Michael Bérubé (born 1961 in New York City, New York) is the Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Literature and Director of the Institute for the Arts and Humanities at Pennsylvania State University, where he teaches American literature, disability studies, and cultural studies. He is the author of several books on cultural studies, disability rights, liberal politics, and debates in higher education. He was the 2012 president of the Modern Language Association, and served as vice president from 2010-2011. He also served on the National Council of the American Association of University Professors from 2005 to 2011, and now sits on the AAUP's Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure. He is also a member of the International Advisory Board of the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes.
Bérubé earned his B.A. in English from Columbia University in 1982 and his Ph.D. in English from the University of Virginia from 1983 to 1989. Before taking his position at Penn State, Bérubé held a professorship in the English department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign from 1989 to 2001, where he was affiliated with the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory and the Afro-American Studies and Research Program. At Illinois, he was awarded the University Scholar medal for research in 1995; at Penn State, he was awarded the Faculty Scholar medal for research in 2012.
Bérubé drew attention in the early 1990s not so much for his academic work as for his long cover essays in the Village Voice and Village Voice Literary Supplement (VLS), which dealt with (among other things) “political correctness,” postmodernism, and cultural studies. In 1994 he published an essay in Harper’s Magazine, “Life As We Know It: A Father, A Son, and Genetic Destiny,” about his son Jamie, who has Down syndrome, and in 1995 a review essay in The New Yorker on contemporary black intellectuals; these essays, particularly the latter, drew a wide array of energetic and often contentious responses. Some of the VLS essays were revised and republished in Bérubé’s second book, Public Access (1994). Since then, Bérubé has continued to write for newspapers and magazines, including Dissent (magazine), the Nation, the New York Times (and New York Times Magazine), the Boston Globe, the Chicago Tribune, and the Washington Post. Since 1997 he has also been a frequent contributor to the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Bérubé’s third book, Life As We Know It: A Father, A Family, and an Exceptional Child was published in 1996. Following a positive review by Beverly Lowry, Life As We Know It was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year; it was also named as one of the best books of the year (on a list of seven) by Maureen Corrigan of National Public Radio. It is an expanded account of Jamie's first four years, as well as a discussion of disability rights, abortion and prenatal testing, early intervention programs, early childhood language acquisition, school policy, and theories of justice.
In 2005-06, Bérubé emerged as a leading critic of David Horowitz and Horowitz’s “Academic Bill of Rights”; an account of that campaign, together with a detailed description of Bérubé’s pedagogy in undergraduate classes, makes up most of Bérubé’s fifth book, What’s Liberal About the Liberal Arts? Classroom Politics and “Bias” in Higher Education (2006). Earlier in the decade, Bérubé also published a number of essays critical of figures on the antiwar left and their response to the terrorist attack of 9/11 and the invasion of Afghanistan, though he opposed the Iraq war; that argument was elaborated in his seventh book, The Left At War.
Bérubé began blogging in January 2004; his blog mixed his perspective on professional and political issues with a variety of other subjects, ranging from his family life to music to professional hockey. Bérubé went on extended hiatus from his blog on January 8, 2007, and on March 22 of that year, joined Crooked Timber, an international political blog jointly run by a number of academics, where he blogged sporadically until September 16, 2012. He restarted his own blog on September 29, 2008, and maintained it until October 15, 2010.
Bérubé lives in State College, Pennsylvania, with wife Janet Lyon. Together they have two sons, Nick and Jamie, mentioned above.
Notes and references
- Williams, Jeffrey. "Interview with Michael Bérubé". The Conversant. Retrieved 4 December 2013.
- Lowry, Beverly. "We Can Handle This". New York Times. Retrieved 4 December 2013.
- Corrigan, Maureen. "Holiday picks". National Public Radio. Retrieved 4 December 2013.
- The Left at War (2009)
- Rhetorical Occasions: Essays on Humans and the Humanities (2006)
- What's Liberal About the Liberal Arts? Classroom Politics and "Bias" in Higher Education (2006)
- The Employment of English: Theory, Jobs, and the Future of Literary Studies (1998)
- Life As We Know It: A Father, A Family, and an Exceptional Child (1996)
- Public Access: Literary Theory and American Cultural Politics (1994)
- Marginal Forces/Cultural Centers: Tolson, Pynchon, and the Politics of the Canon (1992)
- Higher Education Under Fire: Politics, Economics, and the Crisis of the Humanities (1995) (with Cary Nelson)
- The Aesthetics of Cultural Studies (2004)
- http://english.la.psu.edu/faculty-staff/mfb12 Michael Bérubé's faculty page at Penn State University
- http://www.michaelberube.com Michael Bérubé's website, with blog archive