Andrew Lytle and the Cultivation of American Letters

The name of Andrew Lytle should be better known than it is: he has been a distinguished novelist and author of some widely anthologized short stories; an essayist, historian, and memoirist; an editor of the Sewanee Review for many years; and a teacher of creative writing at the University of Florida and the University of Iowa. In all of these roles, he has been one of the chief cultivators of 20th-century American letters. And 20th-century American letters do count in the eyes of the world, for whatever pride we may take in our status as the oldest constitutional democracy, as a major winner in two world wars, as the world's only superpower, it is to 20th-century American letters that we owe most of our international reputation as a vital seedbed of artistic and intellectual culture.

If nations have their historic moments, we have had ours in this century: Americans have been the movers and shapers of the world for fully three generations, but we tend to credit the political and military leaders who have asserted our physical greatness in the eyes of the world more than we credit the intellectual leaders who at the same time have achieved a comparable moral and spiritual greatness for us. Among these leaders, Andrew Lytle stands high. His stature has as much to do with historical coincidence as with his own formidable talents, for he was part of the generation at Vanderbilt who created the Fugitives and the Agrarians...

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