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The Fathers ()

    [T]he dominating structure of a great civilized tradition is certain absolutes . . . by which people live, and by which they must continue to live
    until in the slow crawl of history new references take their place.
        -Allen Tate, Liberalism and Tradition

    Man is a creature that in the long run has got to believe in order to know, and to know in order to do.
        -Allen Tate

During his lifetime, Allen Tate was considered by no less an authority than T. S. Eliot to be the best American poet of his generation.  Yet today, the only one of his poems we really recall is Ode to the Confederate Dead, and even that has a whiff of impropriety about it.  He wrote two well regarded biographies, but they're of the Confederate heroes Stonewall Jackson and Jefferson Davis.  He was also considered an outstanding critic, but criticism has a pretty short shelf life, as each generation discovers authors anew.  He was also a participant in and a founder of important literary movements--the Fugitives, the Agrarian movement, and the New Criticism.  Yet there's a a certain stench about the politics of these groups, their celebration of Southern ideals sitting ill with the subsequent Civil Rights era.  And if Mr. Tate's ambiguous position in regard to race weren't enough to doom him in modern eyes, he was also no gentleman in his treatment of his wife, the fine writer, Caroline Gordon, to whom he was apparently quite flagrantly unfaithful.  Add to it all the unfortunate fact that regard for the Confederacy and the Ante-Bellum South has been co-opted to some extent by white supremacists and other idiots and it's surely no surprise that Mr. Tate's reputation has fared poorly.

With all this as baggage, the reader who comes to The Fathers, Mr. Tate's only novel, expecting some kind of gothic version of Gone With the Wind must be forgiven.  Instead, while it is fairly Southern gothic, what Mr. Tate offers is a far more complex portrait of a young man, Lacy Buchan, who is torn between the world of his father, Major Lewis Buchan, representing the stereotypical Southern aristocracy, but paralyzed into inaction by the war, and George Posey, Lacy's brother-in-law, a modern man (for example, a capitalist) whose lack of ties to the chivalric tradition lead him to behave in an undisciplined fashion, eventually resulting in tragedy.  Lacy's struggle then is to find a middle way, one that learns from and honors the traditions of his father, but which is capable of moving forward into the modern age that George presages, or perhaps into a better future, because tempered by tradition.

The novel is a tad opaque and overwrought for my tastes, but well worth reading.


Grade: (C+)


See also:

General Literature
Allen Tate Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Allen Tate
-ESSAY: The Stand of Allen Tate (Cicero Bruce, October 5th, 2023, Imaginative Conservative)
    -ESSAY: Edmund Wilson and Allen Tate: a fierce friendship (Jeffrey Meyers, 2/27/22, The Article)
    -ESSAY: Sex and suppression: Allen Tate’s women: (Jeffrey Meyers, 1/30/22, The Article)
    -REVIEW: True South: Allen Tate's 'The Fathers' (JONATHAN YARDLEY, January 10, 2006, Washington Post)

