Cleanth Brooks, literary critic: born Murray, Kentucky 16 October 1906; Lecturer / Professor, Louisiana State University 1932-47; Managing Editor / Editor (with Robert Penn Warren), the Southern Review 1935-42; Professor of English / Gray Professor of Rhetoric, Yale University 1947-75 (Emeritus); Cultural Attache, US Embassy, London 1964-66; Jefferson Lecturer, National Endowment for the Humanities 1985; married 1934 Edith Blanchard (died 1986); died New Haven, Connecticut 10 May 1994.
CLEANTH BROOKS was a learned, gentle Southerner who represented all that was best about the astonishing collection of literary talent at Yale University after the Second World War.
The "old Yale" had a less attractive side, of social snobbery, outright prejudice, and an Anglophilia so pronounced as to make the most flattered Englishman wince. This was the Yale of "dollar-a-year" men, who could buy a scholarly career with an afternoon's intelligent buying of manuscripts at Sotheby's (this in the age before university libraries dominated the market). But it was also a university with a unique and extraordinary cast of writers, critics, and scholars that included Brooks himself, Robert Penn Warren, W.K. Wimsatt, Frederick Pottle, Rene Wellek, and many others.
In his later years, particularly during the heyday in the 1970s of French-influenced critical theory, Brooks was occasionally accused of being, somehow, too popular. Certainly his Understanding Poetry, written with Robert Penn Warren and published in 1938, was a best- selling textbook for a generation of undergraduates. …