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Thoughts on Teaching Wendell Berry

I’m not terribly disappointed; I came to realize, as we plowed through the final weeks of the class, that most of the students were burned out from the large amounts of difficult reading that I’d given them–and moreover, that introducing the ideas of Berry–who is first and foremost a localist and agrarian; beyond that, depending on how you read him, he’s a bit of a distributist, pacifist, traditionalist, socialist, communitarian, anarchist, and New Deal Democrat as well–needed to be set up better, perhaps by reading some of his fiction before examining his ideas. Because, kind of like starting off the whole parade of theorists with Rousseau, his view of the world presumes, or puts into question, or both, a huge range of values and beliefs, some of which your typical modern American university student fervently accepts, and some of which are some deeply embedded in our socio-economic and political order as to require some real excavation and imagination to even be able to present as issues of discussion.


Wendell Berry at Williams College tonight

Berry has been writing about agriculture and food for more than 40 years, becoming a voice of reason and clarity in the confusion of words and political language surrounding farming and food. While politicians insist on the necessity of industrialization, Berry argues that the United States has moved us further and further away from good land practices.

"Does the production in the hands of fewer and fewer operators really serve the ends of cleanliness and health?" he asked In 1977.

Berry, who is the author of 50 books of poetry, fiction and essays, will speak this evening at the Williams College ‘62 Center at 8 p.m. on "Simple Solutions, Packaged Deals, and a 50-Year Farm Bill." The lecture is free and open to the public.


Blog Watch: Celebrating Earth Day, WB, and 'native religion'

The program centered around poems by Kentucky farmer and activist Wendell Berry, set to music by folk composer Malcolm Dalglish. Malcolm led us on hammered dulcimer, and the chorus backed traditional Japanese dancers, Irish step dancers, and Appalachian clog dancers, as well as percussionists, a fiddler, a cellist and a bagpiper. Like my interfaith family, the program was joyously eclectic and inclusive, with dissonance sharpening the senses, and contrasting layers yielding surprise and delight.


Blog Watch: WB on reductionism

In Haught Pursuit: Too Much Information.
Mr. Berry says that man thrives on mystery, and knowing everything about something not only destroys mystery, it can lead to even worse consequences. Mr. Berry says,

"For quite a while it has been possible for a free and thoughtful person to see that to treat life as mechanical or predictable or understandable is to reduce it. Now, almost suddenly, it is becoming clear that to reduce life to the scope of our understanding (whatever "model" we use) is inevitably to enslave it, make property of it, and put it up for sale.

This is to give up on life, to carry it beyond change and redemption and to increase the proximity of despair."

"Imagination in Place" reviewed

BOOK REVIEW – Imagination in Place: Essays by Wendell Berry | Art & Culture « The Erie Wire.
In this first new collection of essays in 5 years, poet, fiction writer, essayist, Kentucky farmer Wendell Berry delivers a basketful of ripe fruit, like the symbolic red raspberries on the cover. In a prose that is tight and direct and a treatment that is sweet yet tart, he talks straight with us. His subject here is writing itself and the community it breeds. One might see this book as a series of appreciations of the writers who have mattered to him and to the community of writers to which he belongs. And though Berry shuns ‘literary criticism’ of his own works, these tributes of fellow writers and their life work comprise a practical and value-based aesthetic; it is Criticism with a capital C as in the work of Aristotle. READ MORE ...

Casting Mr. Berry

Kentucky Sports Radio » Blog Archive » William Shakespeare’s Monday News and Views.
For those of you that missed the story (or didnt hear the podcast), Knight is apparently a Shakespeare ace and his high school English teacher says he is the best at reading Shakespearean sonnets of anyone that she has ever taught. That insight truly has blown my mind and makes me eager to know more about Knight. Is he Kentucky’s “Finding Forrester”, simply needing an interaction with an old grizzled UK teacher (played by Wendell Berry) who helps him showcase his inner love of literature, while his game flourishes on the court. READ MORE ...

CSM replays original review of "Standing by Words"

Classic review: Standing by Words / The Christian Science Monitor -
In his new collection of essays, we find Berry adamant, didactic, and unabashedly partisan. The purpose of his assault is to resurrect the essential values of clarity, responsibility, and commitment to the living tradition of poetry. As the argument progresses, his rhetoric rises to a near-religious fervor that is hardly orthodox for literary criticism. And the result is nothing short of splendid. READ MORE ...

WB to speak at Williams College

Williams College :: News & Events - News.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., April 23, 2010 -- Wendell Berry, a farmer, essayist, novelist, and poet, will give a public talk called "Simple Solutions, Packaged Deals, and a 50-Year Farm Bill." It will be held on Thursday, April 29, at 8 p.m. at the '62 Center MainStage on the Williams College campus. Tickets are required, but admission is free and the public is cordially invited. READ MORE ...