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The Old South, the New South, and the Real South

In April 1968, the University of Dallas Literature Department hosted an Agrarian reunion. We invited John Crowe Ransom, Robert Penn Warren, Allen Tate, Andrew Lytle, and Donald Davidson to come together in several private sessions to discuss the history and meaning of I'll Take My Stand. Ransom, Warren, Tate, and Lytle accepted. Davidson was too ill to attend. Less than two weeks after the reunion, he was dead.

Lytle and Davidson were still Agrarians. Ransom, Warren, and Tate were not. So we expected heated confrontations. Unfortunately, no one wanted to fight. They were like long-lost cousins at a family reunion—affectionate, overly polite, and reluctant to renew old quarrels, particularly with the tape recorder wheeling on the table in front of them. The two best passages in the transcript had nothing to do with Agrarians. One was Warren's story of how Gov. Huey Long, in a ride around the square in Baton Rouge, proposed that he and Cleanth Brooks create and edit the Southern Review. The other was Ransom's account of the misadventures of a foot fetishist at Kenyon College. The rest of the tape was not worth transcribing.

This proved to be a lost opportunity. Warren came to Dallas having thought about I'll Take My Stand in terms that were far more original and broad-ranging than anything discussed in our two-day colloquy. While the others were attending a cocktail party,...

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