Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Kentuckian writer and poet, Wendell Berry, is often associated with environmental literature and advocacy. However, often overlooked, much of Berry’s work is inherently religious in nature, specifically Christian. Berry’s poetry expresses many of his personal beliefs regarding life, spirituality, religion, interconnection, stewardship, and agriculture. In particular, Berry often uses characters to communicate these aforementioned personal ideas. This practice can be seen through his utilization of the character of the Mad Farmer within a great deal of his poetry, including poetry dedicated to the Mad Farmer himself. Although this character expresses many of the same beliefs as Berry, he is not a literary embodiment of Berry but rather Berry’s alter ego—a medium in which to freely communicate his grievances with modern society. Arguably, the most famous of Berry’s “Mad Farmer” poems is that of “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front.” Much of the research regarding this poem is directed towards the speaker of the poem, the character of the Mad Farmer, and the social commentary that he provides. Although the Mad Farmer comments on a variety of societal issues and provides many “Berryian” solutions, the encouragement of individual responsibility guided by the sacredness of the natural world cannot be overlooked. Within this thesis, I assert the spiritual and religious function of the natural world within the poem and how devotion to the earth can guide an individual’s sense of spirituality or religiosity. I also indicate how the call to return to an ecological homeostasis by way of environmental stewardship and responsible agriculture is presented as a form of worship. Through “Manifesto,” it seems as if Berry is working toward and communicating an ideal version of Christianity that encompasses his own personal values and beliefs—perhaps even a “Berryian” version of Christianity. This “Berryian” version of Christianity is dominated by the central idea that in order to properly worship the Creator, one must protect the Creator’s most sacred creation: earth and its inhabitants. “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front,” is a call to action for its readers to accept the Christian responsibility of caring for the land in order to “practice resurrection” and participate in their own salvation.
Gurley, T. Greyson MA, "Sacred Earth: The Role of the Natural Divine within Wendell Berry's "Manifesto"" (2022). All Graduate Plan B and other Reports. 1634.
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