Robert Penn Warren (Magill's Literary Annual 1998)
Robert Penn Warren’s was a remarkable life, no matter how one looks at it. He produced more than three dozen books in a career that spanned six decades, from the 1920’s to the 1980’s. As a fiction writer he published eleven works, including All the King’s Men (1946), which not only earned for him his first Pulitzer Prize but also has long stood as one of the finest political novels produced in the United States. He also published sixteen collections of poetry, two of which won Pulitzer Prizes among numerous other awards, thus making Warren the only American writer to win the Pulitzer in two different categories. Finally, as a teacher and critic, he helped to shape the terms for the discussions of literature and literary study in America after World War II in a series of important textbooks and critical works.
Warren’s personal life was not always a happy one. Born in Guthrie, Kentucky, Warren would always consider the South his home, even though he would rarely live there after childhood. Blinded in one eye in adolescence, he attempted suicide in college when he thought he was losing the sight in the other. Later, his twenty- year marriage to the unstable but demanding Emma Cinina Brescia caused him periods of deep anguish. In spite of these and other problems in the first half of his life, he built a literary career of remarkable distinction and productivity. During his freshman year at Vanderbilt, he was fortunate to have the poet...
(The entire section is 1862 words.)
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Robert Penn Warren (Magill Book Reviews)
Robert Penn Warren’s was a remarkable life, no matter how one looks at it. He produced more than three dozen books in a career that spanned six decades. His ten novels included ALL THE KING’S MEN (1946), which not only won his first Pulitzer Prize in fiction, but is one of the finest political novels produced in America. He also published sixteen collections of poetry, two of which won Pulitzers, thus making Warren the only American writer to win the prize in two different categories. Finally, as a critic, he helped to shape the terms for the discussion of literary study in America after World War II.
Joseph Blotner’s biography is detailed and comprehensive, and maintains the necessary balance between the personal and the literary. He provides a valuable five-page chronology at the very beginning of the book, and fifty pages of notes and genealogy at the end, and this framework is extremely helpful in describing such a long and productive life.
Warren will probably be best remembered as a poet and critic. His poetic career almost spans the century, from the Modernist concerns of T. S. Eliot in the 1920’s, through the more confessional poetry after World War II. Warren was always a master craftsman, but his later poetry, while it retained his intellectual and moral concerns, also became more personal.
Warren’s textbooks revolutionized the study of literature in the United States, helping to make literary criticism more of...
(The entire section is 384 words.)