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Civil Rights in the White Literary ImaginationInnocence by Association$
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Jonathan W. Gray

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9781617036491

Published to University Press of Mississippi: March 2014

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781617036491.001.0001

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“The Look Back Home from a Long Distance”

“The Look Back Home from a Long Distance”

Robert Penn Warren and the Limits of Historical Responsibility

(p.14) Chapter One “The Look Back Home from a Long Distance”
Civil Rights in the White Literary Imagination

Jonathan W. Gray

University Press of Mississippi

This chapter focuses on the author Robert Penn Warren and how he defended the southern innocence, and, more specifically, segregation. Although Warren’s views on the South evolve dramatically from the positions he took in his early works, he never fully rejects certain premises expressed therein, even as he eventually does away with the ideology of southern innocence. The opinions and observations Warren expresses in his three civil rights texts remain qualified by elements of conservative Agrarianism, which was both an insular and Catholic movement from its beginnings, not tied to matters of race but concerned instead with Cold War notions of exceptionalism. A defensive response to attitudes outside the South, Agrarianism was conceived in opposition to the Fordist society that came to dominate manufacturing during the Roaring Twenties.

Keywords:   southern innocence, Robert Penn Warren, segregation, civil rights, conservative Agrarianism

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