The Spyglass, Views and Reviews, 1924-1930: Selected and Edited by John Tyree Fain

By Donald Davidson | Go to book overview

Provincialism

In many of its forms, the provincial habit of mind is dangerous enough. Whether you discover it on Main street or in Greenwich village, it can be dull or smart with equal deadliness, and it is always a question which is deadlier-- the sophisticated provincialism found even in metropolitan areas, or the narrow rural type which is awkwardly intolerant without being picturesque. Between these, we should dread to choose. The deadly sort, at any rate, may be known by its closed mind or its limited experience or both; it has generally too much self-sufficiency and swagger; it is noisy and egotistical. We are naturally fearful of this repulsive thing, and we do not need to choose it or to submit to it; but we ought not to let our dislike for its manifestations blind us to another sort of provincialism that is not to be despised.

Provincialism may be a bad name for what I am talking about, but I defend the term on certain grounds which will appear. Furthermore it is always a pleasure to explore words that are used as epithets, for sometimes we tend to condemn people for having qualities we have not and make it seem that a virtue is a defect. Those who toss the term "provincial" loosely about as, say, it has been tossed at the South, might well remember that there is a kind of provincialism that is allied to the self-reliance of Emerson's teaching and to the "know thyself" of the ancient sages.

____________________

Critic's Almanac, April 22, 1928. In this essay, Davidson sets forth his theory of the purpose and function of a "provincial" book reviewer. The following six sections demonstrate how he put his theory into practice. The final essay in the volume is an evaluation of the theory and practice.

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