Abstract Wendell Berry has been criticised for promoting a racialised agrarian vision. While this critique may be true of some of his interpreters, Berry’s writing delineates a disciplined imagination that is critically self-aware of his own privilege and participation in racist social structures. When read alongside Willie Jennings’ theological account of race, place, and the need for radical remembering, the associative recollection and reticence of Berry’s narrative in Andy Catlett: Early Travels demonstrates the practices of an imagination included in an ameliorative theological social vision. Because white men can’t police their imaginations, black men are dying. —Claudia Rankine1 i. introduction Claudia Rankine wrote this haiku after visiting Ferguson in 2014. It is included in the third printing of Citizen: An American Lyric, replacing ‘February 15, 2014 / The Justice System’ in the second printing and stands out bleakly on an otherwise empty page.2 The violent deaths of African-Americans at the hands of police, Rankine suggests, is not only the result of bad intentions and malevolence. In some cases, the problem is not the officer’s will but their imagination. Darren Wilson, the officer who killed Michael Brown, told the jury he pulled the trigger because Brown ‘looked like a demon’. In other words, as Rankine says: ‘Blackness in the white imagination has nothing to do with black people.’3 Perhaps it seems odd to turn to Wendell Berry as an example of a white man trying to shape his imagination in ways that might service the Black Lives Matter movement. Agrarianism in general is mostly represented by white settler agricultural communities that seem to entrench and foment rather than challenge and mitigate racial stereotypes.4 Though Berry has written extensively on the importance of particularity for cultivating moral communities, emphasised the role of imagination in compassion and affection, and even authored a book-length rumination on the distinctiveness of two African-American farmhands as he remembered them in The Hidden Wound, Berry has also been criticised for reiterating racially problematic conceptions of human relations with place that trade in white privilege.5 It is not obvious that white folks’ attachments to places of racial violence might make a difference for black people, Indigenous people, and other people of colour. The potential, according to Berry, for fidelity to place to attend to rather than exacerbate these injuries depends on one’s imagination. Andy Catlett is Berry’s 2006 fictionalised memoir, which includes observations of the black workers—Dick and Aunt Sarah Jane—who worked on his grandfather’s farm. It is timely fiction for an age struggling to reckon with white privilege but also of white fragility. While egregious violent acts compel Rankine’s plea for disciplined imagination, this same imagination can also break commonplace dispositions and behaviours reinforcing the ‘social environment that insulates and protects’ white people from the stress of acknowledging and interrogating their racial privilege.6 White writers often reinforce rather than challenge this white fragility through cultural appropriation—that is, by imagining black lives without examining the way their own whiteness conditions their imagination. White writers who avail themselves to the common trope: ‘I have the right to imagine whoever I want,’ Rankine says, ‘make a mistake’ because they ‘begin the conversation in the wrong place.’7 Instead of using another’s point of view to test the author’s artistic talent and range, writers wanting to write from a different perspective should instead ask themselves, ‘[w]hat is the charisma of what I feel estranged from, and why might I wish to enter and inhabit it.’8 Or, put differently: what draws me to others’ experience that seems so otherworldly and why do I want to articulate what that experience is like in my own words? Such questions drive Berry’s struggle with his racist heritage in both The Hidden Wound and Andy Catlett; this kind of self-reflection is explicit in The Hidden Wound and manifests in the narrative style of Andy Catlett, and, as such, is not as obvious but is what keeps the novel from cultural appropriation. One option for white authors interested in writing about other cultures without appropriating them is to do the kind of work Berry does in Andy Catlett, which not only refuses to disavow complicity and privilege but also examines the anxiety that refusal produces with the intent to change the social environment’s landscape, to disrupt the white racial equilibrium. Disrupting colonial social imaginaries and constructing new ones comes not just from seeing the world from another perspective, or adding more perspectives to the same world, but from the self-interrogation involved in realising that others’ experiences makes demands for which one is responsible. Taking responsibility is policing the imagination—integrating the lives of others in one’s own sense of self and world. The lives remembered in The Hidden Wound influence the lives imagined in Andy Catlett in a way that conditions the protagonist’s understanding of both the dysfunction and beauty of his life and place. The association, recollection, and reticence in Andy Catlett: Early Travels delineate a disciplined imagination that white readers can learn from to address Claudia Rankine’s concerns. The critique of aiding and abetting an agrarian vision of unearned privilege drawn along racial lines is more accurately applied to some of Berry’s interpreters than the man himself. Willie Jennings’ theological account of how the Christian imagination is inextricably intertwined with space and place sets the framework to see how Berry’s disciplined imagination pertains to a theological social vision. ii. against settler politics and the need for radical remembering Some of Berry’s advocates illustrate the kind of unacceptable imagination Berry’s critics rightfully indict. Consider the way legal scholar Eric Freyfogle uses one of Berry’s fictional characters to illustrate a land ethic that envisions new social and environmental relations. Freyfogle argues that ecological circumstances should influence liberal property ownership policies.9 Communities that have both the capacity to recognise natural features that cut across property lines and land health as the telos for its activities can make this change possible. The ideal character that depicts this community-based land ethic is the