The Place of Imagination
Wendell Berry and the Poetics of Community, Affection, and Identity
Publication Year: 2017
In The Place of Imagination, Joseph R. Wiebe argues that this confrontation is precisely what shapes our moral capacity to respond to people and to places. Wiebe contends that Berry manifests this moral imagination most acutely in his fiction. Berry’s fiction, however, does not portray an average community or even an ideal one. Instead, he depicts broken communities in broken places—sites and relations scarred by the routines of racial wounds and ecological harm. Yet, in the tracing of Berry’s characters with place-based identities, Wiebe demonstrates the way in which Berry’s fiction comes to embody Berry’s own moral imagination. By joining these ambassadors of Berry’s moral imagination in their fictive journeys, readers, too, can allow imagination to transform their affection, thereby restoring place as a facilitator of identity as well as hope for healed and whole communities. Loving place translates into loving people, which in turn transforms broken human narratives into restored lives rooted and ordered by their places.
Published by: Baylor University Press
Half Title Page, Title Page, Copyright
I graduated from a high school with a tradition: every graduating student writes a letter to him-or herself that the school keeps for ten years, at which time these letters are mailed back to their authors. In my letter, I wrote vitriolic remarks about the suckers interested in undergraduate degrees. Only a fool, I wrote to myself knowingly, would want to attend university. ...
The challenge in writing on Wendell Berry’s fiction is to give an account of the Port William community that is neither sentimental nor quaint. Such characterizations can be easy to fall into / hard to avoid, depending on what one assumes about rural communities in general. ...
Part I: Moral Imagination and Community
1. Imagination: The Poetics of Local Adaptation
Berry’s moral imagination consists in a relation to place.1 Its function is to see a place outside fixed cultural and social interpretative frameworks, recognize its integrity in terms of both its internal consistency and its participation in the rest of creation, and invite the imaginer to reflect on the claim this awareness makes. ...
2. Affection: Community, Race, and Place
Reading William Carlos Williams on a bus in New Jersey prompted a radical shift in Berry’s life, a return to his roots. Williams’ poetics also showed Berry what to do when he got home—how to see, describe, preserve, and adapt to it so that his identity might consist in his belonging to place. ...
3. Style: Berry’s Fictional Technique
Berry’s return home was the crucible of his imagination, tested as it was against the racial history still present in the landscape. His struggle to belong there, which outlines the role of imagination, affection, and community in local adaptation, is inherent in his fictional technique. ...
Part II: Biographies of Belonging
4. Jack's Mind: Regret and the Virtue of Knowing
Local adaptation in Berry’s life is a “spiritual ambition, like goodness.” Plants and animals belong to their places naturally, but a person can only belong “by understanding and by virtue.”1 Recalling William Carlos Williams, for whom identity comes from arriving to a place in both body and spirit, ...
5. Jayber's Soul: The Psychology of Magnanimous Despair
It is telling that Berry calls himself a “forest” Christian.2 The forest is Berry’s wilderness—a “sacred grove ”that“ our sanity probably requires it.”3 To have“ wilderness as standard” requires “religious deference” to keep pride and greed in check. ...
6. Hannah's Body: Grief and the Space of Hopeless Patience
In the spring of 2012, New York Times columnist Mark Bittman sat down with Berry in preparation to write his boldly titled article “Wendell Berry, American Hero.” During the conversation, Bittman asked Berry a question he hears a lot: “What can city people do?” ...
Avery Jenkins first contacted Bryan Stevenson by phone.1 Jenkins was on death row in Alabama for brutally stabbing an older man to death and wanted help from the Harvard Law graduate and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative. ...
List of Abbreviations
Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2017
OCLC Number: 973845159
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Place of Imagination