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Michael Bérubé

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Michael Bérubé (born 1961) is Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Literature 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 and conservative politics, and debates in higher education. From 2010 to 2017, he was the Director of the Institute for the Arts and Humanities at Penn State; from 1997 to 2001 he was the founding director of the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities. He was the 2012 president of the Modern Language Association, and served as vice president from 2010–2011. He served two terms on the National Council of the American Association of University Professors from 2005 to 2011, and three terms on the AAUP's Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure from 2009 to 2018. He was a member of the International Advisory Board of the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes for two terms, 2011-2017. Bérubé was named a University Scholar for research at the University of Illinois in 1995 and was awarded the Faculty Scholar medal for research from Penn State in 2012.

Life, education and career[edit]

The son of Maurice Berube (now Eminent Scholar Emeritus and Professor Emeritus of Educational Leadership at Old Dominion University),[1] Bérubé was born and raised in New York City. He attended Regis High School.[2] He received a B.A. in English from Columbia University in 1982 and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Virginia, where he studied from 1983 to 1989. 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. In 2001, Bérubé moved to Penn State for the then-newly created Paterno Family Professorship in Literature, from which he resigned in the wake of the Penn State child sex abuse scandal.[3]

From 1996 to 2016, Bérubé edited "Cultural Front", the New York University Press series which published his 2009 book The Left at War and his 1998 book The Employment of English, as well as fifteen other titles, many in disability studies. He now co-edits "Crip: New Directions in Disability Studies" for NYU Press along with Robert McRuer and Ellen Samuels. He maintained a personal blog from 2004 to 2010 and wrote for Crooked Timber from 2007 to 2012.[citation needed]

Publications and achievements[edit]

Bérubé drew attention in the early 1990s for his essays in the Village Voice and Village Voice Literary Supplement (VLS), which dealt with (among other things) political correctness, postmodernism, and cultural studies.[4] 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, 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 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,[5] 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 by Maureen Corrigan of National Public Radio.[6] 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 critic of David Horowitz's "Academic Bill of Rights"; an account of that campaign, together with a 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). 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 said he opposed the Iraq War; the argument was elaborated in his seventh book, The Left At War, published in 2009.[7][8] In 2016 Bérubé published two books in disability studies: The Secret Life of Stories, a study of narrative strategies involving varieties of intellectual disability, and Life as Jamie Knows It, a sequel to Life as We Know It written with substantial input from the now-adult Jamie Bérubé.

Bérubé lives in State College, Pennsylvania, with his wife Janet Lyon. Their first child, Nicholas, is an architect working in Boston.[citation needed]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ "Faculty Emeriti". Old Dominion University. Retrieved September 18, 2016.
  2. ^ Williams, Jeffrey J. (Fall 2006). "Public Essayist: An Interview with Michael Bérubé". Minnesota Review. Archived from the original on March 31, 2014. Retrieved August 4, 2014.
  3. ^ Bérubé, Michael. "Why I Resigned the Paterno Chair". The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved 9 July 2014.
  4. ^ Williams, Jeffrey. "Interview with Michael Bérubé". The Conversant. Retrieved 4 December 2013.
  5. ^ Lowry, Beverly. "We Can Handle This". New York Times. Retrieved 4 December 2013.
  6. ^ Corrigan, Maureen (December 16, 1996). "Holiday picks". National Public Radio. Retrieved 7 November 2014.
  7. ^ "The Left at War". New York University Press. 2009. Retrieved 17 August 2014 – via Questia.
  8. ^ Berube, Michael. "Peace Puzzle". Boston Globe. Retrieved 4 June 2014.


  • Life as Jamie Knows It: An Exceptional Child Grows Up (ISBN 0807019313, 2016)
  • The Secret Life of Stories: From Don Quixote to Harry Potter, How Understanding Intellectual Disability Transforms the Way We Read (ISBN 1479823619, 2016)
  • The Humanities, Higher Education, and Academic Freedom: Three Necessary Arguments (with Jennifer Ruth, ISBN 1137506105, 2015)
  • 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)

Edited books[edit]

  • Higher Education Under Fire: Politics, Economics, and the Crisis of the Humanities (1995) (with Cary Nelson)
  • The Aesthetics of Cultural Studies (2004)

External links[edit]