fictional small-scale farmer, Mat Feltner. In Feltner, Berry preserves the memories of model men and presents ‘an agrarian alternative to modern ways of interpreting and dwelling on the land’.10 Feltner’s agricultural practices exhibit ‘proper landownership’ because they enact a devotion and intimacy with his farm that is unavailable to owners of large tracts of land and tenants. In Freyfogle’s interpretation: ‘[h]ad [Feltner] taken on more acres, hiring tenants to work on his behalf, his land surely would have suffered.’11 Accordingly, Freyfogle emphasises the work of settlers, declaring that the work of ‘transforming the wild into pastoral landscape was necessary and good; without it only dispersed hunter-gatherers could have occupied the land’.12 Here, agrarianism consists in the practices that save a nation such as the United States from becoming an aggregate of vagrants uninterested in the vitality of nature. In Freyfogle’s agrarianism, imagination is restricted to conjuring up possible images of flourishing on the land conducive to settler colonialism. Agricultural work itself is necessary and good because it ensures the proper occupation of land, namely that of the settler/farmer. Imagination comes into the picture after good work habits are established, envisioning the land health that can be established by good care.13 Concerns for maintaining soil quality, reducing pollutants, and nurturing ecosystems are geared to preserving a nature regarded primarily in terms of vigorous fecundity. Freyfogle’s adjudication of land health, for instance, is judged ‘in terms of the elements and processes essential to bountiful life’ and since the 1940s ‘scientists have become better skilled at identifying the conditions that contribute to the land’s vigor and resilience’.14 Environmental ethicist Mick Smith points out, however, that what constitutes ‘bountiful’ and ‘vigor’ is culturally determined because there are no ideal types to which to compare them.15 In this case, they are understood within the settler/farmer culture and its attendant land ethic. Freyfogle’s use of science to justify notions of flourishing within his land ethic veils the implications of his politics, which is quite troubling. Unlike Freyfogle, Berry’s imagination involves self-reflection and relationships with those radically different from himself. The Hidden Wound documents Berry’s own participation in structural racism and its ongoing legacy in his life as part of his argument that white people, too, have been damaged by their own racism.16 That is, their misjudgments and stereotypes form abstractions that come from problematic emotional dynamics and vicious habits of mind, which in turn diminish their own humanity. Healing these hidden wounds can only happen when people ‘know and come to care for one another by meeting face to face, arduously, and by the willing loss of comfort’.17 When it comes to cultivating compassion, empathy, and particular rather than abstract knowledge of people’s differences, there is no substitute for meaningful relationships. The difficulty is integrating these experiences into one’s vision, having the relationships form a perception that sees qualities and particularities as part of unity grounded in love. The task is to have arduous, uncomfortable friendships and encounters govern the imagination so that someone can materially demonstrate, for example, how blackness in a white person’s imagination has something to do with actual black people. Such an imagination would address the psychic wounds Berry diagnoses in ways that might make a difference to black lives. Theologian Willie Jennings’ account of race as the overcoming of place-based identity reveals the potential for Andy Catlett to service a religious social imagination.18 Jennings argues that racial identity is borne out in a theology yoked to abstraction and displacement. Without self-conscious Christian connections to one another that are meaningfully formed by their social and physical environment, theological concepts describing ecclesial relationships and liturgies abide rather than overcome racial and cultural difference. If Christians want to heal social divisions, then they must reimagine the space of connection and belonging. The process of joining and reimagining begins with what Jennings calls radical remembering. According to Jennings, colonialism developed racial identity not when European expansion absorbed differences but when whiteness displaced ‘the earth as the signifier of identities’.19 As Europeans set foot on unknown shores and beheld unfamiliar earthlings, they assembled a scale of existence in order to make sense of new encounters and facts that did not accord with their imagination of the world. This scale arranges lives while displacing people. It regards these people as commodities instead of as persons living somewhere rather than anywhere. It treats people abstractly when in fact they are particular individuals who occupy a place that includes nonhuman lives and geographical features. Radically remembering a place discerns these histories and stories of people whose identity was inextricably intertwined with place.20 That is, it is an historical and discursive practice of imagining people with identities that cannot be carried around on one’s body. Imagined accounts of radical remembering are instructive recourses, outlining and clarifying the vital motives and emotional bonds of communities ordered by their relation with the landscape. Again, Berry’s narrative is self-consciously cautious and reticent, which shows one way of radically remembering without cultural appropriation. Berry’s vaunting of a small land-owner’s connection to land will always be different from the connection of his black worker who has been denied the right to own himself, let alone fair wages or land. And yet the similarities are instructive: Berry and Jennings share a mutual respect for the soil engendered by a vision that in turn patterns affections; both Berry and Jennings argue that fidelity to place shapes inner lives—affections and commitments—the virtues and qualities of which are dramatised and embodied in biography.21 Radical remembering is part of the fight for a new imagined space of communion, ‘where the people of God reach down to join the land and reach out to join those around them’.22 iii. association, memory, and restraint in andy catlett Andy Catlett: Early Travels is such an imagined account of radical remembering, in which Berry