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News from NYS Writers Institute

For more information: Suzanne Lance, 518-442-5624

ALBANY, NY — (02/13/2007; 1110)(EIS) — Pulitzer Prize-winning Historian Michael Kammen to Discuss New Book, “Visual Shock: A History of Art Controversies in American Culture” (2006), February 27, 2007

Michael Kammen, Pulitzer Prize-winning cultural historian, will read from and discuss his new book, “Visual Shock: A History of Art Controversies in American Culture” (2006), on Tuesday, February 27, 2007 at 7:00 p.m. in the University Art Museum, Fine Arts Building, on the University at Albany’s uptown campus. The event is sponsored by the New York State Writers Institute and the University Art Museum in conjunction with the Museum’s exhibit, “Mr. President,” (January 18 – April 1, 2007) and is free and open to the public.

Michael Kammen, Pulitzer Prize-winning cultural historian, is the author most recently of “Visual Shock: A History of Art Controversies in American Culture” (2006). From the Washington Monument to the new 9/11 memorials, from the sculptures of Auguste Rodin to the photographs of Robert Mapplethorpe, art has always had the power to ignite fiery debates about aesthetics and morality. “Visual Shock” chronicles many of these battles while exploring the ways that “freedom of expression” has shaped American culture and politics.

The “Boston Globe” called the book, “deep, richly detailed, and enlightening.” In a starred review, “Booklist” said, “Over the course of detailing myriad nineteenth- and twentieth-century art innovations and controversies, Kammen tells the fascinating story not only of artists overtly politicizing art but also of corresponding social change and backlash. Drawing on original sources, Kammen elucidates dramatic skirmishes over public art, race and gender issues, modernism and conceptualism, depictions of the American flag, and disputed museum exhibitions. Kammen’s history of art considered shocking and art made to shock reveals that for all the controversy art arouses, efforts at censorship fail because even art’s harshest critics value freedom of expression.”

The author and editor of more than thirty books, Kammen received the Pulitzer Prize for “People of Paradox: An Inquiry Concerning the Origins of American Civilization” (1972), and the Francis Parkman and Henry Adams Prizes for “A Machine That Would Go of Itself: The Constitution in American Culture” (1986).

He is also the recent author of “A Time to Every Purpose: The Four Seasons in American Culture” (2004), a lavishly illustrated exploration of the American attitude toward the seasonal cycle as depicted in art, literature, and popular culture, from the works of Thoreau to modern advertising. The “Boston Globe” called it “a book as filled with wonder as the cycling of the seasons themselves.”

The event is cosponsored by the University Art Museum in conjunction with the exhibit “Mr. President,” January 18 – April 1, 2007. “Mr. President” features works by over twenty-five contemporary artists who have created non-traditional portraits of United States presidents. Using various media including video, sculpture, drawing, and painting, these artists seek ways to penetrate the mythic perceptions of America’s most powerful men by providing alternatives to the official portrait.

For additional information, contact the Writers Institute at 518-442-5620 or online at http://www.albany.edu/writers-inst.

Hamid Dabashi, Major Academic Authority on Islam and Middle Eastern Culture, Author of New Books on Iranian History and Palestinian Cinema, to Speak March 2, 2007

Iranian-American scholar Hamid Dabashi, major academic authority on Islam and Middle Eastern culture, will provide commentary following a screening of the prize-winning Palestinian film, “Divine Intervention” (2002), on Friday, March 2, 2007 at 7:00 p.m. [Note early start time] in Page Hall on the University at Albany’s downtown campus. Earlier that same day at 4:15 p.m. in Science Library Room 340, on the uptown campus, Dabashi will offer a discussion of Iranian history. The events are sponsored by the New York State Writers Institute, and are free and open to the public.

Hamid Dabashi, Iranian-American scholar, is a major academic authority on Islam and Middle Eastern culture. He has been hailed as “a leading light in Iranian studies” by “The Chronicle of Higher Education.”

His newest book is “Iran: A People Interrupted” (2007), a one-volume analysis of Iranian history over the course of the last two centuries. Among its many topics, the book features lucid discussions of the presidency of Ahmedinejad and his current showdown with the United States, as well as the rise of Iran as a major regional power in the Middle East, the Salman Rushdie Affair, the Iran-Iraq War, the Islamic Revolution, the U.S. hostage crisis of 1979, the role of Iran during the Cold War, and the tyrannical pro-Western regime of Shah Reza Pahlevi.

Dabashi is also the author of the new book, “Masters & Masterpieces of Iranian Cinema” (2007), a survey of twelve major Iranian filmmakers of the past half century. He explains how — despite the censorship of both the Pahlavi monarchy and the Khomeini Islamic Republic — the creativity of these filmmakers has succeeded in capturing critical acclaim worldwide.

Dabashi is also editor of the essay anthology, “Dreams of a Nation: On Palestinian Cinema” (2006), the most comprehensive book on that subject in any language. The essays explore the first 25 years of Palestinian filmmaking, with an emphasis on the intersections of nationalism and artistic expression.

Other influential books by Dabashi include “Authority in Islam: From the Rise of Muhammad to the Establishment of the Umayyads” (1989), “Expectation of the Millennium: Shi’ism in History” (1989), “Close-up: Iranian Cinema, Past, Present, Future” (2001), and “Theology of Discontent: The Ideological Foundation of the Islamic Revolution in Iran” (2005).

Dabashi is Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. He is also the founder of Dreams of a Nation: A Palestinian Film Project, which sponsors a festival currently held at Lincoln Center in New York City.

Dabashi’s afternoon presentation will be about Iranian culture and politics.

In the evening at Page Hall, he will offer commentary and answer questions concerning the Palestinian film, “Divine Intervention” [“Yadon Ilaheyya”] (Palestine/France, 2002, 92 minutes, color, 35 mm). Directed by Elia Suleiman, the film is in Arabic and Hebrew with English subtitles. A highly original, absurdist take on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, “Divine Intervention” earned Suleiman the Grand Jury and FIPRESCI Prizes at Cannes. Set in Nazareth, Jerusalem, Ramallah, and at a military checkpoint, it stars the director himself in a series of satirical, dreamlike vignettes. The “Washington Post” said, “The film offers up simultaneous critiques of Palestinian and Israeli extremism, but the most radical thing about it is that it’s often disquietingly funny.”

For additional information, contact the Writers Institute at 518-442-5620 or online at http://www.albany.edu/writers-inst.

NOTE TO EDITORS: Photos are available for view/download at http://www.empirenewswire.com/release/pictures/dabashi.html and http://www.empirenewswire.com/release/pictures/kammen.html

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