Essay on "A Southern Mode of the Imagination" and Thomas Wolfe

1930 Words 8 Pages
Over the course of his decades-long career as a respected and influential man of letters, he also wrote an extensive collection of critical essays. In such piece, “A Southern Mode of Imagination,” he argues that the renascence of Southern letters occurred because of a shift in the way Southerners thought; a change from what he termed the extroverted “rhetorical mode” of tall-tales and politicking, to the introspective and hitherto primarily Northern “dialectical mode.” From his unique position as both a critic of the Renaissance and one of its vanguards, Tate posits that the antebellum Southern mind lacked the self-consciousness necessary to produce great writing because it was wholly occupied with defending slavery against the attacks …show more content…
“A Southern Mode of the Imagination” was published in 1959, when Tate was at a considerable remove from the period covered in the essay. His theory may have benefitted from an objectivity increased in proportion with this distance; however Tate’s representation of the historical facts was not all that it could be. For instance, several of the Fugitive poets, including Tate’s mentor and friend, John Crowe Ransom, had been meeting informally since 1915, two years before the United States’ entry into World War I. This ‘informal phase’ of the Fugitives was actually put on hold by the war; the Great War could then hardly be said to have enabled the Fugitives to break out of the rhetorical mode and begin writing. This anachronism does not necessarily negate the critical value of Tate’s thesis. He may yet be correct in asserting that the literature of the New South is devoid of the sectional and self-limiting rhetorical mode of the Old South. A perfect test case for Tate’s theory can be found within his own litany of authors who

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