integrates his experience into imagination.23 The novel returns to the dynamics and habits of mind Berry explored in The Hidden Wound, as well as the black lives he recounted there whose presence in part functions to haunt the story as a reminder of his racist heritage. In The Hidden Wound Berry seems to regret fictionalising Aunt Georgie in A Place On Earth, because doing so gave her and Nick ‘an imaginative stability at the cost of oversimplifying them’.24 Nick and Aunt Georgie have a kinetic presence in Berry’s memory, the untamable energy of which he wants to honour. So why fictionalise them again in Andy Catlett: Early Travels as Dick and Sarah Jane (compare with Nick and Aunt Georgie)? The difference between A Place On Earth and Andy Catlett is in the style of narration, particularly in Andy’s associations of thought and memory that record Port William’s formative presence in his life. Memory is the dynamic ‘ancestor of consciousness’.25 The associative perspective shows the meandering path of this dynamic, following the routes that reveal the sources of his consciousness. The style prevents fictionalisation from becoming a stabilising force and instead captures the continuous, unpredictable influence of remembered lives on the narrator. The truth of Dick and Sarah Jane is not found in the extent to which they reflect the lives of Nick and Aunt Georgie but in the invocation of a consciousness in which they are dynamically present. In short, the novel reproduces the reality of memory.26 Andy Catlett is a memoir that focuses on a few days at the end of 1943 when Andy travelled alone as a nine year old to visit his grandparents. The stories weave together two perspectives—the boy’s, the old man’s—to both remember what rural life used to be as well as its meaning for one person. The momentum for the novel is the tension between the two points of view: a boy’s excitement and an old man’s melancholy, the possibility of anything and the loss of everything. The movement is an exploration of a mind for which Port William, the narrator says, is ‘my motherland, the mold I was cast in’.27 Preserving childlike qualities into old age makes possible such a place-shaped mind. Andy’s characteristic candour and tendency for reverie develop with experience but never lose their boyish nature. In Andy’s memory all the members of Port William ‘seem now to be gathered into a love that is at once a boy’s and an aging man’s’.28 Andy seems to be echoing Wordsworth’s well-known lines: The Child is father of the Man; And I could wish my days to be Bound each to each by natural piety.29 Berry quotes this passage in the Hidden Wound to say that there is ‘a legacy to be carried over intact from childhood to manhood’ and that there is ‘a moral obligation to live in manhood under the tutelage of the legacy of childhood’.30 Far from indicating a ‘state of consciousness to be left behind’, Berry argues that the measure for ethical judgments is found in ‘childhood vision’.31 The legacy of childhood vision is its truthfulness stripped of social convention. Children are those not yet trained to treat people as abstractions and categories. The responsibility of the adult is neither to put away such childish things nor to avoid maturing experiences but to maintain that candour as a lively resource of the mind. The legacy of truthfulness is the source of joy and wonder in the child and sympathy in the adult.32 Andy Catlett’s early education into the ways of the Port William community in turn educates adult experience through ‘an old man, traveling as a child among the dead’.33 The pedagogical tension between the boy’s and old man’s perspective is a kind of dialectic. The child is tested and then becomes the test. Childhood vision and adult experience are not opposed but qualify one another.34 Because it is an education in loss that points backward to the source of truthfulness in the boy, the dialectic is a process of examination that strips away rather than builds up. Knowledge is not a stack of lessons one on top of another that build toward a resolution in virile, consummate adulthood. Rather, for Andy, gaining knowledge builds tension that has no resolution, ‘learning something that I have never stopped learning and will never learn completely’.35 That learning is not just about the inevitability of loss but also about ‘gratitude for what is lost’.36 Put paradoxically, Andy’s memory of Port William gathers its membership in a love lit by the shadow of death. The child’s authoritative vision is not itself free from tension. The novel might be a bildungsroman but in addition to being about Andy’s ‘first step into manhood’ it is also an education in loss, his time spent in a world disappearing and despised.37 Whereas Berry criticises white supremacist socialisation that bestows adulthood on those made ‘comfortable among the grownups’ lies’, learning to be an adult in Andy Catlett is learning how to accept the limitations and dependencies of the mortal condition.38 His childhood provides the disciplining force for this education and also contains the seeds of its regression. Andy remembers himself being both ‘a fourth-grade Thomas Paine’ at school and a ‘Daniel Boone’ at home.39 Andy’s legacy includes both the revolutionary and the colonialist. Andy also happens to be reading Sidney Lanier’s The Boy’s King Arthur during his trip. The particular lives of Dick and Sarah Jane are contrasted with the legacy of chivalry and its attendant culture of etiquette meant to train children in the art of self-deception. The tension within the child’s mind between colonialism and justice is the burgeoning sense that the freedom he wants might come at the expense of others. The thing against which he fights is not outside him. Candour comes naturally but is not naturally preserved. If the child’s legacy is to remain a lively source of growing into adulthood by learning to die rather than learning to lie, it will require another virtue: patience. Truthfulness comes to those who wait. The key to being a good student is being patient, which is difficult for a boy and necessary for an old man. Patience is a quality of character but it also has its dangers. It takes patience to see the beauty and dignity of a simpler life—rural simplicity is presented by Andy as childlike—but bringing justice to a racist order and the social masks it hides behind is urgent. Waiting can be risky. The possibilities and dangers are held together in the novel by its narration of