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Skidmore College

Penn State scholar's topic: Value and values of the humanities

February 9, 2015
Michael Berube
Michael Béeubé

“The Value and the Values of the Humanities” is the title of a Feb. 12 lecture at Skidmore College by Michael Bérubé of Pennsylvania State University. Free and open to the public, the talk will begin at 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 12, in Filene Recital Hall.

Bérubé explains that the lecture will survey the intellectual state of the humanities since 1980, finding not the desiccated landscape described by conservative critics but a vibrant array of fields asking the most important questions one can ask about what it means to be human. He will focus on the decades-long debate about the status of universalism, asking not only what it means to think of all humans as “equal” in a meaningful sense but also why so many scholars in the humanities have become skeptical of this ideal. Taking on critiques of universalism from queer theory and disability studies, Bérubé maintains that universalism remains desirable precisely because it is open to all such challenges. 

Bérubé is the Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Literature and director of the Institute for the Arts and Humanities at Penn State.  He is also former president of the Modern Language Association, a leading scholar of American literature and disability studies, and a prominent commentator on higher education issues in such publications as The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and The Chronicle of Higher Education. 

His books include Public Access:  Literary Theory and American Cultural Politics (Verso, 1994); Life As We Know It:  A Father, A Family, and an Exceptional Child (Pantheon, 1996; paper, Vintage, 1998); The Employment of English: Theory, Jobs, and the Future of Literary Studies (NYU Press, 1998); What’s Liberal About the Liberal Arts?  Classroom Politics and “Bias” in Higher Education (W. W. Norton, 2006); Rhetorical Occasions: Essays on Humans and the Humanities (UNC Press, 2006); and The Left at War (NYU Press, 2011).  He is co-author of the forthcoming The Humanities, Higher Education, and Academic Freedom: Three Necessary Arguments. 

Skidmore’s Department of English is sponsor of the lecture.

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