Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Richard Taylor, April 30, 2010

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:00 - Agrarianism and education in Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: Okay Richard. So it's April 30th, 2010, and I'm Arwen Donahue, and I'm with Richard Taylor again for our second conversation about, um, Kentucky literature and agrarianism.

Segment Synopsis: Taylor looks at the tradition of Kentucky literature from a historical perspective; most native-born Kentuckians have some connection to farming. From his perspective as a teacher, Taylor reflects upon how this dynamic affects education in Kentucky.

Keywords: "Nature poets"; Agrarianism; Education; Farming; Farms; Governor's Scholars Program; Gray Zeitz; Higher education; Kentuckians; Kentucky culture; Kentucky literature; Rural culture; Wendell Berry

Subjects: Education--Kentucky; Farm life.; Rural conditions; Traditional farming

00:08:23 - Importance of leaving, and returning to, Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: Touching on the idea of education in the state and, um, and the need for the infusion of new ideas...

Segment Synopsis: Taylor believes it's helpful for Kentucky students to leave the state and have experiences in other cultures, but he believes it's equally important for those Kentuckians to return to the state. This dynamic has been true for many Kentucky writers. Politically, he feels that Kentucky's insular culture has had a negative effect on the populace.

Keywords: "Kentuckians by choice"; Centre College; Ed McClanahan; Education; Gurney Norman; James Baker Hall; Kentucky students; Politics; Robert Hazel; Study abroad; Thomas Jefferson; Transylvania University; Wendell Berry

Subjects: Authors.; Rural conditions; Writing

00:14:17 - Connecting rural and urban landscapes / cultivating "creative intelligence"

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Partial Transcript: I, um, I was--have been pretty peripatetic in my life, and have lived in several different places...

Segment Synopsis: The interviewer reflects on the relationship between urban places, rural places, and creativity: which landscapes are most conducive to art-making, and why? Taylor responds that he finds Kentucky an ideal place to be a writer, because there is more interconnection between the rural and urban landscape than is true in many other places. However, he finds that too often teachers do not know how to teach "creative intelligence."

Keywords: "Creative intelligence"; American education; Cities; Farming; Farms; Holler Poets Series; Kentucky; Kentucky education; Landscapes; Place; Rural; The Arts; Transylvania University; Urban; Urban art; Writers

Subjects: Authors.; City and town life; Rural conditions; Writing

00:22:40 - Fostering creative intelligence at Transylvania University and across Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: So, I mean, that's one of my, my interests now in, in, in Transy--at Transy is, is getting opportunities to kind of foster and promote that.

Segment Synopsis: Taylor is working informally with other educators at Transylvania University to promote creative intelligence. He meets many innovative teachers who are interested in helping students develop this intelligence, and his experience with students has been very positive.

Keywords: "Creative intelligence"; Education; Educators; Kentucky schools; Lexington (Ky.); Students; Transylvania University; W.E.B. DuBois

Subjects: Authors.; Education, Higher; Higher education; Teachers; Teaching; Writing

00:25:32 - Access to art in rural places

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Partial Transcript: So, in considering Kentucky's literature, um, and its history, do you feel like people from outside of the region can look in at what Kentucky's--has accomplished in terms of its literature...

Segment Synopsis: Taylor doesn't feel it's necessary to live in cities anymore in order to appreciate art. Technology has enabled rural people to experience art in new ways.

Keywords: Art; Cities; John James Audubon; Kentucky literature; New York City (N.Y.); Rural; Rurality; Technology; Urban

Subjects: Authors.; City and town life; Rural conditions; Writing

00:29:23 - Wendell Berry's significance

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Partial Transcript: We talked a little bit about Wendell Berry in our last interview and I'm, um, I'm wondering if you can assess what you think his importance is, or significance is, to literature in general in the state, and also, um, to beyond the state's borders.

Segment Synopsis: Beginning with the publication of "The Unsettling of America" in 1976, Berry has had a huge impact on how Americans think about agriculture and sustainability. Berry's values are being imparted to incoming freshmen at Transylvania University, who all were required one semester to read Berry's novel "A World Lost." The tradition Berry is fostering helps sustain community in the state.

Keywords: "A World Lost" (Berry novel); "Membership"; "The Unsettling of America"; Community; Farming; Farms; Frankfort (Ky.); Industrialization; Sierra Club; Sustainability; Transylvania University; University Press of Kentucky; Wendell Berry; Wes Jackson

Subjects: Authors.; Berry, Wendell, 1934-; Education, Higher; Higher education; Rural conditions; Traditional farming; Writing

00:36:47 - William Faulkner's significance

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Partial Transcript: When you teach your students about literature, what writers do you feel that it's essential to teach your students about, and why?

Segment Synopsis: Taylor reflects on writers he considers vital in teaching to his students, such as Emily Dickinson and William Faulkner. He reflects on Faulkner's fictional Yoknapatawpha County and its influence on Wendell Berry's Port William membership; on Faulkner's huge influence on Southern writers; and on how rural communities are represented in literature.

Keywords: Agrarianism; Emily Dickinson; Fiction; Kentucky writers; Literature; Port William membership; Rural communities; Southern literature; Southern writers; Wendell Berry; William Faulkner; Yoknapatawpha County

Subjects: Authors.; Dickinson, Emily, 1830-1886; Education, Higher; Faulkner, William, 1897-1962; Higher education; Rural conditions; Traditional farming; Writing

00:42:03 - Importance of education in Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: It's a subject that I think about pretty often, and, um, I see a bright future for American and Kentucky literature.

Segment Synopsis: Education is at the heart of this discussion; a change in how we approach education in Kentucky will make the difference in how the state moves forward. Taylor reflects on problems with teacher training and the necessity of attracting good teachers to the profession.

Keywords: American literature; Early childhood education; Education; Higher education; Kentucky education; Kentucky literature; Pre-K education; Public education; Students; Teacher training; Teachers

Subjects: Education, Higher; Education--Kentucky; Teachers; Teaching