The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 98, July 1994 - April, 1995

Book Reviews

seek a better understanding of current events in Mexico, but it will be of limited
interest to readers interested in the Texas-Mexico connection.
Texas Christian University DON M. COERVER
Revolt of the Provinces: The Regionalist Movement in America, 1920-1945. By Robert
L. Dorman. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1993. Pp.
xiv+366. Introduction, preface, notes, bibliography, index. ISBN 0-80782-
101-2. $45.00.)
During the two decades between the world wars, artists and intellectuals in
provincial cities, college towns, and remote art centers awakened to the cultural
potential in America's regional diversity. Amid the anxieties of a nation moving
from a rural/village society into the modern mechanized world of the metropo-
lis, many viewed the region and pluralistic folk traditions as the means toward a
richer, freer, and more human way of life. Those sharing this viewpoint included
Texas folklorist J. Frank Dobie, historian Walter Prescott Webb, novelist Willa
Cather, folksong collector John Lomax, Dallas artist Jerry Bywaters, Nebraska po-
et John G. Neihardt, southern agrarian Allen Tate, Oklahoma dramatist Lynn
Riggs, sociologist Howard Odum, and writer-historian Mari Sandoz.
The regionalist movement aimed at cultural rejuvenation and offered an alter-
native to the corrosive effects of modernization. Rooted in the frontier myth, re-
gionalists sought to discover a romantic realism, recover indigenous American
traditions, and link a local heritage with the national, pointing toward social,
economic, and political reform.
Robert Dorman has written an important book, full of stimulating reinterpre-
tation. He dismisses Dobie as one of the most antiquarian of all regionalists, but
reassesses Webb substantially. Although the ghost of the closing frontier so
haunted Webb that he was never able to relinquish fully the mythology he had
internalized as a boy, Dorman contends that the Texas historian struggled to-
ward a presentist orientation. Divided We Stand, the author maintains, revealed
Webb's difficulties in moving beyond myth and developing a political philoso-
phy consistent with the Great Depression. Dorman sees a gradual maturing of
Webb's critical sensibility and a deepening awareness of how culture changes,
until by The Great Frontier Webb had come to a tortured acceptance of a postfron-
tier politics.
Revolt of the Provinces is an engaging analysis of America at the crossroads, a cri-
sis period when many old beliefs seemed on the brink of collapse. Dorman has
pulled together diverse threads in a masterful synthesis and has imbued them
with fresh meaning. What mars this remarkable study is Dorman's preference
for dense phraseology, convoluted sentence structure, and stilted language,
which rob the work of vitality. A book that deserves wide attention has been re-
stricted by cost and inaccessible writing style to a limited readership. The loss is
considerable.

Southern Methodist University

1994

159

RONALD L. DAVIS

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 98, July 1994 - April, 1995. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101216/. Accessed December 28, 2014.