Book-related and General Links:
    -ETEXT : Ode to the Confederate Dead by Allen Tate
    -ETEXT : Elegy Jefferson Davis, 1808-1889
    -ESSAY : Allen Tate, "Narcissus as Narcissus" (Reason in Madness, 1938)
    -ESSAY : A Southern Mode of the Imagination by Allen Tate (Allen Tate, Essays of Four Decades)
    -ESSAY : "The Future of Poetry": An Editorial by Ransom with a Reply from Allen Tate (Modern American Poetry)
    -BOOK SITE : The Fathers (LSU Press)
    -BOOK SITE : Cleanth Brooks and Allen Tate : Collected Letters, 1933-1976 Edited by Alphonse Vinh Introduction by Louis D. Rubin, Jr.
    -Tate, Allen. The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001
    -Tate, Allen (InfoPlease)
    -The Fugitives (xrefer)
    -Allen Tate Memorial Award (Wind Magazine)
    -Allen Tate (Academy of American Poets)
    -Allen Tate (1899-1979) Contributing Editor: Anne Jones
    -EXCERPT : Chapter One of Cleanth Brooks, Allen Tate. Collected Letters, 1933-1976
    -EXCERPT : Chapter One of Allen Tate: Orphan of the South, by Thomas A. Underwood
    -ESSAY : THE FATHERS AND THE POWER OF LOVE: ALLEN TATE'S MODERN TRIUMPH OF LIFE  (Jennifer Mooney,  University of Kentucky, Border States: Journal of the Kentucky-Tennessee American Studies Association)
    -ESSAY : THE LEGACY OF THE CIVIL WAR: THE DISPARATE VIEWS OF ROBERT PENN WARREN AND ALLEN TATE (Hugo Beiswenger, Border States: Journal of the Kentucky-Tennessee American Studies Association, No. 7 (1989)
    -ESSAY : The Violence of Allen Tate (David Yezzi , New Criterion)
   -ESSAY : ANGUISH IN A SECOND MARRIAGE: THE CAROLINE GORDON-ALLEN TATE LETTERS  (Eleanor H. Beiswenger, Border States: Journal of the Kentucky-Tennessee American Studies Association)
    -A Bibliography of the Southern Agrarians in the American Review
    -ARCHIVES : "allen tate" (Find Articles)
    -REVIEW : of Who Owns America? A New Declaration of Independence. Edited by Herbert Agar and Allen Tate (Joshua P. Hochschild, First Things)
    -REVIEW : of Essays of Four Decades by Allen Tate (J.O. Tate, Chronicles)
    -REVIEW : of Allen Tate: Orphan of the South, by Thomas A. Underwood (Scott Morris, National Review)
    -REVIEW : of Allen Tate : Orphan of the South by Thomas A. Underwood (Fred Hobson, Atlantic Monthly)
    -REVIEW : of Allen Tate : Orphan of the South (Scott Morris, National Review)
    -REVIEW : of Underwood, Allen Tate: Orphan of the South (Paul V. Murphy, Journal of American History)
    -REVIEW : The Modernist as Confederate : The poetry and prose of Allen Tate. (Thomas M. Disch, Weekly Standard)
    -REVIEW : of  Allen Tate : Orphan of the South. By Thomas A. Underwood (Erica Da Costa, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Who Owns America? A New Declaration of Independence, ed. Herbert Agar and Allen Tate  (1936) (Kenneth Burke, New Republic, July 1936)
    -REVIEW : of Who Owns America? (Alphonse Vinh, The Crisis)
    -REVIEW : of Who Owns America?  (John McClaughry, American Enterprise)
    -REVIEW : of Who Owns America?  (Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman / March 2000, School of Cooperative Individualism)
    -REVIEW : of Who Owns America? (Robert Miranda, Shepherd Express)
    -REVIEW : of James Huff, Allen Tate and the Catholic Revival: Trace of the Fugitive Gods (MARIAN RONAN, Cross Currents)
    -REVIEW : of The Unregenerate South:  The Agrarian Thought of John Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate, and Donald Davidson.  By Mark G. Malvasi (Don Keck DuPree, Chattahoochee Review)
    -REVIEW : of  The New Agrarian Mind: The Movement Toward Decentralist Thought in Twentieth-century America  By Allan Carlson (Paul Gottfried, American Enterprise)
    -REVIEW: of Mark G. Malvasi. The Unregenerate South: The Agrarian Thought of John Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate, and Donald Davidson. (Joseph Persky, American Historical Review)

    -ESSAY : Reading Closely Again (Christopher Clausen, February 1997, Commentary)
    -ESSAY :  Defining the Humanities Up (Wilfred M. McClay, First Things, January 2001)
    -ESSAY : The Tower of Babel: Shadow of the Interdisicplinary (Brent Dean Robbins/Claire Cowan-Barbetti/Victor Barbetti, Janus Head)
    -ESSAY : An Outline of American Literature : American Poetry Since 1945: The Anti-Tradition (Kathryn VanSpanckeren)
    -ESSAY : A Review of One Hundred Years (Robert Bradford,  Sewanee magazine, Summer 1992)
    -ESSAY : Class Notes : Poet William Meredith '40 *47 earns National Book Award (Princeton)
    -ESSAY : Marcella Comès Winslow : Painter, Photographer, Writer
    -ESSAY : The Agrarian Movement at Vanderbilt University (Deana Martin)
    -ESSAY : Discourse (Paul A. Bove)
    -ESSAY : Civil War in Literature (Encyclopedia of Southern Culture edited by Charles Reagan Wilson and William Ferris)
    -ESSAY : The Idea of the South : The American South may be joining the national parade, but writing about the South still tries to establish its distinctiveness (Benjamin Schwarz, Atlantic Monthly)
    -EXCERPT : From A Margin of Hope by Irving Howe (Arguing the World, PBS)
    -ESSAY :   "Fred Chappell and the Agrarians" (Robert Phillips, The Mississippi State Outstanding Humanist Lecture: 1997)
    -PROFILE : A Subversive Sympathy : The stories of Peter Taylor and the illusions they bring to life (Robert Wilson, Atlantic Monthly)
    -ESSAY : JOHN BERRYMAN : The dreamer wakes (Steve Healy, City Pages)
    -ESSAY : Right Church, Wrong Pew : Eugene Genovese & Southern Conservatism (Alex Lichtenstein, New Politics, , Summer 1997)