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Maurice manning speaksPoet Maurice Manning lectures on Wendell Berry’s A World Lost in Haggin Auditorium.

Manning challenges students to learn from the past

Maurice Manning, a poet and professor in the creative writing program at Indiana University, spoke at the 2010 opening convocation in Haggin Auditorium September 12. His lecture was a commentary on this year’s First Engagements book A World Lost, by Wendell Berry.

Manning described the novel, which tells the story of Andy Catlett coming to terms with the murder of his uncle in rural Kentucky, as a story of love, grief, and hope in the context of man’s relationship with the world around him.

“It demonstrates that life is continuous, provided the sense and understanding of its continuity are passed on and taught, and provided the recipients of such a lesson are willing to uphold the duties and obligations that come with such powerful knowledge,” he said. “The novel makes it clear that the natural world, the very earth underneath our feet, is the greatest gift we have. It teaches ourselves to ourselves, for we are part of its story.”

Manning challenged the Transylvania first-year students to not get caught up in the future and the “American way,” but rather to understand the past and learn from it. He said today’s generation is growing up without a sense of loyalty or an idea of where they are from.

“They don’t feel like they belong to a particular place,” he said. “They don’t have roots in a town or neighborhood; they don’t know their older relatives; they don’t know the stories of their own families. Instead they have the shared cultural and economic experience of cell phones, of wires coming out of their ears, of monosyllabic exclaims aped from television. They follow the various profits of consumption. From none of those, however, will you learn yourself or your people or the place you are from.”

Manning has published four books of poetry, most recently The Common Man. In 2009 he was awarded the Hanes Poetry Prize by the Fellowship of Southern Writers. His first book, Lawrence Booth’s Book of Visions, was selected for the Yale Series of Younger Poets in 2000. Manning is also a regular faculty member for The Appalachian Writers Workshop in Hindman, Ky.

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