English Literature
Allen Tate

Allen Tate

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Allen Tate: The Prominent Southern Poet and Literary Scholar

John Orley Allen Tate, also known as Allen Tate, was an American poet, critic, novelist, and teacher. He was born on November 19, 1899, in Kentucky to a businessman father and a Virginian mother. Growing up in the South, Tate's Southern identity greatly influenced his life, works, and perspectives.

Tate inherited his love for English literature from his mother and pursued his passion by studying at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee in 1918. There, he joined a group of Southern intellectuals and poets known as "the Fugitives," including Robert Penn Warren, Donald Davidson, Merrill Moore, and his instructor John Crowe Ransom. As an undergraduate, Tate became the first student to be invited to join the group, where they would read and critique each other's poetry.

Together, the Fugitives published a poetry magazine in 1922 called "The Fugitive," aimed at dispelling the belief that Southerners were uneducated and simple-minded. This prejudice against the Southern accent, traditions, and culture had lingered since the Civil War. Tate and the Fugitives worked relentlessly to promote Southern contributions to the literary world and challenge these false notions.

After graduating from Vanderbilt in 1922, Tate embarked on a career as a literary critic. He contributed to various magazines such as the Tennessean, The Nation, Hound & Horn, and Poetry. In 1924, he moved to New York City, where he met fellow poet Hart Crane and later married novelist Caroline Gordon in 1925. The couple welcomed their first daughter in September of the same year.

Tate was a major proponent of New Criticism, a literary movement that dominated American criticism in the mid-20th century. This approach focused on analyzing the text itself to derive meaning, rather than relying on the author's background or intentions. According to New Criticism, literary works should stand on their own, self-sufficient and autonomous. Tate was known for his expertise in interpreting tension in poetry, which he defined as the relationship between extension (literal meaning) and intension (metaphorical meaning).

In 1928, Tate published his first collection of poems, "Mr. Pope and Other Poems," and released his first biography, "Stonewall Jackson: The Good Soldier." That same year, he and his family traveled to Europe, where they met influential writers such as Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, and T.S. Eliot, who Tate considered his literary hero.

Upon returning to the United States, Tate settled in Tennessee and began teaching at Southwestern College in Memphis from 1934 to 1936. He later served as the poet laureate of the United States from 1943 to 1944. Following this, he joined The Sewanee Review, a renowned literary magazine, as an editor, solidifying his influence in the American literary scene.

Throughout his career, Tate taught at various universities, including the University of North Carolina, Princeton University, and the University of Minnesota, where he eventually retired in 1968. Two years later, in 1970, he published a selection of his poems titled "The Swimmers and Other Selected Poems," followed by his final collection, "Collected Poems, 1916-1976," in 1977. However, his health remained a constant concern, and he was hospitalized several times until his death on February 9, 1979. He was laid to rest in Sewanee, Tennessee.

Tate's Love for the South

Tate was a staunch advocate for the preservation of Southern history and culture. Through his work, he emphasized the importance of Southerners reconnecting with their roots and traditional way of life. He was deeply invested in Southern history and often wrote about the American Civil War, glorifying the bravery and heroism of Confederate soldiers. In Tate's view, the Confederates were fighting to protect their traditional agrarian lifestyle, while the Union sought to impose industrialization on the South. He mourned the loss of individualism, faith, and tradition in the American South and romanticized its history and culture.

His passion for Southern history was evident in his writing, with two biographies dedicated to Southern historical figures. In 1928, he published "Stonewall Jackson: The Good Soldier," followed by "Jefferson Davis: His Rise and Fall" the following year. Tate's love for the South and its rich history and traditions will forever be remembered through his influential works and teachings.

Exploring the Modern Southern Experience in Allen Tate's "The Fathers"

Allen Tate, a highly acclaimed American writer, is best known for his 1938 novel "The Fathers," which delves into the complexities of the Southern identity during the Civil War in Virginia.

Tate argued that Southerners needed to reconnect with their heritage and the land their ancestors lived on. However, his views on race have faced criticism due to his promotion of white supremacy and open prejudice towards Black people. Despite these troubling beliefs, Tate remains a celebrated figure in American literature, even serving as the poet laureate of the United States at one point.

The lasting impact of Tate's legacy can be seen in his poetic works, which continue to inspire readers today. Among his most notable pieces are "Ode to the Confederate Dead" and "Seasons of the Soul." "Ode to the Confederate Dead" reflects on the forgotten heroes of the South, buried in a neglected cemetery. It also serves as a commentary on society's detachment from nature and obsession with material possessions. Similarly, "Seasons of the Soul" delves into the human experience and reminds readers to cherish the natural world before it's too late.

The Themes of Aging, Violence, and Transcendence in Tate's Poetry

Tate's poems often tackle heavy subjects, including aging and mortality. In "Seasons of the Soul," the speaker confronts the aging process and the inevitability of death, seeking solace in the goddess of love and the Virgin Mary. Another poignant poem, "The Swimmers," depicts the speaker's childhood memory of witnessing a lynching, emphasizing the senseless violence and loss of innocence in the Southern landscape. In "The Buried Lake," Tate explores his religious conversion to Catholicism and the journey towards spiritual transcendence.

Exploring Southern Identity in Tate's Literary Works

In addition to poetry, Tate also wrote a novel and two biographies. "The Fathers" delves into the complexities of Southern loyalties during the Civil War through the perspective of two brothers and their pro-Union father. Tate's biographies on Stonewall Jackson and Jefferson Davis further showcase his fascination with Southern history and its influence on the modern South.

In conclusion, Allen Tate's legacy as a poet, novelist, and critic continues to leave an impact on American literature. Though his views on race may be problematic, his passionate defense of Southern heritage and exploration of timeless themes make his works a significant contribution to the literary canon.

Allen Tate, a prominent figure in twentieth-century literature, was a prolific writer who published 15 collections of poetry, including revised and republished editions. One of his most renowned works, "Ode to the Confederate Dead," pays tribute to those who fought for traditional Southern values during the Civil War.

A Reflection of the South

Tate's writings reflect his strong connection to the South and his belief in the importance of returning to a simpler, agrarian way of life. Through his exploration of themes such as aging, violence, and spiritual transcendence, he offers a unique perspective on these universal topics, solidifying his lasting impact on the literary world.

The Early Life of Allen Tate

Born in Winchester, Kentucky, Allen Tate moved frequently between Kentucky, Nashville, Tennessee, and the District of Columbia during his childhood due to his family's relocations.

The Significance of Tension in Poetry

According to Tate, tension is a crucial element in poetry and is necessary for a work to be considered complete. He believed that the dynamic relationship between the literal and metaphorical meanings creates tension in literature, elevating its impact.

The Legacy of Allen Tate

Allen Tate left an indelible mark on the literary world as a poet, literary critic, novelist, and biographer. His works in Southern poetry remain his most renowned and celebrated contributions.

Allen Tate and the New Criticism Movement

Tate is often recognized as a leading advocate of the New Criticism movement, which emphasized the importance of close reading as the key to understanding a text. As a formalist approach, New Criticism placed great value on the inherent worth of a literary work.

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