The 1920s were an age of the “little magazines,” cheaply produced and generally short-lived (but often handsomely designed) outlets for “new” and experimental writing, and many literary historians and critics, in search of a convenient point of departure, date the beginning of that immense burgeoning of creativity known as the Southern Renaissance from the first appearance of The Fugitive in the spring of 1922. To do so is to engage in a useful (if hardly necessary) fiction, but the choice of date is by no means arbitrary. The Fugitive, which ran for nineteen issues before ceasing publication in 1925, represented the arrival of literary modernism on the southern scene in a tangible and compelling way, and in time, four of the self-styled “Fugitives”—John Crowe Ransom (1888–1974), Donald Davidson (1893–1968), Allen Tate (1899–1979), and Robert Penn Warren (1905–1989)—would assume vital roles in the making of twentieth-century American literature, long after the death of the little magazine that launched their careers. Apart from their seminal influence as poets and critics, they would also formulate and seek (with little success) to implement a social philosophy—southern “Agrarianism”—that still holds appeal for a number of contemporary thinkers and writers, not only as a defense of tradition and community but also as a penetrating critique of scientism, industrial capitalism, and “the gospel of progress” inherent in mainstream American liberalism.Less
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