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University of Iowa News Release

April 27, 2006

Photo: International Writing Program Director Christopher Merrill. Click here for a high-resolution image.

IWP 'New Symposium' In Greece Will Be Catalyst For Intercultural Exchange

The International Writing Program (IWP) at the University of Iowa has organized "The New Symposium," which will convene writers, artists and thinkers from America, Greece and around the world to focus on "The Commons" -- what we hold in common. The group will gather May 17-24 on the Greek island of Paros.

The symposium, funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, is co-sponsored by the Fulbright Foundation in Greece, EKEMEL (European Translation Center -- Literature & Human Sciences) and the Office of the Mayor of Paros.

This spring, participants will prepare essays on the theme, which will form a common ground for the discussions, and which will later be published in a single volume. The volume will include an introduction and an edited transcript of the discussions -- a colloquy of voices from the gathering.

The program aims for the meeting in Paros and the book to articulate a vision of a world in which the shared interests of humanity take pride of place.

"The New Symposium" reflects the model of personal and intellectual interaction that has characterized the IWP's annual residencies at the UI. The formula is simple and elegant: Bring together creative minds from around the world; then provide formal and informal opportunities for them to interact. The specific results can never be anticipated, but have always proved remarkable -- from literary collaborations, to translation projects, to the inspiration for new work, to the sharpening of vision and the broadening of understanding, and the solidifying of productive lifelong friendships.

"What a thrilling prospect: bringing together acclaimed writers from around the world to explore what binds us together," says IWP Director Christopher Merrill, who will moderate the discussions. "I can't wait to see what new visions, insights and ways of thinking will emerge from this symposium."

The week in Paros will be a mix of formal and informal activities, balanced to maximize thoughtful interaction between participants. Each formal session will be videotaped for transcribing and editing, and the group will also travel together to locations of historical interest.

"Those familiar with Plato and Socrates will agree there is no more appropriate venue than Greece for renewing the tradition of robust communal dialogue out of which grew one of the world's great intellectual traditions," Merrill explains. "Since the project's conception, the Fulbright Foundation in Greece and the Athens-based translation center EKEMEL have been active partners in the New Symposium's development. And Paros, it was universally agreed, makes an ideal location for the event: For thousands of years, this island in the Cyclades has been a hub for the trading of knowledge and culture."

Paros takes pride in its heritage as a birthplace to poets. That love of literature continues in the Parian city of Lefkes, where EKEMEL helps to foster better translation in literature and across the human sciences in its House of Literature. The New Symposium's discussion sessions will be held at this bastion of literary exchange.

Most of the writers, artists and thinkers are funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Ruth Margraff is funded through the Fulbright Foundation in Greece.

-- From the United States

Diana Fritz Cates is a professor of religious studies at the UI. She is the author of "Choosing to Feel: Virtue, Friendship, and Compassion for Friends" (1997). She is the co-editor with Paul Lauritzen of "Medicine and the Ethics of Care" (2001). She has published articles and chapters on topics ranging from religion, ethics and literature, to the philosophical study of virtue and emotion, to the ethics of Thomas Aquinas, to the ethics of human rights, to the religious and ethical implications of recent developments in genetic research and technology.

Lewis Hyde is Richard L. Thomas Professor of Creative Writing at Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio. Hyde's interests center on the public life of the imagination. His 1983 book, "The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property," is an inquiry into the situation of creative artists in a commercial society. "Trickster Makes This World" (1998) is a portrait of the kind of disruptive imagination needed to keep any culture flexible and alive. 

Ruth Margraff is an award-winning playwright whose work has been performed internationally. She has been called a leader in the New Opera music/theater movement in America. Her most recent productions include "Wellspring: An American Opera Box for the Balkans," a radical new opera about the American wife of a U.N. peacekeeper who goes to look for her husband when he disappears in Sarajevo in 1999. It was written in collaboration with Greek-American composer Nikos Brisco. Among her many awards is a 2005-06 All Disciplines Fulbright Award to introduce New Opera to Greek audiences: She will teach in Greece for three months in spring 2006. She is a visiting associate professor of playwriting at Brown University.