time. ‘Time is told by death,’ says Andy, but also adds that it is also told ‘by love continuing in gratitude for what is lost.’40 Time is narrated through past and future, firsts and lasts, leaving the present inscrutable. Though the present moment is ‘eternal,’ Andy says, ‘if we are quiet enough, eternity falls upon us and makes its claim.’41 Patience reveals present obligations but cannot hold back history’s waves of losses and grievances. Such a narrative about time can have no resolution, from which Berry refrains. The pain and gratitude that animate Andy’s story feel authentic because they emerge out of an arc committed to irresolution.42 The novel’s uncertainty reveals Andy’s patience as a generous openness to other minds. Andy’s reflection on the conditions of possibility for his place-shaped mind reckons with the other minds that shaped his place. The last experience of Andy’s story is watching a few men play a game of gin rummy to no end. He is ‘wide awake’ but quiet; he remembers that he ‘sat without moving’.43 But his mind has never stopped its meandering. His body is still but his thoughts search out the ancestors of his consciousness. The constant moving keeps these lives from being stable presences for Andy. His own memory moves back and forth between characters, telling us what he has forgotten and his absentmindedness. This mode allows for a search for truth that can never be found or arrived at, which presents the life of the characters—those remembered and remembering—incomplete. Andy shows the power of Dick and Sarah Jane to live on and change in his consciousness. Their fluctuations and threads have no purpose or end that unifies them into one neat braid. They are a ‘knot in the net’ that have captured Andy.44 The book is Andy’s rambling through that net, exploring some knots more than others, returning to some, flying by others. Berry’s associative retrospection depicts the process by which Andy enters the minds of others. Readers enter this process by way of entering Andy’s mind. After the bus drops off Andy his grandfather Catlett and Dick pick him up on a team of mules. The images and memories follow the road leading to the farm and flow at the rate of a wagon pulled at four-miles-an-hour. Such pace allows Berry to connect Andy’s associations between the place and its people. Andy’s mind jumps around but his memories and thoughts always make known his ‘sense of place … the place, the season, the weather, the work going on’.45 Crossing the threshold into his grandfather’s farm is both ‘the entrance into a place’ as well as the entrance into Andy’s memory of his ‘father’s childhood’.46 Having this sense of place engages the minds of those who helped cultivate it. Entering a certain space gains access to those who work in it. The more intimate the relationship Andy has with people, the deeper his understanding of their space. Bringing these all together reveals Andy’s character. Grandma Catlett’s kitchen and its utensils are described with extravagant detail: ‘the towel hanging above [the washstand] from a nail in the door facing was half a flour sack, hemmed up, with a worked buttonhole in each end so that when one end got dirty the clean end could then be used’.47 Andy’s abundance of description match the abundance of Grandma Catlett’s kitchen though the latter ‘would be counted a poor thing by modern standards’.48 In the midst of an occasion of extravagance—baking a pie with more sugar than would have been acceptable during wartime rationing—Andy remarks that she is haunted by ‘a peculiar sorrow’ that came ‘from her settled conviction of the tendency of things to be unsatisfactory, to fail to live up to expectation, to fall short’.49 Yet the old Andy divulges his own peculiar distress that comes from a dissatisfaction of his world that he claims cannot ‘remember either the timely world of nature or the eternal world of the prophets and poets’.50 When Andy says that after only a few years the new world supplanted the old ‘so that no place anywhere would ever again be satisfied to be what it was’ he reveals more about himself than of the new world.51 It is an example of the old Andy failing his childhood vision of direct experience in favour of abstraction and generalisation.52 The novel repeats this association of people and places in Andy’s mind throughout. Enter Jess and Rufus Brightleafs’ stripping room where tobacco is prepared for market. The two brothers set the standard for good farm practices, whose abilities make the order of the space more significant in Andy’s memory than the apparatuses. Uncle Ernest’s woodshop also beckons, and though it too is orderly it is the tools and mystery of Ernest’s woodworking that capture Andy’s attention. Like the contours of space, animals also shape those closest to him. Grandpa Catlett’s life has been shaped around his ‘lovesickness for good horses and mules’.53 Andy’s boyhood vision shines through when his memory of these spaces and their inhabitants reveals something of their unique wonder. The old Catlett’s house ‘clicked and ticked in the nighttime cold, and the wind, I thought, was trying to wrap all the way around the walls’;54 the stripping room was a place of ‘beautiful browns of the graded leaves in the discriminate north light’;55 ‘Ernest’s shop was back at the end of the alley, sort of unlooked-at, out on the edge of things.’56 These descriptions preserve the child’s fascination at the existence of the world, and also express something of the mature intentionality behind their various constructions. The old Andy’s achievement is this blending of his memories with what he learned from and about his mentors—together the two are mutually revealing.57 Berry’s style is most effectively communicated in this way when it comes to Andy’s memories of Dick and Aunt Jane. It is with these two black lives that Berry’s style presents fully-imagined people from other cultures without appropriation. The qualities of character and practices Berry lauds of Nick and Aunt Georgie in The Hidden Wound are manifest in Berry’s delineation of Dick and Aunt Sarah Jane but not without remainder. The elder Andy reckons with his hidden wound, recalling his experience of his friends’ lives and probing the culturally instilled tactics of self-deception that obscure his memory. Andy and his brother had a friendship with Dick that was ‘at an angle to the custom’ insofar as to them Dick was not a part of a race but ‘he was merely himself’ as an actual person