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University of Iowa News Release


Sept. 27, 2007

PHOTOS: Paul Engle (top photo) in Stone City, Iowa, Hualing Engle Photo Collection; and (photo, lower right) Paul Engle and Robert Frost speak to a group at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Hualing Engle Photo Collection

Old Capitol Museum to present exhibit about history of creative writing at UI

Beginning with the first verse-making class in the late 1800s through recent Pulitzer Prize awardees, a new exhibition at the Old Capitol Museum will show how diverse personalities and historical circumstances combined to make the University of Iowa "The Writing University." The yearlong exhibition, "A Community of Writers: Creative Writing at the University of Iowa," opens at the Old Capitol Museum on Friday, Oct. 12, with a public reception starting at 5 p.m.

Flannery O'Connor's master's thesis, handwritten drafts of Frank Conroy's memoir "Stop-Time" and Marilynne Robinson's novel "Housekeeping", the 1993 National Endowment for the Humanities Medal of Honor bestowed on the Writers' Workshop, and a re-creation of Paul Engle's desk are a few of the items to be displayed in the lower level of Old Capitol, including the Hanson Family Humanities Gallery and the Discovery Center.

Jennifer New, author and curator of the exhibition, says the exhibit is intended to show the interrelationships of the various writing programs, which include the Iowa Writers' Workshop, the International Writing Program (IWP), the Translation Workshop, the Playwriting Workshop, and the Nonfiction Writing Program. In addition, Center for the Book is included in the exhibit.

"I came to see these programs as part of one family tree," said New, who grew up in Iowa City and has longstanding memories of the writing community. "While each is proud of its history and independence, they are all intertwined, one growing from the next."

Humanities Iowa awarded the Old Capitol Museum a $15,000 grant for the exhibit.  Pamela Trimpe, director of the Pentacrest Museums, says the exhibit shows the reach of UI's writing programs in the nation and the world. "People recognize this university for many successes and contributions, but chief among them are our writers. They are world class."

Opening on Paul Engle Day (a day declared to be in honor of the second director of the Writers' Workshop and the co-founder of the International Writing Program by former Gov. Tom Vilsack) the exhibition includes a slate of programming, including Thursday afternoon gallery talks, several special lectures, and, coming early next semester, a documentary film featuring former UI writing students. The first gallery talk, "The Writer's Desk" is on Thursday, Oct. 18 and will feature New talking with Kevin Kopelson, a professor of English in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

A series of smaller, rotating exhibitions related to writing at the UI will be posted upstairs in the Old Capitol Museum, outside of the Old Senate Chambers. The first exhibition, "The World Comes to Iowa: Portraits of the International Writing Program," opens Friday, Oct. 12, and runs through December. It features portraits of IWP writers by Iowa City photographer Thomas Langdon, who has been photographing IWP writers for the past five years.

Fall events are as follows:

--Thursday, Oct. 18, 3-4 p.m.: Gallery Talk, "The Writer's Desk," with Kevin Kopelson of the UI Department of English.

--Sunday, Nov. 4, 1:30-3 p.m.: "Sailing Into Iowa," a one-woman show by Maggie Conroy.

--Thursday, Nov. 8, 3-4 p.m.: Gallery Talk, "Judge a Book by Its Cover," by Paul Ingram of Prairie Lights and Shari DeGraw of Empyrean Press.

--Thursday, Nov. 15, time TBA: UI Center for the Book's Brownell Lecture, featuring Joan Shelley Rubin of University of Rochester, "Poetry in Place and Practice: American Readers and the Uses of Verse."

-- Thursday, Nov. 29, 3-4 p.m.:  Gallery Talk about the graduate school application process for writers and a question and answer session with current graduate writing students.

All events at the Old Capitol Museum are free and open to the public.

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

CONTACTS: Katherine Moermond, Pentacrest Museums, 319-335-0548,; George McCrory, 319-384-0012,; Writer: Brittany Piehl.