Seth Lerer

Talking children's books at Penn State

Discussing Holocaust studies at Yad Vashem, Jerusalem.

I was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1955. I attended local public schools there and, after my family moved in 1965, in suburban Boston and suburban Pittsburgh. I received a BA in English from Wesleyan University (1976), a second BA from Oxford (Hertford College, 1978), and a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago (1981). Teaching appointments have taken me from the East Coast to California. Scholarly travel and visiting appointments have taken me to Europe and England. 

Talking music with Professor Aleck Karis and Chancellor Pradeep Khosla, UC-San Diego

Talking music with Professor Aleck Karis and Chancellor Pradeep Khosla, UC-San Diego.

I teach, lecture on, and write about language and literature. Whatever the specifics of my topic, course, or publication, I have always been interested in the place of literacy in society: in the ways that learning how to read and write fosters both an intimate private life and an effective public one. Whether I am working on Children’s Literature, Old English, Shakespeare, the History of the English Language, cultural criticism, or a personal essay, I ask questions such as the following: how are we taught to see the world as a book and the book as a world; what is the place of verbal beauty in the exercise of power; how does the material quality of imaginative literature (whether in the manuscript, the printed book, or the digital screen) affect our appreciation of a story and our own cognitive development?