University of Iowa

UNESCO designates Iowa City as the world’s third City of Literature


The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making it part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

"This is at once a celebration of the literary riches and resources of Iowa City and a spur to action," said University of Iowa International Writing Program Director Christopher Merrill, who led the UI Writing University committee that submitted the city's proposal. "We look forward to working with our new partners in the Creative Cities network -- to forging dynamic relationships with writers, artists and others committed to the life of discovery. This is a great day for Iowa City."

Iowa City joins Edinburgh, Scotland, and Melbourne, Australia, as UNESCO Cities of Literature. Other cities in the Creative Cities Network -- honoring and connecting cultural centers for cinema, music, crafts and folk arts, design, media arts and gastronomy, as well as literature -- include Aswan, Egypt; Santa Fe, N.M.; Berlin, Germany; Montreal, Canada; Popayan, Colombia; Bologna, Italy; Shenzhen, China; and Seville, Spain. The Writing University taskforce was launched by former UI Provost Michael Hogan to embrace and celebrate the UI’s stature as a literary center, and to provide enhanced opportunities for coordination and cooperation among UI literary programs.

The catalyst for the UI’s literary activity was the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, the first creative-writing degree program anywhere and the blueprint for many of the creative writing programs that now thrive on campuses worldwide. The stature of the program was recently enhanced when two poets connected to the workshop shared the 2008 Pulitzer Prize and International Writing Program veteran Orhan Pamuk won the Nobel Prize.



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