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Mary Beth Lineberry


The Richmond Debate of 1930

January 15, 2011 | Articles

Head and shoulders portrait of Sherwood Anderson.


Sherwood Anderson, circa 1930.

On November 14, 1930—seventy-five years after the Battle of Appomattox and one full year into the Great Depression—Sherwood Anderson stood in front of a crowd 3,500 hundred people in the ex-Confederacy’s capitol to introduce a public debate over the economic future of the South. The Richmond Times-Dispatch was sponsoring the event—a debate, “Agrarianism versus Industrialism,” between VQR editor Stringfellow Barr and poet and critic John Crowe Ransom. Even before Anderson assumed the lectern, the evening had become an intellectual moment that had, in the words of Times-Dispatch editors, “assumed the proportions of national importance.”

At 8:30 P.M., the walls of the City Auditorium lined with latecomers and a “squad of Boy Scouts” who served as ushers, Anderson read a speech he had prepared for the event. Far from a simple introduction, Anderson’s address framed the debate, highlighted the speakers’ main points, and then offered the audience his take on the South’s “new industrial experiment.”

The Times-Dispatch, reporting on the debate the following day, focused mainly on Anderson’s critique of Sinclair Lewis, the recent winner of the Nobel Prize in literature, but the rest of Anderson’s introductory essay tackling the question of Industrialism vs. Agrarianism went largely uncovered. This speech is the work of a literary giant from the industrial North, living in the agrarian South, and introducing the “Agrarian” John Crowe Ransom who “isn’t a farmer” and the “Industrialist” Stringfellow Barr who “doesn’t manufacture anything.” Anderson presented the audience with a middle position. He was both fascinated and terrified by machines.

His words won thunderous approval from the audience, but they have never been published in full—until now.


Thomas Mann, about the time of his first publication in VQR. (Courtesy of the Nobel Foundation)

Thomas Mann in VQR

December 27, 2010 | Articles

How the Nobel Laureate came to publish an anti-Nazi essay in VQR—in German.

Robert Penn Warren in VQR

December 26, 2010 | Articles

As one of American literary history’s most celebrated “Renaissance men”—tirelessly producing prodigious works of fiction, short fiction, and poetry, as well as essays and methodological studies—Robert Penn Warren was one of the leading vo [...]

7 Questions for Louie Palu

May 24, 2010 | Interviews

We talk to the documentary photographer and VQR contributor about his coverage of the intense warfare in parts of Afghanistan.

8 Questions for Jason Motlagh

May 14, 2010 | Interviews

The VQR contributor talks about "The Bombing at Bala Baluk," from our current issue, and about the effect that errant US airstrikes are having on the support of the Afghan population.

Sherwood Anderson in VQR

April 12, 2010 | Profiles

A brief look at Sherwood Anderson's contributions to VQR, featuring his original manuscripts and VQR’s correspondence with him.

John Crowe Ransom in VQR

November 6, 2009 | Profiles

The five essays he published with us in the 1930s reveal the evolution of his thoughts and ideas about the contemporary South and its literature.

John Crowe Ransom in VQR

John Crowe Ransom was foundational in Depression-era writing for his ability to localize the South in a distinctly modern context. As a founding member of the Fugitive writers, who organized at Vanderbilt University in 1920, Ransom and other Southern [...]