Southern Agrarians

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The Southern Agrarians or 'Vanderbilt Agrarians' were a group of 12 American Traditionalist writers and poets from the Southern United States who joined together to publish the Agrarian manifesto, a collection of essays entitled I'll Take My Stand in 1930.

The Agrarians evolved from a philosophical discussion group known as 'The Fugitives' or 'Fugitive Poets' whose studies of poetic modernism and H.L. Mencken led them to confront the effect of modernity on Southern culture and tradition.

The Agrarians were opposed to unbridled Modernism and Industrialism and bemoaned the loss of traditional Southern culture. Their manifesto was an attack on modern industrial America and posited an alternate direction based on a return to traditional American values.

The members of this group were Donald Davidson, Andrew Nelson Lytle, Herman Clarence Nixon, Frank Lawrence Owsley, John Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate, John Gould Fletcher, Robert Penn Warren, Lyle Lanier, John Donald Wade, Henry Blue Kline, and Stark Young.

The reputations of several members of this illustrious group were harmed during the 1930s by their association with the fascist Seward Collins, in whose magazine, The American Review, they published many articles critical of modernity. In the inaugural issue of his magazine in 1933, Collins praised Italian dictator Benito Mussolini and lauded Adolf Hitler for thwarting a communist revolution in Germany. Allen Tate wrote a rebuttal of fascism for The New Republic in 1936 in an effort to distance himself from Collins.

I'll Take My Stand was originally criticized as a reactionary and romanticized defense of the Old South and viewed as nothing more than backward-looking nostalgia. In recent years some scholars have taken a second look at this book in light of the problems of modern industrial society and its effect on the human condition and the environment.

Today, the Southern Agrarians are lauded regularly in a quarterly, Southern Partisan, published in South Carolina. Their philosophy has been refined and updated by scholars such as Alan Carlson and the poet Wendell Berry. It is frequently explored by presses such as ISI Books, the book imprint of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute.

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