The Jefferson Lecture 2012
Henry County Local: "Berry speech focuses on community"

Blog Watch: "Oral History, Wendell Berry, and Memory as Membership (III)"

In the last two posts on the topic of Wendell Berry’s fiction and its place in Oral History, I noted that the process of remembering allowed the narrator of A World Lost, Andy Catlett, to situate his Uncle Andrew’s life within the intersecting and interconnected stories all at work in Port William.   As Brent Laytham, in his essay “The Membership Includes the Dead,” argues:  Wendell Berry uses memory to intentionally evoke a sense of membership within the fictional community of Port William.[1]

In this post I want to expand upon Berry’s ability to show how remembering in the present is provides a vehicle for “re-membering” the past.  That is, memory provides access to membership.  I want to explore TWO tenets of the membership found in Berry’s fiction:

  1. Membership is Placed – That is, community membership is rooted in a common ground, or a common place to which the members are responsibleIn Berry’s fiction this is the small town of Port William.
  2. Membership is Inclusive  – Just as members are responsible to their place, they are responsible for one another, and this means including the wayward.  It also means including the dead, if we consider that Uncle Andrew, although dead, is made alive through Andy’s memory, and incorporated into the membership.



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