without explanatory label or determinative category.58 Such immediacy comes from the unconscious perception of a child. Aunt Sarah Jane’s mind was ‘yeasty’, full of intriguing stories and weighty knowledge of what she had seen in the world.59 Andy’s mind is ‘perfectly compatible’ with Sarah Jane’s.60 And yet also present in his mind are racist social conventions that do not reside on the surface of ‘conscious intensions’ because they were assumed, their injustice concealed by both ‘daily custom’ and ‘the exigencies and preoccupations of daily life’.61 Andy is in a mire of tacit complicity. He wants to remember Dick and Sarah Jane as he affectionately knew them denuded of racist trappings. But lurking behind his boyhood travels is the mystique of chivalry; Andy is tempted to give his family and place a ‘charm of distance and history almost like the stories of King Arthur’.62 The hope that his stories would show how his family did no harm threaten Andy’s self-exploration the way chivalric narratives render silent the hard history of slavery.63 Andy’s later interest about slavery, the Klan, and the Civil War are questions left unanswered, the pertinent information always left unsaid by those in the know.64 These questions mark the silences in Andy’s mind that give shape to his wound. Dick and Aunt Sarah Jane appear vividly when Andy recalls seemingly random memories. In these instances, the memories shed the intentionality of Andy’s conscious thought and appear as they would to a child. Andy moves from thinking about Dick in terms of their relationship to his death, moving through what he knew of Dick’s relationships and differences from his grandfather. When he gets to Dick’s final silence and burial in the segregated black graveyard, Andy recalls some of Dick’s expressions, including his praise for a quality horse: ‘[y]ou be standing half a mile off, you’d hear her hit the pike: racka-tacka racka-tacka racka-tacka!’65 The rhythm and cadence break through and make manifest Dick’s pleasure in the mare. When Andy reflects on the racial arrangement of his culture he remembers a conversation he heard Dick ventriloquise between ‘Sambo’ and ‘Massa’. Dick’s bitterness is divulged despite the absence of the actual dialogue. Instead, Andy’s confusion and discomfort of the incident shows his distance. The explicit cause of Dick’s bitterness is left unknown, giving his bitterness a depth and integrity that is his alone and not determined by Andy’s considered interpretation. These moments convey an authenticity that is lacking in interpretive glosses on Dick’s life as ‘less dragged upon by past and future’ or not dependent ‘upon accumulations’.66 In this way, Andy’s retrospection—whose motive force are the associations of thought and memory—articulates silences, and it is this reticence where the memoir finds its success. Both patience and irresolution culminate in restraint to say or do too much. The authorities on patience are the African Americans and the land. Dick is twice described as patient, and Joe Banion, who worked for Andy’s other grandparents and was also likely once their slave, taught Andy ‘how to be quiet, how to look until I saw’.67 At the novel’s end, Andy walks to the store where the old men play their unceasing card game and notices the stillness and quiet luminosity of the landscape: ‘[t]he whole country seemed to be meditating on itself, as if consciously submitted to whatever was to come.’68 Part of what is illuminated is the game of rummy, which is actually a game of waiting, ‘submitted as the countryside around them was submitted’.69 The silences that outline Andy’s wounds—his tacit complicity—are attended to in his submission to those voices that have been silenced, who do not say very much. Not that they would not have much to say if they were doing the narrating, but Andy does not appropriate that position. Instead, when the customs and sharp judgments are stripped away, what is left is a disposition of receptive openness—a place where one can be ready to listen and begin again. All of this is revealed in Berry’s style. Andy’s candour, patience, and education in loss are represented in the associations of a retrospective, self-interrogating narrative voice. Instead of writing a slave narrative or a story that dramatises the social construction of racism, Berry writes a memoir of a man determinatively shaped by a place that was in turn shaped in a significant way by racial hierarchy and racist ideology. Berry peers into the mind damaged by its perpetuation, however unwilling, of racist culture, rather than one damaged by its subjugation to that culture.70 The voice that materialises from merging the child’s and old man’s perspectives proceeds more by candour than will.71 The old man’s perspective is measured by the child’s, but not only in terms of what it shows the old man has been prepared for—in this case, the white culture distinguished by its limitations and silences. It is also the touchstone for the unembellished respect that lets the world speak. Setting this regard in a world haunted by slavery demonstrates both the generative and abortive silences. The denouement of the narrative is a silence that does not protect vulnerability but clears a way for companionship. Berry arrives here through a style that opens up and exposes Andy’s soul—his affections.72 The structure of Andy’s story and its wayward mode of narration interrupt the systematic roles and feelings expected in what Andy calls the ‘history of racism’. This interruption is particularly aimed at the ‘feelings that were prescribed’ to Berry by his society’s racism.73 Andy demonstrates not only the dignity and virtues of Dick but also his own complicated and conflicting emotions in a world consisting of white grandparents and their black servants. Andy’s reflections neither enact nor invite pity. The reader is never granted access to Dick outside of a boy’s memories of affection, and this is likely to offend some modern audiences. The conditions of Dick’s and Sarah Jane’s lives are presented in a sober, straight-forward account. Berry’s story instead attends to the subtle attributes of a white boy’s love for a black hired hand. The dignity and virtues of Dick and Sarah Jane are revealed as they come to be known through this boy’s affection, rather than the pity of an aspiring writer.74 Though this mode avoids voice appropriation, and the essentialised caricatures that usually come with appropriation, it breaks with public sentiment. The stock feelings of conceited pity and saccharine appetite for the triumph of the human spirit in the midst of horrific violence are not made available to the reader. Thus the reader’s own prescribed feelings are challenged. The standard question: ‘what do you make of these marginal black lives?’ is replaced with: ‘what do you make of this boy’s feelings?’75 The self-critical reflection and honest self-searching with which they are articulated give Andy’s affection an integrity that makes its case. Andy respects Dick’s and Sarah Jane’s humanity and learns from them. For Andy, the dignity of black lives is significant as an ongoing moral, economic, and cultural resource. The reader must in turn reckon with a dignity of abused lives that not only needs to be non-paternalistically protected but also a pedagogic authority to submit to and respect. iv. conclusion Andy Catlett dramatises Berry’s self-aware, circumspect imagination of white privilege. Berry investigates and negotiates the ongoing presence of both the influence and violent history of marginalised members of the community not by telling the story of the black farmer but by telling the story of a white boy’s memory of a black farmer. Certainly, what is produced is something conditioned by his own privilege and perception. But what readers see is a disciplined imagination that is all about particularity and love, which makes it a starting point for Berry’s interpreters and advocates interested in using his literature as a basis for contemporary agrarianism. Some may point out that the attempt is halting and flawed, but more often than not the experience of investigating one’s own white privilege is indeed halting and flawed.76 Others may miss the attempt and see only a settler imagination of place, seeing in Berry just another southerner trying to defend against northern impingement that reinscribes its racist heritage of maintaining culture and borders. Nevertheless, the unsteady, wandering narrative committed equally to place and irresolution is what it means to radically remember in ways that neither require displacement for learning about community nor avoid the legacy of racism that conditions the present. Instead, as Jennings envisions, Berry’s narrative style that moves by way of association, recollection, and reticence joins land and others into a space of communion.77 REFERENCES Footnotes 1 Claudia Rankine, Citizen: An American Lyric, 3rd printing (Minneapolis, MN: Graywolf, 2014), p. 135. 2 On 15 February 2014 the prosecution of accused shooter of 17-year-old Jordan Russell Davis, Michael Dunn, ended in a mistrial. He was later convicted of first-degree murder in October. 3 Interview with Claudia Rankine, The Guardian, 27 December 2015. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/dec/27/claudia-rankine-poet-citizen-american-lyric-feature. 4 For instance, one sociological study in rural Iowa found that ‘Midtown residents also emphasized increased racial–ethnic diversity within Midtown as a prime contributing factor to their sense of alienation from other community residents.’ Nancy A. Naples, ‘Contradictions in Agrarian Ideology Restructuring Gender, Race-Ethnicity, and Class’, Rural Sociology 59.1 (1994) 110–35. Deborah Fink has also highlighted the masculinity of agrarian ideology. See Deborah Fink, Agrarian Women: Wives and Mothers in Rural Nebraska, 1880–1940 (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1992). While there has been theoretical and sociological research to show how these images of agrarian communities have themselves become stereotypes, the assumption that rural North Americans are backwards and racist still dominates the popular imagination. See for example Michael Kimmel, ‘America’s angriest white men: Up close with racism, rage, and white supremacy’, Salon, Sunday, 17 November 2013. Available at: http://www.salon.com/2013/11/17/americas_angriest_white_men_up_close_with_racism_rage_and_southern_supremacy/. 5 Berry’s ‘romanticized American agrarian imaginary erases the explicitly racist ways in which, historically, American land has been distributed and labor has been organized, erasures that ramify today in more subtle cultural coding of small-scale farming’. Julie Guthman, ‘“If They Only Knew”: The Unbearable Whiteness of Alternative Food’, in Alison Hope Alkon and Julian Agyeman (eds), Cultivating Food Justice: Race, Class, and Sustainability (Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2011), p. 276. Berry’s writings about the commitment to ‘living with the land are valuable thought experiments’ but ‘become imaginative dead ends’ as models of being environmentally conscious because they are attempts to reconnect to the land based on social and financial privilege not equally available. Ursula K. Heise, Sense of Place and Sense of Planet: The Environmental Imagination of the Global (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), p. 48. Because Berry’s imagination originates in the experience and perspective of the settled farmer, he ‘reinscribes the marginalization of migrant, undocumented, tenant, and temporary workers’. Janet Fiskio, ‘Unsettling Ecocriticism: Rethinking Agrarianism, Place, and Citizenship’, American Literature 84.2 (2012) 308. While Berry’s vision may not be impossible to imagine, it is nevertheless ‘somewhat easier’ to imagine rural communities as ‘racist, backwards, etc. from which people flee to urban centres’. Greg Garrard, Ecocriticsm (The New Critical Idiom) (New York: Routledge, 2012), p. 125. 6 Robin DiAngelo, ‘White Fragility’, International Journal of Critical Pedagogy 3.3 (2011) 54–70. 7 Beth Loffreda and Claudia Rankine, ‘Introduction’, in Claudia Rankine, Beth Loffreda, and Max King Cap (eds), The Racial Imaginary: Writers on Race in the Life of the Mind (Albany, NY: Fence Books, 2015), pp. 15–16. 8 Loffreda and Rankine, ‘Introduction’, pp. 17–18. 9 Freyfogle also criticises Berry’s novels for their limited political effect; however, these criticisms are still in line with his primary concern for ‘private property, liberty, or any other high cultural element’ that overrides issues pertaining to Indigenous people and migrant workers. See Eric T. Freyfogle, ‘Wendell Berry and the Limits of Populism’, Wendell Berry: Life and Work (Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 2007), p. 189. 10 Eric T. Freyfogle, Bounded People, Boundless Land: Envisioning A New Land Ethic (Washington DC: Island Press, 1988), p. 82. 11Ibid., pp. 83–4. 