James E. Miller Jr. Memorial Service
James E. Miller Jr.
September 9, 1920 – September 9, 2010
Helen A. Regenstein Professor Emeritus Department of English and the College Chair of the Department of English (1978 –1983)
1025 East 58th Street Chicago, Illinois 60637
Friday, September 9, 2011, 1:45 p.m.
from “Walt Whitman Then and Now: A Reminiscence: An Essay Written not out of Research but out of Memory and Conviction”
I must unabashedly classify myself as one of Whitman’s camerados. I have read Leaves of Grass, and thus loitered with Walt Whitman off and on, even hand in hand in the very holding of the book, over the past fifty years. Of course no one has ever seen us together because in effect Walt is a secret sharer, not demanding but sharing sustenance, remaining silent on the shelves between encounters, and even when in hand an invisible presence to an unimaginative observer. But when I have taken the book from the shelf and opened it, Walt Whitman has sprung to life in a metaphysical or spiritual communion from which I have carried away much more than I have ever or could ever put into words. At the beginning of his essay, “Fate,” Emerson says the question he will address is “How shall I live.” In effect, I see Emerson’s question as my own purpose in my first dedication to the reading and teaching of literature a half century ago: to find out - “How shall I live.” Now fifty years later I can say that one of the texts from which I have learned much on frequent revisiting is Leaves of Grass. I have always found Walt Whitman there, waiting for me to join him on the journey. What I have learned from Whitman and from many other of my secret sharers is that one lives life not by a fixed answer, but by the question itself. Each moment of life requires its own new - and renewed- answer.
James E. Miller Jr.
Walt Whitman Quarterly Review
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