Penn State literature professor named Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar

October 27, 2015

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Michael Bérubé, Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Literature at Penn State, has been named a Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar for the 2015-16 academic year. He is one of 13 distinguished scholars selected by the Phi Beta Kappa Society, the oldest honor society for the liberal arts and sciences in the country.

Visiting Scholars spend two days at a select group of colleges and universities with Phi Beta Kappa chapters. They meet informally with undergraduates, participate in classroom lectures and seminars, and give a major address open to the academic community and the general public.

The goal of the program is to enrich the intellectual atmosphere at participating institutions and enable undergraduates to connect with leading scholars in a variety of disciplines. The 2015-2016 Visiting Scholars will speak on more than 100 campuses. Professor Bérubé will visit six institutions: City College of New York, DePauw University, West Virginia University, University of Delaware, Allegheny College, and Truman State University.

He will lecture and hold discussions with students and faculty on topics such as "Disability and Narrative: Disability as Motive," "Disability and Narrative: Self-Awareness," "Disability and Disease: Why the Race for the Cure Is Not Worth Running," "Tweets and Triggers: Why Academic Freedom Is So Hard to Understand," "What’s at Stake in the Assault on Higher Education," and "The Culture Wars of the 80s and 90s."

Prior to joining the faculty at Penn State, Bérubé taught at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign from 1989 to 2001, where he was named a University Scholar for research. He is the author of seven books, including “Public Access: Literary Theory and American Cultural Politics,” “Life as We Know It: A Father, a Family, and an Exceptional Child,” and “What’s Liberal About the Liberal Arts?” In 2015 he will publish “The Humanities, Higher Education, and Academic Freedom: Three Necessary Arguments," and in 2016, “The Secret Life of Stories: From Don Quixote to Harry Potter” and “How the Understanding of Intellectual Disability Transforms the Way We Read.” In 2012-13 he was president of the Modern Language Association.

Founded on Dec. 5, 1776, the Phi Beta Kappa Society is the nation’s oldest and most widely known academic honor society. It has chapters at 286 colleges and universities in the United States, 50 alumni associations, and more than half a million members around the world. Its mission is to champion education in the liberal arts and sciences, to recognize academic excellence, and to foster freedom of thought and expression. For more information, visit

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Last Updated October 28, 2015