Tue, 6 April 2021

6:30 pm - 7:30 pm BST

The Road Not Taken – Reflections on Our Unled Lives

Andrew Miller In Conversation With Isobel Armstrong

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We all fantasise about lives unlived – and who, with different choices and opportunities, we might otherwise have become. And when we confront our imaginary selves, we discover who we are.

We each live one life, formed by paths taken and untaken. Choosing a job, getting married, deciding on a place to live or whether to have children―every decision precludes another. But what if you’d gone the other way? It can be a seductive thought, even a haunting one.

In conversation with Isobel Armstrong, author and critic Andrew Miller joins us to illuminate this theme of modern culture: the allure of the alternate self. From Robert Frost to Sharon Olds, Virginia Woolf to Ian McEwan, Jane Hirshfield to Carl Dennis, storytellers of every stripe write of the lives we didn’t have. What forces encourage us to think this way about ourselves, and to identify with fictional and poetic voices speaking from the shadows of what might have been?

Not only poets and novelists, but psychologists and philosophers have much to say on this question. Miller finds wisdom in all these sources, revealing the beauty, the power, and the struggle of our unled lives.

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Andrew Miller

Author and Critic

Andrew Miller is a writer living in Baltimore and a Professor of English at Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of The Burden of Perfection: On Ethics and Reading in Nineteenth Century British Literature and of Novels Behind Glass: Commodity Culture and Victorian Narrative.  His essays have appeared in Raritan, Brick, Michigan Quarterly Review, PMLA, Representations, and elsewhere.

Isobel Armstrong

Poet, Academic and Critic.

Isobel Armstrong FBA is Emeritus Professor of English at Birkbeck, University of London, Senior Research Fellow of the Institute of English Studies, and International Scholar of the American Academy. Over the last few years she has taught at Harvard, the Bread Loaf School of English, Johns Hopkins, and Princeton.