Barry Sanders recently retired as professor of the history of ideas at Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif. He is the author and co-author of more than a dozen books on orality and culture, some of the most seminal being "ABC: The Alphabetization of the Popular Mind" (1986), with Ivan Illich; "A is for Ox: Violence, Electronic Media, and the Silencing Of The Written Word" (1994), which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize; "Sudden Glory: Laughter as Subversive History" (1995); and "The Private Death of Public Discourse" (1998). His most recent work is "Alienable Rights: The Exclusion of African Americans in a White Man's Land, 1619-2000," which Harper's magazine nominated in 2004 for the Pulitzer Prize.

Scott Russell Sanders is Distinguished Professor of English at Indiana University in Bloomington. Among his more than 20 books are novels, short story collections and works of creative nonfiction including "Staying Put," "Writing from the Center," "Hunting for Hope" and "A Private History of Awe." He has been awarded fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Lilly Endowment.

-- From Brazil

Giselle Beiguelman is a new media artist and multimedia essayist who teaches digital culture at the Graduation Program in Communication and Semiotics of PUC-SP. Her writing includes the award-winning "The Book after the Book." She has been developing art projects for mobile phones and art involving public access on the Web. Her work appears in important anthologies and guides devoted to digital arts, including the "Yale University Library Research Guide for Mass Media," and it has been presented in international venues.


-- From England

Gregory Norminton is novelist and environmentalist. Norminton will be featured in an Animal Planet cable television series on the environment this spring. His awards include a Writer's Award from the Arts Council of England in 2003 and a BBC "Making Waves" award at the Brighton Festival in 2000. He has published three novels and has written short stories for BBC Radio and journals. Norminton is an alumnus of the IWP program thanks to past support from the International Visitors Program and is currently visiting fellow in creative writing at Magdalene College, Cambridge.

-- From Greece

Stratis Haviaras teaches creative writing at Harvard and at the European Center for the Translation of Literature in Athens, Greece. He was born in Greece, where his first four books of poetry were published. He has held a number of positions at Harvard University, including curator of the George Edward Woodberry Poetry Foundation and the Henry Weston Farnsworth Room, and he was a founding editor of Harvard Review. His books include "The Heroic Age," "When the Tree Sings," "Crossing the River Twice," "Duty-free Desiderata" and "Millennian Afterlives: a retrospective."

Alexis Stamatis is a novelist, poet, playwright and columnist. Stamatis is the author of five novels and six collections of poems, numerous magazine and newspaper articles, two opera librettos and two plays. His work has been translated into seven languages. He worked as a writer for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens and has also worked as an architect. Stamatis is a Fulbright and IWP alumnus.

Anastassis Vistonitis is a poet, journalist, translator and co-founder of the Greek Collecting Society of Literary Works (OSDEL). From 1996 to 2001 he was a member of the board of the E.W.C. and in September 2003 he was elected vice president of the E.W.C. administrative board. He was the general editor of the candidature file of Athens for the Olympic Games of 2004. Vistonitis has published eight books of poetry, two volumes of essays, two travelogues and a book of short stories.

-- From India

Rustom Bharucha is an independent writer, theatre director and cultural critic based in Mumbai. He is the author of several books, including "Theatre and the World, The Question of Faith," "In the Name of the Secular," "The Politics of Cultural Practice" and "Rajasthan: an Oral History." Apart from directing theatrical classics in different inter/intra-cultural contexts, he has conducted workshops with underprivileged working children and agricultural laborers. A member of the international advisory council of the Prince Claus Fund for culture and development, he remains committed to the translation of cultures across social and political differences.

