Indiana University

Skip to:

  1. Search
  2. Breadcrumb Navigation
  3. Content
  4. Browse by Topic
  5. Services & Resources
  6. Additional Resources
  7. Multimedia News

Media Contacts

Nancy Webber
Office of the Provost

Indermohan Virk
Executive Director, William T. Patten Foundation

Last modified: Monday, October 18, 2010

Writer, poet and critic Wendell Berry to speak at next Patten Foundation lectures

October 18, 2010

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. --- One of America's preeminent philosophers of place, a leading advocate for environmental stewardship, and a fierce critic of agribusiness, Wendell Berry will present two Patten Foundation lectures this November at Indiana University.

Berry first came to literary notice as a poet in the 1960s. Since then, he has written numerous books of poetry, nonfiction works and novels. He will read selections from this powerful body of work on Nov. 9 (Tuesday) and on Nov. 11 (Thursday). Both lectures will take place in Rawles Hall, Room 100 at 7:30 p.m.

Also, as part of the College of Arts and Sciences Fall 2010 Themester theme "sustain.ability: Thriving on a Small Planet" speaker and panel series, Berry will converse with Wes Jackson of the Land Institute, moderated by Scott Russell Sanders, on Nov. 10 (Wednesday) at 7:30 p.m. in the Ballantine 013 on the Bloomington campus. For more information, see

Additionally, the semi-staged version of Hymnody of Earth, a song cycle written in 1991 with music by Malcolm Dalglish and text by Wendell Berry, will be presented and performed collaboratively by members of the Bloomington community with Berry on Nov. 12 (Friday) at 8:00 p.m. at the Buskirk Chumley Theatre. For more information, see

Sustainability is the thread running through all of Berry's literary works. He articulates a persistent criticism of industrial agriculture, with its reliance on fossil fuels, mono-cultural techniques and a studied ignorance of the local context in its drive for efficiency and profits. Using views derived from his own Christian religious heritage, as well as teachings from Native American traditions and Eastern thought, Berry voices the imperative of caring for all of creation, rejecting the dominant Western ideology that the Earth belongs to humans. Rather, in his view, humans belong to the Earth, one co-equal to other forms of life.

Berry started an academic career in the 1950s, earning a B.A. in 1956 at the University of Kentucky and an M.A. the following year. He studied and taught in Stanford University's creative writing program. Receiving a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1961-62, he subsequently taught at New York University until 1964. He returned to the University of Kentucky, where he served as a distinguished professor of English. He has left academic life for periods, farming and writing fulltime.

Starting with thoughtful poems about humans in relation with other humans and with the natural world, Berry found his métier as a critic of cultural attitudes and social behavior that has contributed to the degradation and the devaluation of the very ecological systems that human life depends upon. As the American environmental movement has metamorphized into the global drive to achieve sustainability, he has been a steady voice of reason and compassion.

His book, The Unsettling of America (Sierra Club Books, 1977), brought his views to a wide reading public. Combining history, a keen observer's eye, and moral suasion, Berry dissects the American body politic -- its technophilia, its reliance on specialized knowledge, and its alienation from the land -- and offers not just a scathing critique but also healing prescriptions. His most recent collection, Bringing It to the Table: On Farming and Food (Counterpoint, 2009), brings his wisdom to bear on a perennial issue made newly relevant by rising public awareness of the relationship between environmental well-being and human health.

Berry is the recipient of many honors, most recently the Louis Bromfield Society award for the support of sustainable agriculture and the Cleanth Brooks Medal for Lifetime Achievement, both in 2009.

For more information on Berry, see

Remaining Patten Series lecture:

Nancy Fraser, Henry A. and Louise Loeb Professor of Politics and Philosophy, New School for Social Research, will lecture during the week of Jan. 23-28, 2011.

Fraser is a political philosopher and feminist theorist whose writing addresses issues surrounding globalization, cosmopolitanism, identity politics, neoliberalism and the welfare state. Her work bridges the world of abstract theory and the world of policy/legal issues. Fraser's scholarship has brought feminist analysis and critical theory to bear on some of the most challenging practical issues facing developed democracies. She addresses a host of questions of broad public interest. How should we conceive of the relationship between identity (e.g., racial and gender equality) and the broader struggle for expanded political and social equality? What place should democratic participation have in our globalizing world and in emerging "post-national" institutions? For more information on Fraser, see

Patten Lecture Series History

The William T. Patten Foundation has provided generous funds to bring to IU Bloomington people of extraordinary national and international distinction since 1937 -- making it the oldest lecture series at Indiana University. More than 180 world-renowned scholars have lectured at Indiana University under its auspices. Noted specialists in their fields, speakers have been chosen for their ability to convey the significance of their work to a general audience. Chosen by a campus-wide faculty committee, Patten lecturers have represented over 50 academic departments and programs. Past lecturers have included Oscar Arias, Jorge Luis Borges, Noam Chomsky, Natalie Zemon Davis, Umberto Eco, Julian S. Huxley, Evelyn Fox Keller, Toni Morrison, Amos Oz, Helmuth Rilling, Edward Said, Amartya Sen, Wole Soyinka, Ren Thom, Lester Thurow, Strobe Talbott, and Martha Nussbaum.

William T. Patten received his A.B. degree in 1893 in history from IU. After graduation he settled in Indianapolis, where he made a career in real estate and politics, including serving as county auditor. He remained appreciative of the educational opportunities that IU had afforded him, and toward the end of his life, in 1931, he made a gift to the university in the form of liberty bonds and Indiana municipal and county bonds. The gift was to be held as an endowment bearing his name, and the income used for bringing to the campus eminent leaders in their fields for residence and lectures to enrich the intellectual life of the campus.

For a more complete history on William T. Patten and further details on the upcoming lecture series, visit

Inquiries about the Patten Foundation and the Patten Lecture Series should be sent to