International scholar to discuss humanities, new book

October 17, 2017 | Arts, Events, News, UToday, Arts and Letters
By Staff

Dr. Michael Bérubé, the Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Literature at Pennsylvania State University, will visit The University of Toledo this week for two events and to work with students.

On Thursday, Oct. 19, he will give a lecture titled “The Humanities and the Advancement of Knowledge” at 5:30 p.m. in the Law Center McQuade Law Auditorium.


Bérubé argues there is no widely accepted public rationale for new research in the humanities. He challenges the notion that this kind of research is finding a secure institutional home in North American academe, despite his own lifelong commitment to the defense of the humanities and the university institutions making such work possible — like the book, “The Humanities, Higher Education and Academic Freedom: Three Necessary Arguments,” co-written with Janet Ruth (2015). He discusses the role of humanities centers and institutes in fostering interdisciplinary humanities research.

His free, public talk will be followed by a reception in the Law Center Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick Lounge.

On Friday, Oct. 20, Bérubé will lead a free, public brown-bag conversation about his book, “The Secret Life of Stories: From Don Quixote to Harry Potter, How Understanding Intellectual Disability Transforms the Way We Read” (2016). The event will start at noon in Carlson Library Room 1005.

Scholars are calling the book a radical and critical contribution to American studies, literary studies and disability studies.

Twenty-five copies of the book will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis, thanks to the Disability Studies Program; the Department of English Language and Literature; the Department of Art; the School of Interdisciplinary Studies; and the Roger Ray Institute for the Humanities in the College of Arts and Letters.

Since 2001, Bérubé has taught at Penn State, where he served as director of the Institute for the Arts and Humanities from 2010 to 2017 and was president of the Modern Language Association from 2012 to 2013. Prior to that, he taught 12 years at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

He is the author of more than a dozen books, including the award-winning biography, memoir and philosophical inquiry into disability issues, “Life as We Know It: A Father, A Family and an Exceptional Child” (1998), which he followed up with “Life as Jamie Knows It: An Exceptional Child Grows Up” (2016), which are about his son who has Down syndrome. Other titles include “Rhetorical Occasions: Essays on Humans and the Humanities” (2006) and “What’s Liberal About the Liberal Arts? Classroom Politics and ‘Bias’ in Higher Education” (2006). He also has a blog at

During his two-day visit, Bérubé will tour UT’s Toledo Museum of Art Campus and view an exhibition titled “One Way or Another,” which features works by adults with special needs. He also will be a guest instructor for two classes, one for the Political Science and Public Administration Department, and one for the English Language and Literature Department. In addition, he will give an interview to writers for The Mill, a literary magazine edited by UT graduate students in English.

Bérubé was on campus in 2009 and delivered the Richard M. Summers Memorial Lecture.

Sponsors of Bérubé’s visit are the Roger Ray Institute for the Humanities; the College of Arts and Letters; the School of Interdisciplinary Studies; the School of Visual and Performing Arts; the Department of English Language and Literature; the Disability Studies Program; and the Department of Art.  

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