-- From Indonesia

Ayu Utami, is a novelist, editor of a controversial cultural journal and a co-founder of the union of freelance journalists. Utami was banned from writing in 1994, but succeeded in completing a black book on corruption in the Suharto regime. Her debut novel, "Saman," which received a prize for best Indonesian novel in 1998, addresses the difficult relationship between Muslims, Christians and the Chinese minority. A companion novel "Larung" was published in 2001. Utami has been a radio host and co-publisher of the cultural magazine Kalam. She is an alumna of the IWP.

-- From Israel

Amir Or is a professor, poet, translator and editor. Or has been chief editor of the Helicon Society for the Advancement of Poetry in Israel since its foundation, and he currently serves as editor of its journal and poetry book series, as well as director of its Hebrew-Arabic poetry school. He also serves as art director of the Sha'r Festival for new Hebrew and Arabic poetry and as local coordinator for Poets for Peace, a U.N.-sponsored venture. He has published articles on poetry, classical and religious studies, and has taught these subjects. His books of translation have included "The Gospel of Thomas," "Limb-Loosening Desire: An Anthology of Erotic Greek Poetry," "Stories From the Mahabharata" and "To a Woman" by Shuntaro Tanikawa. He has been awarded the Prime Minister's Award for his poetry, the Bernstein Award and the Holon Award; and for his translations of poetry from ancient Greek he has received an honorary award from the Israeli Ministry of Culture. Or is an alumnus of the Fulbright Program and IWP.

-- From Kenya

Yvonne Owour is a fiction writer, 2003 Caine Prize winner and director of the Zanzibar International Film Festival. Owour won the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2003 for "Weight of Whispers," a story told from the perspective of a Rwandan fleeing after the 1994 massacres. She has also written several screenplays and short stories including "Dressing the Dirge," "The State of Tides" and "The Knife Grinder's Tale." The Zanzibar International Film Festival showcases Indian Ocean arts and culture. Owour is an alumna of the IWP through support provided by the US Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

-- From Romania

Magda Carneci is a poet, art writer and essayist. Carneci is a leading thinker and poet in Romanian post-modernism, senior researcher at the Institute of Art History in Bucharest, and president of the board of the International Centre for Contemporary Arts. She lives in Paris, where she is a professor of Romanian literature and culture. She has published 15 books of anthologies, theory and poetry including "Chaosmos" in 1992.

-- From Sri Lanka

Ameena Hussein is a sociologist, fiction writer, non-fiction writer, editor and publisher. Hussein is also a consultant for several international human rights NGOs (non-governmental organizations), including the International Center for Human Rights Policy in Geneva, Switzerland, where she has served as the executive assistant. She has published two short-story collections, "Zillij" and "Fifteen," and she edits Nethra, a journal published by the International Centre for Ethnic Studies that addresses issues of violence, governance and development. In 2003 she co-founded Perera-Hussein Publishing House to enable and encourage talented South Asian writers. Hussein is an alumna of the IWP through support provided by the US Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

-- Directing the New Symposium

Christopher Merrill, director of the IWP at the UI. His books include four collections of poetry, translations, several edited volumes and four books of nonfiction. His work has been translated into 20 languages. His most recent work is "Things of the Hidden God: Journey to the Holy Mountain," an account of the transforming pilgrimages he made to Mount Athos in Greece in the aftermath of the Balkan wars of the 1990s. The book won the 2005 Kostas Kyriazis Award, Greece's most prestigious journalism award.

Artemis A. Zenetou, executive director of the Fulbright Foundation in Greece. Zenetou has worked for several organizations, including the Federal Reserve Bank-Cultural Affairs, Boston; the Smithsonian Institution, the U.S. Presidential Inaugural Committee for Art and Cultural Initiatives and the World Bank, where she established the first Art and Cultural Program. She has co-authored two books: "Museums: a Place to Work" (1996) and "Gender Perspectives:  Essays on Women in Museums" (1991). She served on the board of the Cultural Olympiad, Ministry of Cultural Affairs (2000-2004) and on the Advisory Committee on Cultural Diplomacy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2002-2004).

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