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Folsom to combine Whitman, representation, democracy, and art in 1998 Presidential Lecture

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- University of Iowa English Professor Ed Folsom will present the 15th annual UI Presidential Lecture, "What do we represent? Walt Whitman, representative democracy, and democratic representation," at 3 p.m. Feb. 15 in Clapp Recital Hall.

Folsom said he will celebrate the occasion of the lecture's 15th anniversary by taking a brief look back at those who have stood at the podium before him, especially Sherman Paul, the first Presidential Lecturer, who died in 1995.

"All 15 presidential lecturers are either still teaching at the University or became emeriti professors here," Folsom said. "That says something about the community--that it nurtures loyalty in long careers."

Former UI president James Freedman initiated the annual lecture in 1984 to provide a public showcase for university scholarship, research, and creative achievement. Folsom said he will discuss representation from an artistic as well as political perspective in order to provide the cross-disciplinary tone that Freedman originally intended for the Presidential Lecture.

"This is an era in which we all think about representation," Folsom said. "How do we represent people and ideas? What does the university represent? Is the university representative? Back in the 19th century Whitman could never separate the political and artistic aspects of representation. The solution Whitman developed was to create a poetry -- a democratic voice -- that was representative of the diversity of the American population."

Folsom's presentation will begin with a reading of the Whitman poem "So Long?" by UI Writers' Workshop faculty member Jorie Graham, a Pulitzer-Prize-winning poet. Pianist Uriel Tsachor, an associate professor of music at the UI, will play a musical interpretation of the poem that was written by Los Angeles composer Robert Strassburg.

"I hope not only to talk about community, but with these colleagues to enact a sense of community as well as demonstrate what it is like to be surrounded by so many incredible scholars, artists, and friends within the university," Folsom said.

Folsom, an internationally recognized Whitman scholar, joined the UI English department in 1976 and served as its chair from 1991-1995. He was named F. Wendell Miller Distinguished Professor of English in 1997 and won a Regents' Award for Faculty Excellence in 1996. Folsom has been editor of the Walt Whitman Quarterly Review since 1983.

Folsom was selected as the 1998 Presidential Lecturer by the Presidential Lecture Selection Committee, a faculty committee that reviews the nominations and recommends its choice to UI President Mary Sue Coleman. The committee is chaired by Leslie Sims, dean of the Graduate College.

2/6/98