Dr. Lennard Davis- Disability as an Aspect of Diversity

At 2:00 P.M. on Thursday November 2, the public is invited to join Lennard J. Davis, author and professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago for a lecture in Mulder Chapel. Davis will be presenting an all-day training to the staff and faculty of Western Theological Seminary on “Disability as an Aspect of Diversity.”

“I grew up in a Deaf family where I spoke sign language and participated in Deaf culture,” writes Davis, “Yet I did not know much about Deafness or disability until 1990 when I became involved with CODA, the organization of children of Deaf adults.  Then my interests shifted from the study of the novel to disability studies.  I became intrigued by the idea of normalcy and how it had evolved in our culture.”

In addition to his role as professor, Dr. Davis is also director of Project Biocultures, a think-tank devoted to issues around the intersection of culture, medicine, disability, biotechnology, and the biosphere.  His works on disability include Enforcing Normalcy: Disability, Deafness, and the Body (Verso, 1995), which won the 1996 Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Human Rights’ annual award for the best scholarship on the subject of intolerance in North America, and The Disability Studies Reader (4th Ed., Routledge, 2013).

Davis’s memoir My Sense of Silence (University of Illinois Press, 2000), was chosen Editor’s Choice Book for the Chicago Tribune, selected for the National Book Award for 2000, and nominated for the Book Critics Circle Award for 2000. He has appeared on National Public Radio’s Fresh Air to discuss the memoir, which describes his childhood in a Deaf family.  Davis has also edited his parents’ correspondence Shall I Say a Kiss: The Courtship Letters of a Deaf Couple1936-38 (Gallaudet University Press, 1999).

Davis is a co-founder of the Modern Language Association’s Committee on Disability Issues in the Profession, and he is on the board of several academic journals.   Having written widely for newspapers and magazines, Davis is also the author of a novel entitled The Sonnets (State University of New York Press, March 2001).  A collection of his essays entitled Bending Over Backwards: Disability, Dismodernism, and Other Difficult Positions was published by New York University Press in August 2002.

His most recent book on the Americans With Disabilities Act was published in 2015, the 25th anniversary of the Act by Beacon Press. Davis has written numerous articles in The NationThe New York TimesThe Chicago Tribune, The Chronicle of Higher Education and other print media.  He has also been a commentator on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, and appeared on Morning Edition, This American Life, Odyssey, The Leonard Lopate Show and other NPR affiliates.  His current interests include disability-related issues; literary and cultural theory; genetics, race, identity; and biocultural issues.

“I have come to see that disability studies is imperative,” he says. “It is crucial that students in elementary and secondary school, as well as students in the university, grow up in close contact with people with all kinds of disabilities. It is crucial that disability studies be included in the curricula of schools so that when Rosa Parks and the civil rights movement are studied, when films on Stonewall are screened, Chicano authors are read — that disability history and culture be included as well from the accomplishments of Vietnam Vets and Ron Kovic to the Berkeley movement led by disability activist Ed Roberts to the Deaf President Now movement at Gallaudet University. The drafting of the ADA should be studied the way that the drafting of the Declaration of Independence is studied. Students should be able to read the work of Nancy Mairs or Andre Dubus, to know about the disabilities of artists and writers like James Joyce, Harriet Martineau, and William DeKooning, as well as the more obvious Beethoven or Ray Charles.”

“Disability studies matters because it points out the obvious, the common, the things no one notices because most of those ‘no ones’ see themselves as living in the mirage of being normal.”

Please join us on November 2 for this important lecture.