The years after World War I saw a different sort of war in the American South, as Modernism began to contest the "New South Creed" for the allegiance of Southern intellectuals. In The War Within, Daniel Joseph Singal examines the struggle between the characteristic culture of twentieth-century America and the South's tenacious blend of Victorianism and the Cavalier myth. He explores the lives and works of historians Ulrich B. Phillips and Broadus Mitchell; novelists Ellen Glasgow, William Faulkner, and Robert Penn Warren; publisher William T. Couch; sociologists Howard Odum, Rupert Vance, Guy Johnson, and Arthur Raper; and Agrarian poets John Crowe Ransom, Donald Davidson, and Allen Tate.
The drama Singal unfolds is as much national as regional in its implications. His sophisticated and original analysis of the complex relationship between these southern writers and their heritage enables him to trace the transition to Modernism with unusual clarity and to address questions of major importance in American intellectual history: How did Modernism come into being? Does it display a fundamental, underlying pattern? What are its essential values, beliefs, and assumptions?
Singal marshals archival and published sources and combines them with oral history interviews to trace this process of change on the levels of both formal thought and individual experience. He uses the interwar South as the locale for a pioneering examination of the momentous change that has affected all of Western culture.