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Virtues of RenewalWendell Berry's Sustainable Forms$
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Jeffrey Bilbro

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780813176406

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813176406.001.0001

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(p.100) 5 Memory
Virtues of Renewal

Jeffrey Bilbro

University Press of Kentucky

Much modern technology claims to help us manage and conquer time, and yet as we use these technologies, we often become more hurried and frenetic. Rather than trying to control linear time, Berry’s fictional characters learn to participate in cyclic time. This notion of memory has rich theological and literary roots that reach to Augustine, Dante, and T. S. Eliot. Berry’s stories are often narrated by older characters looking back over their lives and stitching meaning together from disparate events; though memory is devalued in a culture where information is always accessible, it remains crucial to discerning complex coherence. Berry’s short story “Pray without Ceasing” exemplifies how this understanding of memory works out in the form of his story, enabling his characters to understand and love the whole pattern of which they are a part. Applying memory’s ability to perceive the whole pattern to ecological concerns may enable us to make decisions that are based not only on our immediate desires or the concerns of photogenic mammals, but also on the whole order. In this way, cultivating memory is a key counter cultural practice that can tune our affections to the larger pattern of creation and liberate love “beyond desire.”

Keywords:   memory, fiction, time, Augustine, Dante, T. S. Eliot

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