Form and Content

(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

Beginning in the late 1960’s, Wendell Berry, a young author and member of the English department at the University of Kentucky, turned to the writing of essays as an avenue of exploring topics he had already introduced in his first two novels, Nathan Coulter (1960) and A Place on Earth (1967), as well as in numerous poems published in the previous decade. Beginning with The Long-Legged House (1969) and continuing with A Continuous Harmony: Essays Cultural and Agricultural (1972) and The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture (1977), Berry established himself as an able critic of what he terms “industrial agriculture” and as a seasoned commentator on diverse environmental and cultural matters.

In 1965, a year after moving from New York to Lexington, Kentucky, to join the faculty at the university, Berry moved with his family to a small farm near the community of Port Royal. Berry was of the fifth and the sixth generations of his father’s and mother’s families, respectively, to farm in the neighborhood; in the succeeding decade Berry, with his wife and two children, made their farm into a productive one, despite it being on what Berry has called “marginal” land. Far from being a professor’s country estate, the farm required a considerable amount of manual labor; in 1978, after nearly two decades of academic life, he resigned his teaching position at the university to devote himself to...

(The entire section is 588 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Berry, Wendell. “Writer and Region,” in The Hudson Review. XL (Spring, 1987), pp. 15-30.

Nibbelink, Herman. “Thoreau and Wendell Berry: Bachelor and Husband of Nature,” in The South Atlantic Quarterly. LXXXIV (Spring, 1985), pp. 127-140.

Pevear, Richard. “On the Prose of Wendell Berry,” in The Hudson Review. XXXV (Summer, 1982), pp. 341-347.

Stegner, Wallace. Beyond the Hundredth Meridian: John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the West, 1954.

Woiwode, Larry. “Wendell Berry: Cultivating the Essay,” in The Washington Post Book World. XII (January 31, 1982), p. 5.