Monday, April 24, 2017

Birth Dates of Notable Kentuckians: April 24, 1905 - Robert Penn Warren

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From The Kentucky Encyclopedia -
Robert Penn Warren, one of the most distinguished scholar-writers America has produced, was born in Guthrie, Todd County , Kentucky, on April 24, 1905. He was one of three children of Robert Franklin and Ann Ruth (Penn) Warren. Warren attended public schools in Guthrie and graduated summa cum laude from Vanderbilt University in 1925. (An eye injury had forced the cancellation of his appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy.) He had intended to major in chemistry, but under the influence of John Crowe Ransom, he switched to English. While at Vanderbilt, he joined the group known as the Fugitives, participating in literary discussions and in founding the journal called The Fugitive, published during 1922-25. He later belonged to the Agrarians, a social-political group that included other such literary lights as Ransom, Donald Davidson, and Allen Tate . Warren (known to his friends as "Red") continued his studies at the University of California, Berkeley, earning his M.A. in English there in 1927. He subsequently studied at Yale and, for two years, at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. He earned the B.Litt. degree at Oxford in 1930.

Warren's long and distinguished teaching career began at Louisiana State University in 1934. While there, he cofounded (along with Cleanth Brooks, another Kentuckian, and Charles W. Pipkin) The Southern Review, a literary journal that lasted from 1935 until 1942. Warren taught at the University of Minnesota during 1942-51, then returned to Yale as a professor of playwriting and retained that post until 1956. He was named professor of English at Yale in 1961 and retired in 1973.

As well as teaching and lecturing, Warren achieved both critical and popular acclaim as a poet, novelist, essayist, dramatist, literary critic, and editor. Among his better-known works are Night Rider (1939), All the King's Men (1946), Audubon: A Vision (1969), Now and Then: Poems 1976-1978 (1979). The nation's first Poet Laureate and a three-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize (the only writer to win for both fiction and poetry), Warren also received a National Book Award, the Copernicus Award For Poetry, the Bollingen Prize For Poetry, the National Medal For Literature, and a Macarthur Foundation award. He was awarded the Gold Medal For Poetry from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.

Practically all of Warren's critics have commented on how his poetic powers improved as he grew older. (Friends said he was writing until the last few months of his life.) In A Literary History Of Kentucky (1988), William S. Ward expresses the widespread critical view: "Nothing has distinguished Warren's career so much as the late flowering of his poetic powers, during which he became both a more prolific and steadily better poet. His New and Selected Poems, 1923-1985, presumably well-represents the poetry he is willing to trust his reputation to; and indeed it reflects well the informal, personal and meditative poem that has become the trademark of the work that traces back to Promises and even to `The Ballad of Billy Potts."' Western Kentucky University in 1987 established the Center for Warren Studies, and a committee in Guthrie completed restoration of Warren's birthplace in 1989. In 1988 Warren received the Milner Award Of The Governor's Awards For The Arts In Kentucky.

Warren married Emma Brescia in 1930; they were divorced in 1951. He married the writer Eleanor Clark in 1952; they had two children: Rosanna Warren Sculley, a poet, and Gabriel, a sculptor. Warren died on September 15, 1989, and was buried in the Stratton, Vermont, cemetery.


Selected Sources from UK Libraries:

Farrell, David, Susan E. Allen, and Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History. Robert Penn Warren Oral History Project. 1977.
Special Collections Research Center - Oral History Collection

Cronin, Gloria L., and Ben Siegel. Conversations with Robert Penn Warren. Jackson: U of Mississippi, 2005. Print. Literary Conversations Ser.
B W2557GA, Special Collections Research Center - Biography Collection

Stewart, John L. The Burden of Time: The Fugitives and Agrarians; the Nashville Groups of the 1920's and 1930's, and the Writing of John Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate, and Robert Penn Warren. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton UP, 1965. Print.
PS255.N3 S7 1965, Young Library - 5th Floor

Moyers, Bill D., and Robert Penn Warren. Bill Moyers' Journal : A Conversation with Robert Penn Warren. New York: WNET, 1976. Print.
PS3545.A748 M640 1976, Special Collections Research Center

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