Miller asked a question in his text, The Dark Night of the Soul, which is asked on numerous occasions. ‘What might the Literate Arts be good for?’ Miller gives situations and reasons why we could say the Literate Arts are useless in today’s world. What might the Literate Arts be good for? I ask this question a lot nowadays too. When I go for an English class or see literary books, the question creeps into my mind unconsciously. In this modern world ‘reading and writing’ have gone downhill and yet people do not seem bothered or affected by it which makes the doubt in literary power even stronger. But after a lot of thinking and research, I have come to realize that literate arts are still needed in our world. The Literate Arts could be used for self-expression. The literate arts are good for clearly expressing an artist’s deepest personal feelings. Writers who have trouble bringing out personal themes can do so effortlessly using this form of art.
To be a good writer, the reader must be able to identify with your personal feelings in your work. In The Dark Night of the Soul, Miller expresses his feelings about different ideas, beliefs, doubts and what other feelings he has. Though he shows his doubts on the power of the literary arts, he uses the literary arts to express them. Ironic isn’t it? We were able to understand from his text how these different questions troubled him. Self-expression has been seen to be a very useful tool in life. It makes one avoid harming himself or the people around him. Although Miller gave an example of the Columbine shooting where the shooters, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, were readers and writers of the literary arts and yet it made no difference in their lives, it doesn’t change my believe. He also added they even went as far as documenting what the felt before the shooting and why they did it but they still went about shooting people but I say that’s just an exception.
In the movie ‘Diary of a Mad Black Woman’, the protagonist, Helen McCarter had a lot of problems. She was jobless and her husband threw her out for another woman. Her life was not easy, her husband got shot and was left alone yet she came back to care for him. That didn’t stop him from verbally abusing him. But when push came to shove, she just left because she kept expressing how she felt. She could have killed her husband if she let her anger pile on inside but she let it out and it made a lot of space in her heart to forgive her husband. Writing and other forms of self-expression have helped many others alike so this says a lot about the usefulness of the literary arts. The Literate Arts can also be used has a kind of time capsule. The future needs to know how the past was and what better way than through our literature.
Our literature allows the future to know how we communicated, acted, what we believed in, our doubts, our successes and our failures. We could not make progress today without examining our past. Being an Architecture student, I have read a lot of architecture related literature, texts and journals from the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s and so on. It was clear one led to another meaning the future looked to the past to learn from their mistakes and build on their successes. Our literature can give access to our soul so the world of the future can know how we thought and why we thought like that.
Miller wrote about the book ‘The Information’ by Martin Amis in his text, The Dark Night of the Soul, and showed how Amis believed that this point of literature being important for the future was stupid and wrong because the world was going to end in the future. Amis said, In a million millennia, the sun will be bigger. It will feel nearer. In a million millennia, if you are still reading me, you can check these words against personal experience, because the polar ice caps have melted and Norway enjoys the climate of North Africa. Later still, the oceans will be boiling. The human story, or at any rate, the terrestrial story, will be coming to an end. I don’t honestly expect you to be reading me then. * Martin Amis
(Miller, 424) Amis believes that the significance of literature does not exist because the world and everything in it would end. I disagree with his believe. I am saying that the world would not end but why deprive the immediate future of the privilege of knowing their past because of the far away future. The world is said to end in a million millennia so why should the people that are a century or a millennium away suffer for that. Let us continue to write and teach the literate arts so that our legacy and ideas could continue to move on in time. Who knows? Our ideas and technology could even be improved upon and the so called end of the world could be averted.
Lastly, the literate arts and its use have a power that people could only achieve by paying a psychologist. The literate arts can be used for self-discovery, finding closure and general peace of mind. The literate arts have, on many occasions, helped people discover who they were. I find that by putting things in writing I can understand them and see them a little more objectively … For words are merely tools and if you use the right ones you can actually put even your life in order, if you don’t lie to yourself and use the wrong words. * Hunter S. Thompson
The Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman Other writers and literature inclined people believe that writing and literature give s clarity to one’s self. You can also get closure from writing. Miller writes in The Dark Night of the Soul about Mary Karr’s story, which she wrote in her book The Liars’ Club, where she uses writing to remember her suppressed past and she finds peace with it. Miller says,” In Karr’s hands, the memoir thus becomes a vehicle for arriving at an understanding that produces forgiveness.
Writing, as she uses it, is a hermeneutic practice that involves witnessing the mundane horrors of the past in order to make peace with that past”. (Miller, 440). So the literate arts could be used to discover you and find peace with yourself. So the literate arts could be used to express you, as a time capsule to tell stories of the past to the future, discover one’s self and find closure or peace. Those are a lot of things, important things if I may add that the literate arts can do. I believe I have answered the question accurately on what the literate arts are good for.
Miller, Richard E. “The Dark Night of the Soul.” Ways of reading: an Anthology for Writers. Ed. David Bartholomae and Anthony Petrosky. Ninth Edition. Boston: Bedford-St. Martin’s, 2011. 420-444. Print.