Michael Bérubé in Residence at GW as Wang Distinguished Professor

Professor Michael Bérubé

From October 25-30, GW’s English Department is pleased to host Professor Michael Bérubé as this year’s Wang Distinguished Professor-in-Residence.  Michael Bérubé is Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Literature and Director of the Institute for the Arts and Humanities at Pennsylvania State University. He is the author of seven books to date, including 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); and What’s Liberal About the Liberal Arts?  Classroom Politics and “ Bias” in Higher Education (W. W. Norton, 2006). Life As We Know It was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year for 1996 and was chosen as one of the best books of the year (on a list of seven) by Maureen Corrigan of National Public Radio. He is also the editor of The Aesthetics of Cultural Studies (Blackwell, 2004) and, with Cary Nelson, of Higher Education Under Fire: Politics, Economics, and the Crisis of the Humanities (Routledge, 1995). He is the immediate past president of the Modern Language Association.

This visiting residency was created through a gift by Albert Wang and his family that has, since 2009, supported professors such as Edward P. Jones (now a member of the GW English Department) and José Esteban Muñoz.  The gift from the Wang family is one of the largest philanthropic commitments to GW’s Columbian College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of English.

Bérubé Residency Schedule of Events (events are free and open to the public)

Friday, October 25, 3 PM, Rome Hall 771:

Respondent: The Canon Anew (a GW MEMSI event, description below).

Monday, October 28, 6:10-8:10 PM, Rome Hall 771:

Seminar for Students and Faculty with Michael Bérubé.  Readings for this event are available, although seating is limited.  Please RSVP to Robert McRuer at rmcruer@gwu.edu to be placed on the list for this seminar.

Tuesday, October 29, 5:30 PM, Marvin Center 402-404:

GW Distinguished Lecture in Literary and Cultural Studies: “Narrative and Intellectual Disability.”

Professor Bérubé asks what happens when characters with intellectual disabilities appear in fictions that experiment with the parameters of fiction.  Ranging from Don Quixote to Philip K. Dick’s 1964 novel Martian Time-SlipBérubé suggests that intellectual disability takes many textual forms, opening onto the question of how we understand the difference between fact and fiction, and onto the experience of radically disorienting modes of time and narrative.


“The Canon Anew” on October 25 is a GW MEMSI event featuring GW English’s own Ayanna Thompson and Cord Whitaker of the University of New Hampshire.  Michael Bérubé will begin his residency with us by responding to their presentations.

The canon wars were resolved in part by incorporating more authors and works within what is taught in literature departments as well as expanding the focus of journals and book series (and inventing many new forums). Surprisingly, however, two long revered figures continue to loom over “post-canonical” English literature, Geoffrey Chaucer and William Shakespeare. Both have professional societies, journals, and a significant publishing industry behind them. Both have become something of an anomaly in progressive English departments: single author courses in an age that has mainly given up on narratives of Great Men and singular genius. This forum asks in what new ways we can approach über-canonical literature and authors, acknowledging the problems of such traditional and intense focus as well as the investigating the opportunities such endeavors yield.

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