Only a book as eloquently composed and carefully reasoned as this one could provide the critical optimism missing from the Humanities today. Miller's intelligent and moving study gives me hope that writing does matter after all, even and especially in the face of our greatest national traumas. This book is humanistic writing at its very best.
What do the humanities have to offer in the twenty-first century? Are there compelling reasons to go on teaching the literate arts when the schools themselves have become battlefields? Does it make sense to go on writing when the world itself is overrun with books that no one reads? In these simultaneously personal and erudite reflections on the future of higher education, Richard E. Miller moves from the headlines to the classroom, focusing in on how teachers and students alike confront the existential challenge of making life meaningful. In meditating on the violent events that now dominate our daily lives—school shootings, suicide bombings, terrorist attacks, contemporary warfare—Miller prompts a reconsideration of the role that institutions of higher education play in shaping our daily experiences, and asks us to reimagine the humanities as centrally important to the maintenance of a compassionate, secular society. By concentrating on those moments when individuals and institutions meet and violence results, Writing at the End of the World provides the framework that students and teachers require to engage in the work of building a better future.
Richard E. Miller is that rarity in today's academia, a writer of passion and originality whose ideas never conform to predictable party lines. Miller is at his incisive best in this absorbing 'institutional autobiography' on how 'writing may be said to matter' in the post-Columbine, post-9/11 world.
As always, Miller is not afraid to postulate limit cases for probing the uses and abuses of writing and the teaching of writing at times of crisis. A tour de force bound to provoke intensely divergent but thoughtful responses.
Richard Miller has written another provocative, thought-provoking, and moving book about the roles of writing and education in all our lives. I expect Writing at the End of the World to be widely read by teachers and scholars of rhetoric and writing as well as literature, cultural studies, and education. Although this book may seem at first glance not to be as potentially confrontational as Miller's As If Learning Mattered, it is, in parts, more radical than the earlier work and a very fine and nuanced extension of the argument offered there.
Richard Miller gives us an extended meditation on hope in bleak times, hope as it might be nurtured in the writing classroom, a robust hope, thoughtful and critical, a tool for leading an informed and generous life.
Rich, provocative, and multigenric. . . . The most consistent strength in Writing at the End of the World is Miller's ability to locate existing binaries and blend competing arguments to produce strikingly original insights.