Past Event

A Friendship in Twilight: Lockdown Conversations on Death and Life (Book Talk)

July 14, 2022
7:30 PM - 9:00 PM
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A Friendship in Twilight: Lockdown Conversations on Death and Life


In a time of plague, fundamental questions become immediate and personal. The pandemic, droughts, floods, fire, political violence: the world has been grimly reminded of the proximity and inevitability of death. Jack Miles and Mark C. Taylor-acclaimed public intellectuals and scholars of religion, one a Christian and the other an atheist, close friends for fifty years-have spent their lives grappling with questions of ultimate concern. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, locked down at home and facing an uncertain future, Miles and Taylor embarked on an extended conversation about living and dying in an imperiled world.

A Friendship in Twilight is their plague journal. In raw and searching letters, written daily from the first lockdowns through the Capitol riot, Miles and Taylor reflect on life during overlapping crises. Amid the menace of the pandemic and the unceasing political turmoil, they debate the lessons that a catastrophic present can teach about the future and how to read, think, live, and face up to death. Confronting the vulnerability of their aging bodies and the frailty of American democracy, the two friends discuss why and how philosophical reflection matters for a wounded world. Their conversations are imbued with an ever-present sense of urgency about the worth of a life, the fragility of existence, and the uncertainty of endings. Seamlessly moving from heartfelt emotion to philosophical speculation, current events to great art and literature, this book is a powerful and moving testament to the precarity of life and to enduring friendship.

About the Authors

Jack Miles is professor emeritus of English and religious studies at the University of California, Irvine. A former Jesuit, he is the author of a trilogy about God in three classic scriptures, including the Pulitzer Prize–winning God: A Biography (1995), and the general editor of the six-volume Norton Anthology of World Religions.

Mark C. Taylor is professor of religion at Columbia University and professor emeritus at Williams College. He is the author of more than thirty books, including most recently Intervolution: Smart Bodies Smart Things (Columbia, 2020). His art has been exhibited at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art and the Clark Art Institute.

Laurie L. Patton is the 17th president of Middlebury College, and the first woman to lead the institution in its 219-year history. Patton joined Middlebury in 2015 after serving as dean of Duke University’s Trinity College of Arts and Sciences and as the Robert F. Durden Professor of Religion. She has served as president of the American Society for the Study of Religion in 2011, and the American Academy of Religion, made up of over 9000 members, in 2019. She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2018 in two categories, philosophy and religion and educational leadership.

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