June 24, 2011
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v2.1 Reference

The Achievement of Wendell Berry

The Hard History of Love

Arguably one of the most important American writers working today, Wendell Berry is the author of more than fifty books, including novels and collections of poems, short stories, and essays. A prominent spokesman for agrarian values, Berry frequently defends such practices and ideas as sustainable agriculture, healthy rural communities, connection to place, the pleasures of work, and the interconnectedness of life.

In The Achievement of Wendell Berry: The Hard History of Love, Fritz Oehlschlaeger provides a sweeping engagement with Berry's entire corpus. The book introduces the reader to Berry's general philosophy and aesthetic through careful consideration of his essays. Oehlschlaeger pays particular attention to Berry as an agrarian, citizen, and patriot, and also examines the influence of Christianity on Berry's writings. Much of the book is devoted to lively close readings of Berry's short stories, novels, and poetry. The Achievement of Wendell Berry is a comprehensive introduction to the philosophical and creative world of Wendell Berry, one that offers new critical insights into the writing of this celebrated Kentucky author.

About the Author

Fritz Oehlschlaeger is professor of English at Virginia Tech University. He is the author of several books, including Love and Good Reasons: Postliberal Approaches to Christian Ethics and Literature. He lives in Roanoke, Virginia.


""The Achievement of Wendell Berry: The Hard History of Love is a nearly comprehensive engagement with the work of Wendell Berry, who is without question one of America's most important contemporary writers. This book will remain a significant contribution to scholarship on Berry for some time to come."—Joel James Shuman, editor of Wendell Berry and Religion and Associate Professor and Chair of Theology at King's College"

"This is a gentle book about a gentle man. A damning description for those who assume gentleness has no political implications. Oehlschlager, however, shows that the interconnection between Berry's poems, novels, and essays helps us see how gentleness is the decisive challenge to the world created by human hubris. This is an invaluable book to those who know Berry's work well and to those who do not."—Stanley Hauerwas, author of Hannah's Child: A Theologican's Memoir"

""Adopting Wendell Berry's own practice of exploring ideas through significant works of literature, Oehlschlaeger offers a deeply insightful treatment of Berry's major themes and genres, thus making his own distinctive, nuanced contribution to the agrarian conversation about living in good faith, in our places and with our neighbors."

—Ellen F. Davis, author of Scripture, Culture, and Agriculture: An Agrarian Reading of the Bible"

""Wendell Berry's life and works have been a sustaining oasis amidst the turmoil and alienation that have marred the moral landscape of our time. Fritz Oehlschlaeger has provided a brilliant guide to Berry's fiction, non-fiction, and poetry, tracing the consistent themes of good work, faith, patriotism, agrarian values, and love of the land and its people that flow through Berry's writings. To read this book is to fully understand why Wendell Berry is the conscience of modern America."

—David Ehrenfeld, author of Becoming Good Ancestors: How We Balance Nature, Community, and Technology"

""Following Wendell Berry's own advice to 'learn from' literature rather than to 'explain it,' Oehlschlaeger has provided us with a wonderfully inspiring and insightful window into the essays, poetry, stories and novels which Wendell has given to us all over the years as his great gift to help us learn 'the goodness and grace of being here.'"

—Frederick Kirschenmann, author of Cultivating an Ecological Conscience: Essays from a Philosopher Farmer"

"Oehlschlaeger's careful and respectful reading of Wendell Berry is a boon to anyone who values clear thinking, clear writing, and the empathic imagination. If reading Berry helps us see ourselves and our web of interactions with sobering clarity, reading Oehlschlaeger redoubles our appreciation of the mastery of Berry's expansive art and redemptive vision. Read both with pencil in hand.'—Morris A. Grubbs, editor of Conversations with Wendell Berry"

"If you want to learn from Wendell Berry you must read him. After that, Fritz Oehlschlaeger's remarkable book on Berry's work, author of is the next best thing. This is because he writes not to characterize or peg Berry as a writer, but because he has learned from him and come to share deeply in his loves. Oehlschlaeger's thematic ordering of Berry's extraordinarily imaginative and extensive corpus not only preserves the force of Berry's blazing insights but even enhances them, providing connection and context. Berry's many gifts to our time, gifts that both awaken and alarm, are here unwrapped with the deepest fidelity and love. Read Berry, then read Oehlschlaeger on him, and you will know why you must read Berry again, equipped now with the understanding that what you are doing is a revolutionary act."—Charles Pinches, author of A Gathering of Memories: Family, Nation, and Church in a Forgetful World"

"This engaging attempt to grapple with Berry's essays, novels, and poetry reminds anyone who needs reminding what a privilege it is to have a true master alive among us.'—Bill McKibben, founder 350.org"

""Oehlschlaeger writes beautifully and gives due honor to one of America's most important and revered writers, Wendell Berry. He reveals his own insights and presents his knowledge faithfully and thoroughly, quoting Berry and scores of philosophical and literary greats. This book sets a high standard of quality and soars gracefully while setting that standard." —Louisville Courier-Journal"

"Oehlschlaeger's book explores all of Berry's publications, analyzing common themes among them. The result, a comprehensive literary critique of Berry's work, informs readers of this influential voice's commitment to community, conservation, and inter-relatedness." — Kentucky Monthly"

"An extensive discussion of the author's nonfiction investigates both the political and economic ramifications of Berry's work as well as the influence of Christianity upon his writing. The book goes on to examine his fiction, revealing how Berry's short stories and novels serve as vehicles for highlighting the importance of memory, personal loss, and peace." — Appalachian News-Express"

"Oehlschlaeger is here explicating the value of Berry's thinking to future generations by intensively mining his copious literary output."—Homestead.org"

"Oehlschlaeger's book succeeds in being a synthesis, consolidation, and translation."—The Journal of Ecocriticism"

"As much homage as critical discourse, Oehlschlaeger's study is indispensable to appreciating as well as understanding Berry's work. . . . Highly recommended."—CHOICE"

"Oehlschlaeger's overall interpretation is a sensitive, theological negotiation of Berry's work as a storied history of souls." — Jospeh R. Wiebe, Modern Theology"—

9780813130071 : the-achievement-of-wendell-berry-oehlschlaeger
336 Pages
$70.00 USD

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