New essays on theological, political, and contemporary themes, by the Pulitzer Prize winnerMarilynne Robinson has plumbed the human spirit in her renowned novels, including Lila, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, and Gilead, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. In this new essay collection she trains her incisive mind on our modern political climate and the mysteries of faith. Whether she is investigating how the work of great thinkers about America like Emerson and Tocqueville inform our political consciousness or discussing the way that beauty informs and disciplines daily life, Robinson's peerless prose and boundless humanity are on full display. What Are We Doing Here? is a call for Americans to continue the tradition of those great thinkers and to remake American political and cultural life as "deeply impressed by obligation and as a great theater of heroic generosity, which, despite all, is sometimes palpable still."...
|Title||:||What Are We Doing Here?|
|Number of Pages||:||336 pages|
|Url Type||:||Home » What » What Are We Doing Here?|
What Are We Doing Here? Reviews
These essays, as academic rather than literary artifacts, are so much stronger than the pseudo-philosophy that so many writers attempt. In many of these essays, Robinson engages seriously with the debate between science and religion, and has much to offer on the nature of human consciousness and the role of beauty ("We have in ourselves grounds for supposing that Being is vaster, more luminous, more consequential than we have allowed ourselves to imagine for many generations"). She also makes a ...more
Some of the essays are simply wonderful (the final essay in particular), while others feel a bit repetitive. Maybe I’m just not interested enough in Puritans (although it is a topic of interest!), but several of the essays felt a little dry. I’m all for grounding an analysis of our current state of affairs in the past, but it often felt like the point of an essay was to reflect on Puritans and their role in history rather than use them as a point of reference for understanding the present. Which ...more
Marilynne Robinson is a contrarian historian at heart. She challenges accepted beliefs about historical movements and personages and goes to original texts to draw her own conclusions. She rejects simple explanations for things that are complex and the tendency to try to explain everything within frameworks like Darwinism, Freudianism, or capitalism. Ms. Robinson is comfortable with science and doesn't reject those theories. Her point is that they are used to explain things they just can't fully ...more
My favorite (self-described) biblicist, Calvinist, Edwards-and-Puritan-reputations-rehabilitating, America-and-humanities-and-Western-tradition-defending, mainline Protestant, United Church of Christ liberal.
Robinson is like no other writer I know. I've never seen a more wickedly incisive takedown of reductive materialism. I've never read a better defense of the Puritans, not even from their more direct theological heirs. I've never enjoyed so much having my own political proclivities questioned ...more
There are two major themes in these essays: religion as it pertains to modern American life and culture, and the Puritans. Many of these essays are about Robinson’s fascination with the early colonial history (and the British history that preceded it), and specifically about the Puritans’ role in the shaping of America. To put it her argument simply and bluntly: the Puritans got a bad rap. But, beyond a few interesting tidbits, like how the Puritans were fiercely committed to education, and how ...more
I just LOVE Marilynne Robinson. This is to say that my review is surely biased.
I’ll be brief. If you’re bored by those subjects to which Robinson *religiously* gravitates—Puritanism, critiques of positivism, Western history, theology, etc.—then yeah, you might find this book unenjoyable, but also frustrating and challenging, which you might find ultimately satisfying.
She repeats herself. Revisits the same subjects and figures, occasionally the same insights. The reason, that these essays first ...more
Marilynne Robinson alerts us in the introduction to her collection of essays, What Are We Doing Here?, that she is “too old to mince words.”
While we can remind her that she also fully partakes of the tendency of the elderly to repeat themselves, we need to concede that some of what she repeats is eminently worth hearing — for instance, her passionate argument against turning America’s colleges and universities into business schools and training programs and in favor of currently devalued libera ...more
Some of it I loved and some was eh.