Wendell Berry on what it is to be parochial

The New Yorker has an interview with Wendell Berry, the writer, farmer and environmentalist, in which he talks about local knowledge, embracing limits, and the exploitation of rural America. This is what he has to say on the distinction between provincialism and parochialism:

You mention in ‘The Art of Loading Brush’ that the word ‘provincialism’ has become problematic.

I was talking about this with Seamus Heaney, who I met a time or two. We had this issue in common. And he directed me to Patrick Kavanagh, who made a distinction between the parochial and the provincial. The provincial person is always looking over his shoulder to see if anybody thinks he’s provincial. This worry is really the identifying mark of provincialism. Whereas, the parochial person is always assured of the imaginative sufficiency of the parish. The local place. It’s a very beautiful way of putting it and Seamus characteristically gave an example of the man from Cork who was sending his sons forth into the world. “My boys remember: never ask a man where he’s from. If he’s from Cork, you’ll know him. If he’s not, you’ll embarrass him.” So there’s the question: Am I going to be parochial or provincial?

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