12Ibid., p. 117. 13Ibid., p. 119. 14Ibid., p. 49. 15 Mick Smith, ‘Review Article—Bioregional Visions’, Environmental Politics 10.2 (2001) 140–4. The same might be said of Berry’s use of ‘health’ as the standard for membership when he says: ‘The idea of a healthy community is an indispensable measure.’ Wendell Berry, ‘Field Observations: An Interview with Wendell Berry’, in Morris Allen Grubbs (ed.), Conversations with Wendell Berry (Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2007), p. 102. The difference here is that Berry uses his conceptual construct to investigate his social heritage and political sensibilities rather than deploy it unquestioningly. 16 ‘The Long Night’ is another example of Berry writing about his local history that foregrounds rather than avoids violence and race. It is a poem written as a dialogue between ‘the white woman’ and ‘the black woman’. As with Andy Catlett, Berry uses a perspective that avoids an omniscient narrator with total access to the black character. Wendell Berry, ‘The Long Night’, The Southern Review (Autumn 1978) 726–35. 17 Wendell Berry, Hidden Wound (San Francisco, CA: North Point Press, 1989), p. 104. 18 Willie Jennings, Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2010). 19Ibid., p. 58. 20Ibid., pp. 286–7. 21 Though Jennings’ biographies are historical figures and the work of Berry’s that I focus on here is fiction, both show how people interpret their world by telling stories and giving an account of a person’s life. 22 Jennings, Christian Imagination, p. 286. 23 The relationship between memory and imagination, particularly as it pertains to historical influences on fiction, requires further explanation. The similarities between Andy and Berry are widely recognised and yet Andy remains a fictional character. My point here is to argue that, while Andy Catlett is a work of fiction, it is in part sourced from Berry’s childhood memories. Talking about how his childhood experience fits with the fictional world of the Port William geography and community in Andy Catlett, Berry says: ‘[t]he experience that I had as a child is inevitably skewed … and yet memory and imagination can be put together in a kind of coherence, and the two points of view give dimension that it wouldn’t otherwise have.’ Wendell Berry, ‘Rendering Us Again in Affection: An Interview with Wendell Berry’, in Morris Allen Grubbs (ed.), Conversations With Wendell Berry (Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2007), p. 188. 24 Berry, Hidden Wound, pp. 49–50. 25Ibid., p. 49. 26 The importance of memory is found in most of Berry’s fiction. As Jeffrey Bilbro rightly points out, ‘memory comprises an integral part of his culturally embattled agrarian and ecological vision’. Jeffrey Bilbro, ‘The Ecology of Memory: Augustine, Eliot, and the Form of Wendell Berry’s Fiction’, Christianity and Literature 65.3 (2016) 327–42. 27 Wendell Berry, Andy Catlett: Early Travels, Port William Series (Berkeley, CA: Counterpoint, 2006), p. 99. 28Ibid., p. 72. 29 The allusion to Wordsworth is from Roy Hoffman’s review, ‘Boy on the Bus’, New York Times, 28 January 2007 accessed at http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/28/books/review/Hoffman.t.html?_r=0. 30 Berry, Hidden Wound, p. 58. 31Ibid., pp. 59, 61. 32 Robert Pogue Harrison has a helpful discussion of how Wordsworth’s poetry reveals the strain of aging and the agony of revisiting the qualities of childhood. Harrison could be describing Andy’s thoughts when he says ‘the thoughts are those of an adult who delves once again, albeit in a more mature mode, into the primordial sources of childhood marvel—sources that are too deep for tears because from them flows the love of the world that binds us to life itself’. Juvenescence: A Cultural History of Our Age (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2014), p. 38. 33 Berry, Andy Catlett, p. 119. 34 Berry gestures toward such an attempt in the Hidden Wound. After listing several relevant conditions of mainstream white society, he admits it is too general, saying he would like to ‘qualify it, not by changing it but by adding something to it’. Hidden Wound, p. 70. Berry outlines the role of older people to qualify rather than oppose young people, which also indicates the need for the latter to be a driving force for standards and possibilities: ‘[t]here’s a sort of gift to humanity that each generation of young people renews. They feel in their bones what’s desirable. “It would be great if we could be free.’ And the function of older people in the society is not to oppose that, but to qualify it.’ Berry, Conversations, pp. 10–11. 35 Berry, Andy Catlett, p. 139. 36Ibid., p. 119. 37Ibid., p. 4. 38 ‘In order that his childhood experience of the common humanity of the black and white races may be submerged in the sense of racial difference, thence in the sense of his own racial superiority, he must learn to look on his childhood as a detachable, inferior, and irrelevant period of his life; in short, he makes himself comfortable among the grownups’ lies, and so considers himself a man.’ Berry, Hidden Wound, pp. 60–1. 39 Berry, Andy Catlett, p. 5. 40Ibid., p. 119. 41Ibid. 42 Irresolution does not prevent action but names the condition in which we act. Elsewhere Berry talks about the ‘way of ignorance’ and the need to make decisions with insufficient knowledge. As such, the movement toward irresolution is another kind of dialectic. Wendell Berry, ‘Standing by Words’, Standing By Words (Washington DC: Shoemaker & Hoard, 1979), p. 29. 43 Berry, Andy Catlett, p. 139. 44Ibid., p. 77. 45Ibid., p. 22. 46Ibid., p. 23. 47Ibid., p. 33. 48Ibid., p. 35. 49Ibid., p. 36. 50Ibid., p. 93. 51Ibid., p. 18. 52 Roy Hoffman suggests this is a failure on Berry’s part. Perhaps; however, a charitable reader might still agree with Hoffman’s assessment that ‘sometimes … the aging man, not so much reflective as opinionated, crowds out his younger self’ but see this as Andy’s failure. Instances such as this one bring other reflections into relief, signaling to the reader that the successful moments are those when the child’s virtues stand out. ‘Boy on the Bus’, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/28/books/review/Hoffman.t.html?_r=0. 53 Berry, Andy Catlett, p. 64. 54Ibid., p. 67. 55Ibid., p. 71. 56Ibid., pp. 94–5. 