Publication Date


Degree Program

Department of English

Degree Type

Master of Arts


Donald Davidson has often been called stubborn because of his refusal to let go of the Southern past and in his insistence that his writings be based on and in the regional concerns that he saw as fundamental to all Southern literature. In many ways, Davidson's loyalty to the Agrarian and Fugitive causes, which are best defined in these groups interest in keeping the South's history alive and maintaining an agrarian lifestyle, is his greatest contribution to the Southern and American literary canon. Despite this fact, though, Davidson is now, as he was during his lifetime, ignored because of the Regionalistic concerns that critics see in his writing. In the course of my thesis, I have striven to prove that Davidson is one of the most prophetic, prophetic in the biblical sense, since I believe that he can be compared to Hebraic prophets who spoke of doom and destruction that the people would face if they did not please God, of the Fugitive writers. His prophecies, I argue, are against industrialization of the South and warn the degenerate Southerner against forgetting the past, especially the Civil War. In the process of defining Davidson as a Southern writer and in defending his place in the Southern literary canon, I compare his "Lee in the Mountains" to Robert Penn Warren's Brother to Dragons, emphasizing the importance of secular original sin in the lives of two historical legends, Robert E. Lee and Thomas Jefferson, a fact that brings universal appeal to Davidson's greatest achievement. Turning away from topics of national, historical importance, I emphasize Davidson's attempt to define and defend Regionalism as an art form and necessary tool in the teaching of history. Here, I speak of Davidson's nonflction writings, including Still Rebels. Still Yankees, and Other Essays, of his only novel, The Big Ballad Jamboree, and "Lee in the Mountains" and argue that the importance of these works lies in the fact that he is waging a war against critics who see Regionalism as a catchphrase for Southern red necks, who refuse to let go of the past. After discussing Regionalism, I acknowledge the modern characteristics in Davidson's poetry, mainly angst, isolation, and silence, by tying them into Davidson's continual discussion of the past, which begins in "The Tall Men," where he speaks of his Tennessee Frontiersmen ancestors, "Lee in the Mountains," a poem in which Davidson turns to the most infamous, yet disenfranchised Civil War veteran, and The Long Street, which are a group of poems where Davidson speaks of the angst and loneliness that the modern Southerner feels in the modern world, where industrialization and shame have silenced the Southern man, who should be proud of his national heritage. As I looked to Davidson's writings to find why he is excluded from both the modern Southern literary canon and from the American canon, I found that we are slowly losing a national treasure. He may not be the writer that the other Fugitives were. He may not have been enjoyed the literary or financial successful that the other Fugitives and Agrarians enjoyed, but his writings are fundamental to understanding the Fugitive and Agrarian movements, since they were based on a yearning for an understanding of the past and because they fought for an Agrarian lifestyle. He may not have moved on, as Robert Penn Warren, John Crowe Ransom, and Allen Tate did, but I argue that his refusal to forget the past and give up the fight for the "cause" makes his writing great and is the reason that he should be returned to the Southern and American literary canons.


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