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The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 89, July 1985 - April, 1986

Book Reviews 223
Parnassus on the Mississippi: "The Southern Review" and the Baton Rouge
Literary Community, I935-1942. By Thomas W. Cutrer. (Baton
Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1984. Pp. xiii+29o. Ac-
knowledgments, prologue, photographs, notes, bibliography, in-
dex. $27.50.)
Numerous intellectual movements at various universities, and clus-
ters of writers or critics living in the same place or writing together for
a magazine or journal (like The Edinburgh Review) have achieved pres-
tige over time, but no parallel exists for the sudden outburst of both
creative writing and critical theory at Louisiana State University from
1935 to 1942. As Thomas W. Cutrer recounts the story, Huey P. Long
began pumping money into LSU and, in 1930, chose as its president a
party henchman, James M. Smith, dean of education at a small college
in Lafayette, Louisiana. When Smith had been in New York acquiring a
doctorate in education, he had become aware of a world of learning to
which he had never been exposed, and he had attended lectures by fa-
mous scholars. At Baton Rouge, in his new post, he inquired of these
scholars the names of some intellectuals who could build a university.
From the recommendations, Smith selected as dean of the graduate
school a political scientist named Charles W. Pipkin. Pipkin proved to
be an ideal choice as he became the generative force for the literary
developments that ensued. Carefully following academic due process,
Pipkin negotiated with department chairmen and brought in the critic
Cleanth Brooks, the poet Robert Penn Warren, and some prominent
European scientists (in various fields) in flight from Nazi Germany. He
then began to establish new learned journals at LSU and easily per-
suaded Smith to fund a literary periodical, The Southern Review. In Feb-
ruary, 1935, Smith asked Brooks and Warren if it was possible to create
a topflight literary journal at the university; within two years the jour-
nal had 1,500 subscribers and had become recognized as the outstand-
ing literary magazine in print.
The editorial policy was to commission all essays, and in this way they
projected their theories, now known as the New Criticism. Instead of
soliciting established authors for stories and poems, however, they
printed the best that arrived in the mail. The results were sensational,
and young poets and novelists flocked to the campus. In the 1930s the
nation was so completely isolated from European culture that only a
few American publishers and editors were familiar with modern experi-
mental techniques in poetry and prose fiction. With William Faulkner's
novels, which had "flashbacks" and "unreliable narrators," encounter-
ing a hostile reception, one can see how difficult it was for other in-

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 89, July 1985 - April, 1986. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed May 2, 2016.

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