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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


Essays of Four Decades by Allen Tate (ISI Books) Allen Tate (1899-1979) was one of the twentieth century's most celebrated literary critics and poets. A founding member of the Fugitive poets and a contributor to the Southern Agrarian manifesto I'll Take My Stand, Tate was a leading exponent of the New Criticism. In these essays, first collected in 1968, Tate reminds turn-of-the-century readers that the study of literature and poetry is a metaphysical undertaking rooted in what he called "the symbolic imagination," which operates through analogy "of the human to the divine, of the natural to the supernatural, of the low to the high, of time to eternity." In jettisoning this imagination in his reach for pure intellect man has, says Tate, embraced not pure spirituality, but pure nothingness. This collection includes such classic essays as "The New Provincialism," "The Symbolic Imagination," "Yeats's Romanticism," and "The Angelic Imagination." Tate's contributions to the study of literature and poetry are assessed in a new introduction by Louise Cowan, who writes: "One could say of him what he said of Yeats: 'He only wanted what all men want, a world larger than himself to live in; for the modern world as he saw it was in human terms too small for the human spirit.'" Such yearning stands in stark contrast to the designs of latter-day theorists, whose drive to reduce the poetic imagination to a social construction deracinates our spirit even as their academic jargon renders it inanimate.

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