something to do with the peculiar visionsninduced by imbibing large quantities ofnbourbon whiskey, or maybe it sprangnfrom a steady diet of grits, greens, redeyengravy, country ham and cornbread.nThese suggestions certainly make asnmuch sense as the tortuous theories offerednby some scholars.nSheer genius defies explanation, butnone can at least venture a few observationsnon the web of circumstances that inspirednFaulkner and his fellow luminaries.nThe first generation of writersnwho put the South on the map came ofnage in the years just before and afternWorld War I. They carried the legacy of anproud and vigorous people who hadnbuilt a society on slavery, only to see thenedifice destroyed by the ravages of fournyears of warfare. More than most Americans,nthese young Southerners knew—asnscholars like Vann Woodward and LouisnRubin have pointed out—the burden ofna history filled with violence, evil andnguilt. They saw all around them thenresults of this history: poverty, racism, ignorance.nTradition and the pride of andefeated people prodded them to keepnthe faith, to revere the Lost Cause, and tonwrap themselves in the old insularity thatnSoutherners had used as a weaponnagainst alien Yankee ways. But thesenyoung men and women—bright, book­n281nChronicles of Culturen’^^ ^:^T<nish and eager to step beyond the confinesndelimited by past generations—belongednto the 20th century, which hadnalready begun to force its presence on thenland below the Potomac. It was no accidentnthat Allen Tate, scion of the oldngentry of the Maryland and Virginiantidewater, should stride across the Vanderbiltncampus armed with a copy ofnEliot’s The Wasteland. They werenSoutherners but also moderns, attunednto the flux and change of the cultural andnintellectual scene of the early 20th century.nAs Quenun Compson discovered innhis dormitory room at Harvard, he andnothers both loved and hated the landnthat had nurtured them.nJjiX. of this clash between the oldnand the new, between tradition andnmodernity, came the self-consciousnessnand acute sensitivity that shaped thenspecial vision upon which each writernplayed his own variations. This uniquensituation lasted long enough to inspire ansecond wave of writers—those who camenof age during the depression and warnyears—but the South rfter World War IInwas a far different place than the land ofnFaulkner’s young manhood. Any considerationnof the vitality of contemporarynSouthern literature must take this intonaccount. One might argue that Southernnnnliterature no longer exists, that what wenhave today are novelists who happen tonhave grown up in the South, a region innmany ways no longer profoundly differentnfrom the rest of America. It is hard tonimagine a young writer in 1982—evennone from Mississippi—pouring his passionsninto a love/hate affair with thenSouth.nThe unique circumstances have passednbut the writing has not abated. On anquiet night one can hear the scratching ofnpens and the clack of typewriters rising tona crescendo; from Virginia to Texas annorgy of composition has seized thenSouth. Willie Morris, Reynolds Price,nLee Smith and Beverly Lowry form only ansmall squad of that vast army of writers,nnear-writers and would-be writers encampednbetween the Potomac and thenRio Grande.nWillie Morris fiirnishes a prime examplenof a Southerner who has nevernrecovered from an overdose of Faulkner.nHis most recent book. Terrains of thenHeart and Other Essays on Home, indicatesnthe deleterious effects of clingingnto a Faulknerian vision after the Southnthat shaped that vision has passed.nGranted, Morris was born in Yazoo City,nMississippi in 1933 and grew up in ansociety that still labored under thenburdens that provoked Faulkner to annanguished ambivalence toward hisnnative state. But Morris, unlikenFaulkner, abandoned Mississippi, first tonthrive in the Texas-style liberalism ofnAustin, then to walk the swards of OxfordnUniversity as a Rhodes Scholar andnfinally, as he entitled his autobiographynof 1967, to flee North Toward Home tonNew York City. Morris became a selfproclaimedn”exile” rather than to cast hisnlot with Mississippi. He had it both ways:nhe edited Harper’s and ran with thenYankees, all the while moaning aboutnthe guilt and agony of having sprungnfrom a blood-drenched land. In the laten1960’s Morris became every NewnYorker’s favorite Southern liberal.nThe wayward son has recently gonenhome to become writer-in-residence atn