of Iowa Foundation. The proceeds from the farm's sale enabled the UI to establish a fund that brings top scholars in a variety of fields to campus for lectures and discussions.

The UI Opera Studies Group (OSG) was established in 1999 as a forum to foster the study of opera and related genres from interdisciplinary perspectives. The group's purpose is to bring together scholars who have a special expertise or interest in opera to share their views on various issues associated with research and performance of operatic works. OSG is part of UI International Programs, which enables UI students, faculty, staff and the public to learn from and about the world. Its offices, degree programs and events provide life-changing opportunities on campus and abroad, heighten intellectual and cultural diversity, and give all university constituents access to vital international knowledge. For more information, visit or call 319-353-2700. International Programs is part of the UI Office of the Provost.

The UI Opera Studies Group has a schedule of events on the Web at For special accommodations, contact Heidi Vekemans, IP events coordinator, at 319-335-3862 or

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

MEDIA CONTACTS: Roberta Marvin, Opera Studies Group, 319-335-4034,; Kelli Andresen, International Programs, 319-335-2026,