The South rises again -- if only in this study of American history. Genovese (Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made,...


THE SOUTHERN FRONT: History and Politics in the Cultural War

The South rises again -- if only in this study of American history. Genovese (Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made, 1974) here gathers occasional essays, book reviews, and lectures of the last two decades. His subject is constant: the history of the American South, and especially its 19th-century economic and religious development. His approach is not: A longtime Marxist, Genovese has increasingly adopted a conservative stance on matters political and cultural without rejecting his leftist roots, a trajectory that he traces to a realization that far from being an opiate, religion was for Southern slaves the vehicle of ""an extraordinarily powerful message of liberation in this world as well as the next."" Genovese fires the expected salvoes at the legions of postmodernists and deconstructionists in the academy. Proponents of received tradition will find little comfort in pronouncements like, ""William Bennett...deserves to have his knuckles bloodied for his sadly un-Burkean defense of a narrow and bigoted literary canon."" But then, neither will enemies of that tradition, whom Genovese characterizes as ""not so much attacking courses in Western civilization as attacking Western civilization itself."" Much of Genovese's book is given over to essays on minor Confederate commanders, conservative scholars, and other small wrinkles in the fabric of Southern history. These excursus, always well written, will be of interest to few general readers. Of far broader appeal is Genovese's examination of the theology of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. A thoroughgoing case study in intellectual biography, this fine, long essay tackles, among other issues, the politically charged contention that King plagiarized much of his Harvard dissertation; Genovese's answer will surprise King's admirers and detractors alike. The constant reference to intramural academic matters naturally limits the audience, but Genovese's collection offers much of value.

Pub Date: May 5, 1995


Page Count: 320

Publisher: Univ. of Missouri

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995