Andrew Lytle and the Cultivationrnof American Lettersrnby William PrattrnThe name of Andrew Lytle should be better known than itrnis: he has been a distinguished novelist and author ofrnsome widely anthologized short stories; an essayist, historian,rnand memoirist; an editor of the Sewanee Review for manyrnyears; and a teacher of creative writing at the University of Floridarnand the University of Iowa. In all of these roles, he has beenrnone of the chief cultivators of 20th-century American letters.rnAnd 20th-century American letters do count in the eyes of thernworld, for whatever pride we may take in our status as the oldestrnconstitutional democracy, as a major winner in two worldrnwars, as the world’s only superpower, it is to 20th-centuryrnAmerican letters that we owe most of our international reputationrnas a vital seedbed of artistic and intellectual culture.rnIf nations have their historic moments, we have had ours inrnthis century: Americans have been the movers and shapers ofrnthe world for fully three generations, but we tend to credit thernpolitical and military leaders who have asserted our physicalrngreatness in the eyes of the world more than we credit the intellectualrnleaders who at the same time have achieved a comparablernmoral and spiritual greatness for us. Among these leaders,rnAndrew Lytle stands high. His stature has as much to dornwith historical coincidence as with his own formidable talents,rnfor he was part of the generation at Vanderbilt who created thernFugitives and the Agrarians in the 1920’s and I950’s.rnThe writers linked together as Southern Fugitive-Agrariansrnhave had as much to do with the intellectual history of 20thcenturyrnAmerica as the New England Transcendentalists had torndo with the intellectual history of 19th-century America. Anyrnstudent of American literature knows that Emerson and Tho-rnWilliam Pratt is a professor of English at Miami University ofrnOhio.rnreau and Whitman are at the heart of American Romanticism,rnand though the intellectual history of our century is not quiternas clear, I think a similar claim can be made for Ransom andrnTate and Warren and Davidson and Lytle, that they madernthe Southern Fugitive-Agrarians the center of Americanrnmodernism—which also means, incidentally, that they madernMonteagle, Tennessee, the Southern equivalent of Concord,rnMassachusetts, for as Concord is to Boston, so Monteagle is tornNashville. Indeed, Monteagle is more Agrarian than Nashville,rnand Andrew Lytle has been the most consistent Agrarian simplyrnin choosing to live there off and on for 50 years, while thernothers went elsewhere or stayed in Nashville to pursue their distinguishedrncareers.rnI am not claiming that the Fugitive-Agrarians are the greatestrnmodern American writers, for there are Pound and Eliot andrnFaulkner to consider, none of whom were Fugitives or Agrarians.rnNo, when I say that the Fugitive-Agrarians were at therncenter of American modernism, I mean that their peculiarrncombination of literary ideas and practices defines modernismrnfor us, just as the Transcendentalists define what we mean byrnRomanticism. Both groups were writers and thinkers ratherrnthan practical men; their theories and examples shapedrnAmerican intellectual history during much of the past tworncenturies.rnThe Fugitives were first of all poets: if they had not earnedrnthemselves an international reputation as literary artists first,rnwith the publication for a few short years (from 1922-1925) ofrnthe Fugitive magazine in Nashville, they would not have hadrnthe respect they commanded in 1930 when they published I’llrnTake My Stand, a symposium on the topic of Agrarianism.rnTheir poetry came before their social ideas, and Andrew Lytlerncontributed a poem, “Edward Graves,” to the Fugitive before hern28/CHRONICLESrnrnrn