Cleanth Brooks

Historical Marker #1977 on the Murray State University campus commemorates the life of Calloway County native and literary critic Cleanth Brooks.

In the twentieth century, Brooks and other writers challenged conventionality in the fields of poetry and fiction. These thinkers developed new schools of thought and innovative literary interpretive methods. Brooks became associated with "New Criticism," which employed a close reading analysis of the text and took irony and paradox into special consideration. New Criticism radically altered how literature was viewed.

In addition to being a critic, Brooks was an avid writer. In 1935, along with fellow Kentuckian and writer, Robert Penn Warren, he founded the "Southern Review." Brooks also co-authored three important textbooks, "An Approach to Literature" (1936), "Understanding Poetry" (1938), and "Understanding Fiction" (1943). His other critical works include "The Well Wrought Urn" and writings on the literature of William Faulkner. As a long-tenured professor, Brooks passed on his wisdom by teaching students to read literature with an open mind and without prejudice.

Brooks was born in Murray, Kentucky, on October 16, 1906. His parents, Methodist minister Reverend Cleanth and Bessie Brooks, frequently moved the family due to ministry assignments. The parents sent their son to prep school in Tennessee to ready him for an Ivy League education. His years of diligent study earned him the honor of Rhodes Scholar (1929-1932). He also received degrees from Vanderbilt, Tulane, and Exeter College, Oxford. He accepted a teaching position at Louisiana State University after his graduation in 1932. Remaining at the institution for fifteen years, Brooks eventually took a position at Yale in 1947, where he remained until 1975. He died in 1994.

Images

Cleanth Brooks

Cleanth Brooks

Cleanth Brooks, pictured here, became a well known as literary critic and scholar. Courtesy of the University of Kentucky. View File Details Page

Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt University

Cleanth Brooks attended Vanderbilt University, pictured here, from 1929-1932 where he met Robert Penn Warren. The two would go on to co-author a series of critical textbooks and found the "Southern Review." View File Details Page

Robert Penn Warren

Robert Penn Warren

Robert Penn Warren, pictured here, along with Cleanth Brooks founded the "Southern Review" in 1935. Courtesy of the University of Kentucky. View File Details Page

Calloway County Courthouse

Calloway County Courthouse

The Calloway County courthouse in Murray is shown here. Cleanth Brooks was born in Murray in 1906. Courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society. View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Katie Crawford-Lackey, “Cleanth Brooks,” ExploreKYHistory, accessed April 26, 2017, http://explorekyhistory.ky.gov/items/show/484.

Subjects

Tour navigation:  Previous | Tour Info | Next

Share this Story