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Wendell Berry's World-Ending Fire Graduate Reading Group

Apr 11, 2024May 2, 2024
Gavin House
1220 E 58th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
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Open to current graduate students at the University of Chicago. Participants can come to whichever sessions they choose. Others interested in participating should contact Franklin Joyce at jfjoyce@uchicago.edu. Books and drinks will be provided. 

Wendell Berry is America’s foremost contemporary advocate for a community-centered form of life he calls “agrarianism,”  which focuses on the American relationship to the land and local circumstances. Berry’s articulation of agrarian life reveals the inadequacies of both crass industrialism and the popular “movements” of environmentalism. Furthermore, Berry seriously implements a Christian understanding of a world created by love and entrusted into the care of human stewards. For readers searching to avoid the party slogans or who want a fresh perspective on what it means to be an “American,” Berry is a vital thinker to engage.

SCHEDULE:

This group will meet on Thursdays (beginning April 4th) from 8:00pm - 9:00pm over drinks.

  • April 4: “Native Hill” (Intro to Berry as a thinker)
  • Arpil 11: “Two Minds”/”Quantity versus Form” (Alternative [agrarian] modes of thinking about self, land, death)
  • April 18: “The Work of Local Culture”/”Some Thoughts on Citizenship and Conscience in Honor of Don Pratt” (Agrarian conception of a moral community)
  • April 25: “Faustian Economics”/”Economy and Pleasure” (Critique of economic systems and proposed alternatives)
  • May 2: “The Way of Ignorance”/”In Defense of Literacy” (Popular attitudes on writing/knowledge/specialization with a proposed shift toward literacy)

A copy of World-Ending Fire will be provided to all participants. The reading may be picked up at Gavin House (1220 E 58th street) during buisness hours at the start of the winter quarter.

This reading group is made possible through the support of the grant ‘In Lumine: Supporting the Catholic Intellectual Tradition on Campuses Nationwide’ (Grant #62372) from the John Templeton Foundation.


The University of Chicago is famous for its graduate student reading groups, in which students pursue their own intellectual interests among friends in an informal setting. The Lumen Christi Institute supports this endeavor by sponsoring a number of graduate student reading groups each quarter. LCI provides space, hospitality, and books.

Reading groups cover the whole spectrum of ideas. Texts do not need to be explicitly Catholic, though we follow St. Paul’s injunction to attend to whatever is true, noble, right, admirable, and lovely (Phil 4:8). Groups follow LCI's guiding principles, which...

  • Affirm the intellectual life as good in itself

  • Ask questions animated by the principle that “all knowledge forms one whole”

  • Transcend the ideological / political divide (i.e., programs should not be partisan in nature)

  • Welcome religious perspectives as part of the intellectual life (i.e., programs need not be theological in nature but conversations should be open to religious insights) 

  • Nurture friendships, to support the pursuit of truth, beauty, and goodness (i.e., programs should have a social component)