Section: Literature, Summer   |   School: School of Rhetoric

Who deserves the honor of being America’s foremost cultural commentator and critic? A politician? A journalist? A professor at an Ivy League school? How about a farmer? Wendell Berry (1934-present) is, first and foremost, a farmer who calls Kentucky home. But he’s not just any farmer. As a young man, Mr. Berry abandoned a promising academic career to return to his roots. While tending to his farm, he has become one of America’s greatest and most prolific writers, authoring more than 50 books including fiction, collections of essays, and collections of poems. In doing so, Berry has indeed established himself as the most insightful cultural commentator and critic of our time.

In this intensive course, we will read three of Wendell Berry’s novels and a collection consisting of approximately fifteen essays. As we do so, we will discuss key themes that Mr. Berry returns to over and over again. What does it mean to be human? Why are machines and technology often more of a curse than a blessing? What is “agrarianism,” and how is it different from both socialism and industrial capitalism? (Hint: if you love Hobbits, you are already on the path to being an “agrarian”) What kind of responsibility do we have to take care of creation? How can America be so good and powerful, and yet so sick and corrupt at the same time? What can the average citizen do to help make our country “the land of the free and the home of the brave”?

Beware, Berry’s works are not for the faint of heart. He will challenge even some of your cherished ideas at their root.

This course is intended for students in 11th or 12th grade who have had substantial exposure to writings such as those found in The Great Conversation series. Exceptional 9th and 10th graders will be considered for admission upon request.  It carries an honors designation  and earns 1/2 credit in Literature.

Reading List​ (all by Wendell Berry):

  • The Art of the Commonplace,​ ISBN: 978-1593760076
  • Hannah Coulter,​ ISBN: ​978-1593760786
  • Jayber Crow,​ ISBN: 978-1582431604
  • Remembering,​ ISBN: 978-1582434155