The achievement of Robert Penn Warren

Walker, George Marshall (1978) The achievement of Robert Penn Warren. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Introduction. Reasons are given for offering the present study. Existing books about Warren are described and his Southern allegiances indicated. Chapter One. Warren's regionalism is examined in the context of his early affiliations with the Nashville Fugitives and Agrarians. His developing theory of literature is discussed and shown to be consistent with a view of the world which, while anti-Emersonian, recognises the necessity for man to live by ideals. In this, Warren's conception of man is likened to Conrad's. His prospectus for self-realisation in "Knowledge and the Image of Man" is discussed. Chapter Two. Man's propensity for idealism is constantly challenged by the claims of naturalism. Warren's engagement with naturalism and his sense of its attractions is illustrated by the poetic sequence "Kentucky Mountain Farm." This provides a context in which his early development as a poet is discussed. Evidence is given to support the view that Warren had found himself as a poet by June 1925 and that by August of the same year an appreciation of the crucial differences between sarcasm and irony enabled him to write about his own "philosophy of poetry." Chapter Three deals with Warren's shorter fiction from 1931-1947, collected in The Circus in the Attic. Themes of the novels are found in many of these stories and, while they are judged uneven in quality, other stories besides the well-known "Blackberry Winter" are shown to be of merit. Chapter Four relates Warren's first full-length prose work, John Brown; the Making of a Martyr, to his emergence as a philosophical novelist with a particular interest in the problem of self-realisation and the need of the individual to fulfil himself in terms of an idea. Novels examined are Night Rider, At Heaven's Gate and All the King's Men. The method of the exemplum is evaluated in each of these books. Chapter Five groups four works in which Warren has used historical materials to create "little myths" of enduring relevance: the novel, world Enough and Tine, the long poem, Brother to Dragons, and the novels, Band of Angels and Wilderness. Chapter Six. The "new sense of poetry" that enabled Warren to produce Promises; Poems, 1954-1956, and subsequent verse, is related to a revitalised awareness of v/hat he calls "the human bond." This Chapter also assesses the poetry of You, Emperors, and Others; Poems, 1957-1960 and the sequence, "Tale of Time; New Poems, 1960-1966," Chapter Seven. The poles of fact and idea are transposed into the flesh and the imagination with which Warren is particularly concerned in the most successful poetry of Incarnations; Poems, 1966-1968, Audubon; A Vision (1969) and Or Else-Poem/Poems 1968-1974. Chapter Eight. Three novels-The Cave, Flood and Meet lie in the Green Glen-are considered as fables of love with a pastoral setting. An attempt is cade to defend these books from hostile reviewers who do not appear to understand Warren's intentions, his techniques or his region. Chapter Nine. Warren's most recent novel, A Place to Come To, presents his "basic ideas" more panoramically and more richly mixed than ever. Analysing the novel in terms of these ideas, this Chapter moves, in its second part, to a summing-up of Warren's qualities and achievement as a writer of verse and prose as well as of such socio-historical works as Segregation, The Legacy of the Civil War and Who Speaks for the Negro? Appendix. An interview between Robert Penn Warren and the writer is presented with notes.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Adviser: Peter H Butter
Keywords: American literature
Date of Award: 1978
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1978-73177
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 14 Jun 2019 08:56
Last Modified: 14 Jun 2019 08:56

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