Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book


Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Lennard J. Davis  

Pen Name: None

Genre: Non-Fiction

Audience: Adult;

Born:


-- Website -- http://www.lennarddavis.com/
-- Lennard J. Davis on WorldCat -- http://www.worldcat.org/search?q=lennard++j.++davis


Illinois Connection

Davis is a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He divides his time between Chicago and New York.

Biographical and Professional Information

Davis is head of the English Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he is also Professor of Disability and Human Development. He is a frequent guest on NPR shows ''Morning Edition'', ''Leonard Lopate'', ''Fresh Air'' and ''This American Life''. He has written for numerous newspapers and magazines including ''The New York Times'', ''McCall's'', ''Redbook'', ''The Nation'' and the ''Chronical of Higher Education''. Davis is also director of ''Project Biocultures'', a think tank devoted to issues at the intersection of culture, medicine, disability, and bio-technology.


Published Works Expand for more information


Titles At Your Library

Enforcing Normalcy: Disability, Deafness, and the Body
ISBN: 1859840078

Verso. 1995

In this highly original study of the cultural assumptions governing our conception of people with disabilities, Lennard J. Davis argues forcefully against “ableist” discourse and for a complete recasting of the category of disability itself.

Enforcing Normalcy surveys the emergence of a cluster of concepts around the term “normal” as these matured in western Europe and the United States over the past 250 years. Linking such notions to the concurrent emergence of discourses about the nation, Davis shows how the modern nation-state constructed its identity on the backs not only of colonized subjects, but of its physically disabled minority. In a fascinating chapter on contemporary cultural theory, Davis explores the pitfalls of privileging the figure of sight in conceptualizing the nature of textuality. And in a treatment of nudes and fragmented bodies in Western art, he shows how the ideal of physical wholeness is both demanded and denied in the classical aesthetics of representation.

Enforcing Normalcy redraws the boundaries of political and cultural discourse. By insisting that disability be added to the familiar triad of race, class and gender, the book challenges progressives to expand the limits of their thinking about human oppression.

The Disability Studies Reader
ISBN: 041591471X

Routledge. 1997

The Disability Studies Reader collects, for the first time, representative texts from the newly emerging field of disability studies. This volume represents a major advance in presenting the most important writings about disability with an emphasis on those writers working from a materialist and postmodernist perspective.

Drawing together experts in cultural studies, literary criticism, sociology, biology, the visual arts, pedagogy and post-colonial studies, the collection provides a comprehensive approach to the issue of disability. Contributors include Erving Goffman, Susan Sontag, Michelle Fine and Susan Wendell.

Factual Fictions: The Origins of the English Novel
ISBN: 0812216105

University of Pennsylvania Press. 1997

"Nowadays, most readers take the intersection between fiction and fact for granted. We've developed a faculty for pretending that even the most bizarre literary inventions are, for the nonce, real. . . . The value of Davis's book is that it explores the h

My Sense of Silence: MEMOIRS OF A CHILDHOOD WITH DEAFNESS (Creative Nonfiction)
ISBN: 0252075773

University of Illinois Press. 2008

Lennard J. Davis grew up as the hearing child of deaf parents. In this candid, affecting, and often funny memoir, he recalls the joys and confusions of this special world, especially his complex and sometimes difficult relationships with his working-class Jewish immigrant parents. Gracefully slipping through memory, regret, longing, and redemption, My Sense of Silence is an eloquent remembrance of human ties and human failings.

Bending Over Backwards: Disability, Dismodernism and Other Difficult Positions
ISBN: 0814719503

NYU Press. 2002

With the advent of the human genome, cloning, stem-cell research and many other developments in the way we think of the body, disability studies provides an entirely new way of thinking about the body in its relation to politics, the environment, the legal system, and global economies.

Bending Over Backwards reexamines issues concerning the relationship between disability and normality in the light of postmodern theory and political activism. Davis takes up homosexuality, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the legal system, the history of science and medicine, eugenics, and genetics. Throughout, he maintains that disability is the prime category of postmodernity because it redefines the body in relation to concepts of normalcy, which underlie the very foundations of democracy and humanistic ideas about the body.

Bending Over Backwards argues that disability can become the new prism through which postmodernity examines and defines itself, supplanting the categories of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation.

Obsession: A History
ISBN: 0226137821

University of Chicago Press. 2008

We live in an age of obsession. Not only are we hopelessly devoted to our work, strangely addicted to our favorite television shows, and desperately impassioned about our cars, we admire obsession in others: we demand that lovers be infatuated with one another in films, we respond to the passion of single-minded musicians, we cheer on driven athletes. To be obsessive is to be American to be obsessive is to be modern.

But obsession is not only a phenomenon of modern existence: it is a medical category—both a pathology and a goal. Behind this paradox lies a fascinating history, which Lennard J. Davis tells in Obsession. Beginning with the roots of the disease in demonic possession and its secular successors, Davis traces the evolution of obsessive behavior from a social and religious fact of life into a medical and psychiatric problem. From obsessive aspects of professional specialization to obsessive compulsive disorder and nymphomania, no variety of obsession eludes Davis’s graceful analysis.

Go Ask Your Father: One Man's Obsession with Finding His Origins Through DNA Testing
ISBN: 0553805517

Bantam. 2009

Every family has a secret. But what if that secret makes you question your own place in the family? Mixing equal parts memoir, detective story, and popular-science narrative, this is the emotionally charged account of one man’s quest to find out the truth about his genetic heritage–and confront the agonizing possibility of having to redefine the first fifty years of his life.

Shortly before his father’s death, Lennard Davis received a cryptic call from his uncle Abie, who said he had a secret he wanted to tell him one day. When finally revealed, the secret–that Abie himself was Davis’s father, via donor insemination–seemed too preposterous to be true. Born in 1949, Davis wasn’t even sure that artificial insemination had existed at that time. Moreover, his uncle was mentally unstable, an unreliable witness to the past. Davis tried to erase the whole episode from his mind.

Yet it wouldn’t disappear. As a child, Davis had always felt oddly out of place in his family. Could Abie’s story explain why? Over time Davis’s doubts grew into an obsession, until finally, some twenty years after Abie’s phone call, he launched an investigation–one that took him to DNA labs and online genealogical research sites, and into intense conversations with family members whose connection to him he had begun to doubt.

At once an absorbing personal journey and a fascinating intellectual foray into the little-known history of artificial insemination and our millennia-long attempt to understand the mysteries of sexual reproduction, Davis’s quest challenges us to ask who we are beyond a mere collection of genes. And as the possibility of finding the truth comes tantalizingly within reach, with Davis facing the agonizing possibility of having to reenvision his early years and his relationships with those closest to him, his search turns into a moving meditation on the nature of family bonds, as well as a new understanding of the significance of the swarms of chemicals that are the blueprints for our very human selves.


Awards

  • Guggenheim for ''Obsession, A History''

    Speaking Engagements

    Speaking Engagement Availability (Yes)

    , contact agent Elisabeth Weed Trident Media Group 41 Madison Avenue, Floor 36 New York, New York 10010 212-333-1532 E-Mail eweed@tridentmediagroup.com