The culture of healing

Book cover of Louise Glück’s American Originality: Essays on Poetry, a photo by Jonathan VanAntwerpen

“But if suffering is so hard, why should its expression be easy? Trauma and loss are not, in themselves, art: they are like half a metaphor. In fact, the kind of work I mean — however true its personal source — is tainted by a kind of preemptive avidity. It seems too ready to inhabit the most dramatic extremes; too ready to deny loss as continuity, as immutable fact. It proposes instead a narrative of personal triumph, a narrative filled with markers like ‘growth’ and ‘healing’ and ‘self-realization’ and culminating in the soul’s unqualified or comprehensive declaration of wholeness, as though loss were merely a catalyst for self-improvement. But as the power of loss is undermined or denied, so too does the speaker come to seem entirely constructed, inhuman.”

from Louise Glück’s “The Culture of Healing” in American Originality: Essays on Poetry

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Jonathan VanAntwerpen

Jonathan VanAntwerpen

Jonathan VanAntwerpen is a program director at the Henry Luce Foundation. Originally trained as a philosopher, he holds a Ph.D. in sociology from UC-Berkeley.