Writing at the End of the World by Richard Miller

I’ve been reading Richard Miller’s Book about the place of humanities in education and in life. It’s a thought-provoking read for anyone working in any purely creative field, though it is written from the prospective of someone who teaches writing.

The book searches for the purpose (point?) of things like poetry, prose, and music through the lens of a handful of tragedy’s that have become part of our collective conscience: Columbine, The Unabomber, Chernobyl, 9-11. What place does something like a poem have in a world like this? Further more, what are we to teach people in our fields?

Miller gives part of his answer, or at least a reason for pursuing an answer, at the end of the preface.

“Schools currently provide extensive training in the fact that worlds end; what is missing is training in how to bring better worlds into being.”

The book is not a new-agey feel-good testament to the healing power of the written word. It is a rigorous examination of assumptions about the limits of, place of, and usefulness of creative work. It is an exercise in critical optimism.

Educators, especially those in the arts and humanities, will find many of the questions they ask themselves tackled in this well-researched, probing book.

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