57 Some of Berry’s readers may balk at his narrators’ male perspective, which can be seen to underwrite stereotypical views of rural life as particularly difficult and oppressive for women. It is interesting to note, however, that Andy’s interest in collecting the memories of the community place him more comfortably in the company of women. Andy submits to these women who keep Port William’s history. Perhaps, as Kimberly Smith suggests, it is the men that portray the body’s grace in their farming, but it is the women who are the custodians of its memory and affection. See Kimberly K. Smith, Wendell Berry and the Agrarian Tradition: A Common Grace (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2003), p. 160. For an account of how Berry’s agrarianism criticises traditional constructions of masculinity, see Kimberly K. Smith, ‘Wendell Berry’s Feminist Agrarianism’, Women’s Studies 30.5 (2001) 623–46. 58 Berry, Andy Catlett, p. 24. 59 Sarah Jane resembles Aunt Georgie more than Aunt Fanny, who ‘comes off as a much simpler character’. Georgie had lived in the city and ‘her mind, in its way of rambling and sampling, had become curiously cosmopolitan’. Berry, Hidden Wound, p. 33. Andy’s description of Sarah Jane’s mind and its strong judgments in Andy’s self-examination capture the complexity Berry says of Georgie. See Berry, Andy Catlett, pp. 73–7; see also p. 74. 60 Berry, Andy Catlett, p. 75. 61Ibid. 62Ibid., p. 83. 63 Berry discusses the malevolency of chivalric narratives of the Old South that romanticise history and conceal the injustice of its violence. Berry, Hidden Wound, p. 15. 64 Berry, Andy Catlett, p. 70. 65Ibid., p. 26. 66Ibid., p. 27. 67 Berry suggests that Nick ‘never ran out of patience’. Hidden Wound, p. 23. See also Berry, Andy Catlett, p. 122. 68 Berry, Andy Catlett, p. 136–7. 69Ibid., p. 139. 70 Berry contributes to the writing Toni Morrison calls for when she proposes, ‘serious intellectual effort to see what racial ideology does to the mind, imagination, and behavior of masters’. Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination (New York: Vintage Books, 1992), pp. 11–12. The Hidden Wound is Berry’s sustained intellectual effort to see how racial ideology shaped his mind; however, Andy Catlett, I argue, is more successful because of what its style contributes to that effort. 71 Berry’s sense of childhood here has religious resonances. Berry balks at the need for religious work to be consciously willed: ‘[b]ut Jesus seems to me to have had some strong reservations about the efficacy of the human will—as when He made “a little child” the standard of goodness.’ Berry, Conversations, p. 129. 72 There are some resonances of the way Berry uses the associations of thought and memory to reveal his narrator with the stream of consciousness perspective. James Wood’s analysis of stream of consciousness is somewhat illuminative here as it is, according to him, ‘the mode [that] serves truth …’ the essential premise of which ‘is that it enables us to get closer to, or burrow deeper into, a soul’. James Wood, Broken Estate: Essays on Literature and Belief (New York: Picador, 1999), p. 102. Wood’s literary criticism influences my approach to Andy Catlett, especially his essays on Virginia Woolf and Thomas Mann in Broken Estate. 73 Berry, The Hidden Wound, p. 50. 74 See, for example, Kathryn Stockett, The Help (New York: Berkley, 2011). One scathing review of The Help underlines the problems of white authors writing about black lives, especially those authors who not only lack insight into those lives but also who present them in a ‘cultural vacuum’ as if no black artist or activist has written about them before. Lynn Crosbie: ‘Bestseller novel The Help needs help with its history homework.’ The Globe and Mail, Saturday, 6 August 2011. 75 Another Wordsworth poem in the background here might be ‘The Idiot Boy’, which equally challenges the reader’s emotional response. As David Bromwich points out: ‘The orthodox question—What kind of feeling ought he to elicit?—has been replaced with the question, What can I feel about him? Wordsworth thought it was possible for the reader to have feelings other than generous pity for a human aberration.’ David Bromwich, Moral Imagination (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2014), pp. 10–11. Bromwich’s reflection on Wordsworth here has influenced my approach to reading Berry. 76 It would be interesting and illuminating to compare Berry's novel with another work from an earlier age in order to gauge what is particular to this moment of writing about race as compared to perennial issues. One story, for example, with real affinities with Berry’s is Flannery O’Connor’s ‘The Artificial Nigger’. Both unfold in a wandering narrative through generational communication between grandparent and grandchild, but O’Connor’s story and commentary bear significant differences in writing and location. A detailed comparison warrants its own essay-length consideration. Suffice it to say here, that while O’Connor’s story is a poignant attempt to dramatise the grace that overcomes mimetic rivalry in order to ‘invert racist intention into antiracist redemption’, she uses black suffering as a cipher for Christian salvation. Ralph C. Wood, Flannery O’Connor and the Christ-Haunted South (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2004), p. 144. Like Berry, she does not appropriate the voice of African-American characters to tell the story of black suffering—the story is told through Nelson and Mr Head; however, because her style is notoriously extreme, compared to Berry’s tacit approach, she resorts to using images that are either stereotypes or abstractions. O’Connor herself once wrote: ‘In Southern literature the Negro, without losing his individuality is a figure for our darker selves, our shadow side.’ Unpublished manuscript, O’Connor collection. Quoted in Frederick Asals, Flannery O’Connor: The Imagination of Extremity (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1982), p. 86. Thanks to the reviewer who pointed out the comparison with O’Connor and also special thanks to Irwin Streight for offering me his insights on O’Connor and directing me to Wood and Asals. 77 Thanks to Jeffrey Bilbro, Jason Peters, and the two anonymous reviewers all of whom offered comments and criticisms to previous drafts of this article. © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press 2018; all rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/open_access/funder_policies/chorus/standard_publication_model)
Literature and Theology – Oxford University Press
Published: Sep 1, 2018
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