The Humane Vision of Wendell Berry [ Feature Review ]

February 3, 2012 — Leave a comment


Page 2 – The Humane Vision of Wendell Berry

Overall, of course, the editors have chosen essays that celebrate the life-affirming (and very John-the-Baptist-like voice) message of the Kentucky farmer-writer.  From British Distributists to sex and marriage; from “Democratic Self-governance to Berry as a new kind of St. Benedict, one will find that Berry has touched on many seeming disparate topics.  Somehow, though it all comes together in his words.

As mentioned, the essays don’t stop at examining Berry’s numerous essays; Luke Schlueter discusses Berry’s poetry (perhaps the least discussed kind of his writing) and Anthony Esolen draws comparisons between Dante’s Divine Comedy and Jayber Crow.

The greatest value of this book is probably having a goodly portion of Berry’s work distilled, critiqued, praised, and synthesized with other thinking.  Consider it a one-stop source for Berry-ana.

Wendell Berry might be considered a prophet.  He calls us to examine our economic assumptions, to care for the gifts of soil, water, and air in ways that move beyond “reduce, reuse, recycle.”  He does not see the dualism that plagues North American Christianity as harmonious with the Bible.  He is not content with industrial models for resource extraction or education.  He is a farmer, rooted in a place, married to one woman for much of his life, who longs for a better America.

As mentioned bove, The Humane Vision of Wendell Berry is not a collection to give to a first-time reader of Berry.  But it might be the piece, in hand with his many other works, which spurs people to demanding something better for their town, village, or city,  to work to create a humane vision for their place.


Scot F. Martin teaches high school English and is a Master Naturalist.  He lives with his wife and children in Redford, Michigan.