|In this magisterial history of intellectual life, Michael O'Brien analyzes the lives and works of antebellum Southern thinkers and reintegrates the South into the larger tradition of American and European intellectual history. |
O'Brien finds that the evolution of Southern intellectual life paralleled and modified developments across the Atlantic by moving from a late Enlightenment sensibility to Romanticism and, lastly, to an early form of realism. Volume 1 describes the social underpinnings of the Southern intellect by examining patterns of travel and migration; the formation of ideas on race, gender, ethnicity, locality, and class; and the structures of discourse, expressed in manuscripts and print culture. In Volume 2, O'Brien looks at the genres that became characteristic of Southern thought. Throughout, he pays careful attention to the many individuals who fashioned the Southern mind, including John C. Calhoun, Louisa McCord, James Henley Thornwell, and George Fitzhugh.
Placing the South in the larger tradition of American and European intellectual history while recovering the contributions of numerous influential thinkers and writers, O'Brien's masterwork demonstrates the sophistication and complexity of Southern intellectual life before 1860.