Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Modernism Got You Down?

A former professor of mine, Nathan Schlueter, is currently on sabbatical at Princeton University, where he is working on his upcoming book, The Humane Vision of Wendell Berry.

For those whom may not know much about Berry, Schlueter says this:
Wendell Berry is a novelist-poet-essayist-critic-farmer from Henry County, Kentucky. Now in his late 70’s, Berry has been writing for over fifty years. He has been married to his wife Tanya even longer. (How many contemporary writers can say that?) And although he has not received the same attention as some of his contemporaries, his influence will likely outlast them. 
His writings, which treat a wide range of subjects, always move to and from a fixed center of human concern. Why are fidelity and public vows central to the meaning of marriage? Can time and labor saving technologies make our lives worse? Is there a way that work can dignify human beings, rather than degrade them? Do human beings require communities of mutual affection and care for their flourishing, and does the free market promote or prevent such communities? Do government and corporations often abuse their power to promote efficiency and economic growth at the expense of families and small communities? Is modern culture based upon a latent dualism and hostility to the body and its limits? What are the limits and dangers of modern science? Can poetry be a source of wisdom and practical knowledge? 
If you are interested in these kinds of questions, then you will be interested in Berry’s writings, and in our book.
At CatholicVote, another former professor of mine (and current friend!), Brad Birzer, interviews Schlueter and their conversation is just lovely.

For example,
BB: What message would you like a reader to take away from this collection? 
NS: The short answer is this: It’s not enough to be counter-cultural; you must become a culture-builder: How you live, eat, love, work, play, and pray are all moral decisions bearing upon your own happiness and the common good. 
The longer answer is this: Ideas have consequences. It is important for Americans to recognize clearly the nature and causes of the perverse utopianism that lies near the heart of liberal society, with its mad Machiavellian quest to gain complete control over a hostile nature for the relief of man’s estate; its destructive romance with autonomous individualism; its Gnostic divisions between person and body, faith and reality; and its steadfast refusal to acknowledge any goodness in the limits of the created order. Berry stands firmly against all the isms that would reduce the whole to one of its parts or dissolve all of the parts into one universal whole. But he also stands for the things that must be defended: piety against pietism, intellect against intellectualism, individuality against individualism, community against communitarianism, liberty against libertarianism.
Read the whole thing here.

For another of example of the great Nathan Schlueter, read his piece "The Romance of Domesticity" in Touchstone Magazine, based off his "Last Lecture" talk he gave my senior year.

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