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Christianity, Literature, and Language

Wendell Berry’s Livable World

When: June 9, 2021, 1:00 pm - Wednesday

Where: Ezell 211

Session 1

Session Abstract

Wendell Berry raises crops and sheep in Kentucky. He practices the good life as he sees it, one that centers on work that feeds you, respecting the earth, and building community with your neighbor. He is also an activist, an academic, and a celebrated writer who has won awards for his poetry, his essays, and his fiction. At the heart of his writing is an effort to imagine a livable world at a time when our histories and our ways of life put humans at odds with each other and our planet. This panel explores several of those imaginings.

 

Paper Abstracts

Bill Carroll, Abilene Christian University, “Wendell Berry’s Mad Farmer Sequence: Refashioning the Pastoral as an Antidote to the Dis-ease of Consumer Culture

 

Wendell Berry’s Mad Farmer has little use for agrarian visions focused exclusively on the cash profit of the harvest while ignoring the health of both land and worker of the land; instead, he articulates a new agrarian pastoral. This contrasting pastoral seeks to re-value the land through the ways it truly offers abundant life. This claim is a prophetic call to a madness that makes divinest sense: it is a call to stewardship of the land, to a scale that values healthy lives and land over profit, and to a recognition of the rhythms of creation.

 

Rachel B. Griffis, Sterling College, “Wendell Berry’s The Unsettling of America Disavows Settler Colonialism”

 

Although Wendell Berry’s work, The Unsettling of America, begins with a reference to the “white race’s presence” on the continent, scholars have paid scant attention to the way this book aligns with indigenous perspectives on humanity’s relationship to nature, such as John Mohawk’s essay, “Western Peoples, Natural Peoples: Roots of Anxiety.” Reading Berry alongside Mohawk generates a resource for the further development of scholarship on settler colonialism and its role in literary studies. Further, Berry’s work functions as an ally to indigenous environmental literature and thus participates in challenging settler colonial perspectives regarding the domination of land and people.

 

Cliff A. Barbarick, Abilene Christian University, “The Tie that Binds: Death in the Membership”

 

Death haunts Wendell Berry’s fiction, casting a shadow of aching beauty over the whole corpus. His works recognize and try to articulate an important Christian truth: though death threatens to rend the fabric of the community; it can, instead, be a thread that tightens the bonds of the membership. The brokenness of death itself, the dehumanizing tendencies of our modern society, and even the gnosticizing drift within Christianity all threaten to unravel the reconciling work of a good death. However, Berry affirms a wisdom that reflects the paradox of the cross: what looks like destruction might actually be new creation.

Speakers

Bill Carroll, Abilene Christian University, Convener

  • Bill Carroll, Abilene Christian University, “Wendell Berry’s Mad Farmer Sequence: Refashioning the Pastoral as an Antidote to the Dis-ease of Consumer Culture”
  • Rachel B. Griffis, Sterling College, “Wendell Berry’s The Unsettling of America Disavows Settler Colonialism”
  • Cliff A. Barbarick, Abilene Christian University, “The Tie that Binds: Death in the Membership”

2022 CSC Info Coming Soon

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James Cone with conferee at the CSC in 2017

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Pulitzer Prize winner Marilynne Robinson delivering the CSC plenary address

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Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), delivering the CSC plenary address.

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US Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith delivering the CSC plenary address

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David Brooks engaging conferees during breakfast at the CSC

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