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University of Iowa News Release


March 23, 2009

Photo: "Commedia" by Thomas Dewing

'Parlor-style' performance features work by British women poets April 4

Quoting poems, Bible verses and other texts was common in the 18th and 19th centuries, but today few people know literature well enough to recite it.

British and American schoolchildren recited in front of classmates. Women held "recitals" with recitation and music in home parlors; a liberating opportunity, considering they were often prohibited from the public stage.

Echoing this historic format, the University of Iowa will present "Celebrating Victorian Women's Lives: An Evening of Music and Recitations" at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 4 the Old Capitol Senate Chamber.

The free, public event features work by lesser-known female poets. The evening includes an introduction by UI English Professor Judith Pascoe and performances by university and community actors Art Borreca, Maggie Conroy, Connie de Veer, Katherine Eberle, Cassandra Schiano, Connie Winston and Rebekah Wortman.

Even the refreshments are based on advice from 19th century recitation and elocution manuals. Following a sample program published in the 1899 "Twentieth Century Speaker," the UI will serve coffee, sandwiches, salted almonds and doughnuts while "throw[ing] off all formality" and showing guests "a rollicking good time."

"Celebrating Victorian Women's Lives" is the keynote event of the British Women Writers Conference taking place at the UI April 2-5. Hosted by public research universities for the past 17 years, the conference focuses on historically and critically overlooked 18th and 19th century British women authors. Roughly 200 literary scholars and graduate students from across the country will attend.

For details on the conference, visit

In conjunction with the conference, an exhibition called "Fresh Threads of Connection: Mother Nature and British Women Writers," is on display at the Old Capitol Museum through July 26. The exhibit features 10 women writers and their unique relationships with nature and with each other, including the work of Mary Shelley, Margaret Cavendish, Anna Sewell and Beatrix Potter.

More information on the exhibit is available at

Faculty members and graduate students from the School of Music, the Department of Theatre Arts and the Department of English organized "Celebrating Victorian Women's Lives." It is sponsored by the Division of Performing Arts' Arts Across Borders effort, the School of Music and Prairie Lights Bookstore.

The British Women Writers Conference is sponsored by the Department of English, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences' Perry A. and Helen Judy Bond Fund for Interdisciplinary Interaction, the Graduate College, International Programs, the 18th and 19th Century Interdisciplinary Colloquium, the Departments of Women's Studies, Art and Art History, and History, and Professor Garrett Stewart through the Freedman Lecture Fund.

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

MEDIA CONTACTS: Laura Capp, Department of English, 319-248-1175,; Nicole Riehl, University News Services, 319-384-0070 (office), 319-430-6576 (cell),