The Southern Myth

Andrew Lytle and Allen Tate, two of the original Vanderbilt Agrarians, maintained a remarkable friendship spanning some half a century, from the early 20's until Tate's death in 1979. While both pursued prolific literary careers, their paths crossed less frequently, particularly as Tate became identified with modernist poetry and criticism in the Eliot tradition. Lytle, on the other hand, maintained his Southern loyalties, spent more time in his native region, and did not cultivate the Anglo-American attention that Tate, more than any of the original Vanderbilt Agrarians, sought. The influence of each is still evolving, particularly with the current publication of the Lytle-Tate correspondence and the collection of Lytle's literary essays entitled Southerners and Europeans. We are able to trace the multifaceted talents of each—Tate, a poet, editor, historian, and critic; Lytle, a novelist, historian, editor, and teacher of writing.

Initially Lytle and Tate found themselves, because of when they were born (Tate, 1899 and Lytle, 1902), at a prophetic crossroads in the understanding of American history and its mythical meaning. The legacy of a Protestant-inspired egalitarian democracy provided no comfort nor illuminated the historical complexities from which Tate and Lytle emerged in the early 20th century. In an 1872 speech, Paul Hamilton Hayne said of the Civil War, "many of the tongues have essayed...

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