Wednesday, November 4, 2015

C. Vann Woodward's Philosophy of History

C. Vann Woodward was a famous historian of the American South, one of the leaders in overturning the old Gone with the Wind interpretation of Reconstruction. A collection of his letters has now been published which sounds pretty interesting. In 1965 a graduate student wrote and asked him to describe his "philosophy of history," to which he responded:
If you discover that I have one, I hope you will let me know what it is. . . . What I have is hardly a philosophy, but more a complex of intellectual problems arising, first, from being a southerner and at one and the same time being out of line with the dominant southern attitudes, and yet deeply attached to the South and, secondly being an American with comparable ambivalence about that experience as well and, third, being a human being with comparable ditto and, fourth, trying to say something sensible about the history of my region and country without disloyalty to my region or my country or myself.
From the April 11 TLS.

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