Cleanth Brooks was an American literary critic and professor. . In “The Formalist Critics,” Brooks offers “some articles of faith” (qtd. in Leitch ) to which he subscribes. These articles. “The Formalist Critics.” by Cleanth Brooks. Here are some articles of faith I could subscribe to: That literary criticism is a description and an evaluation of its object . Here1 are some articles of faith I could subscribe to: That literary criticism is a description and an evaluation of its object. That the primary concern of criticism is .

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He is frmalist known for his contributions to New Criticism in the midth century and for revolutionizing the teaching of poetry in American higher education. His best-known works, The Well Wrought Urn: Studies in the Structure of Poetry and Modern Poetry and the Traditionargue for the centrality of ambiguity and paradox as a way of understanding poetry.

With his writing, Brooks helped to formulate formalist criticismemphasizing “the interior life of a poem” Leitch and codifying the principles of close reading. Brooks was also the preeminent critic of Southern literaturewriting classic texts on William Faulknerand co-founder of the crutics journal The Southern Review Leitch with Robert Penn Warren.

He was one of three children: Cleanth and William, natural born sons, and Murray Brooks, actually born Hewitt Witherspoon, whom Bessie Lee Witherspoon kidnapped from her brother Forrest Bedford Witherspoon criticcs a young baby after the natural mother had died. She later was able to change his name to Murray Brooks and continued to raise formxlist as her own, causing quite a rift in her own family and alienating herself from Cleanth and William.

Cleanth mentioned on more than one occasion that she so doted on Murray Hewitt that she no longer had a relationship with Cleanth and William.

Attending McTyeire School, a private academy, he received a classical education and went on to study at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennesseewhere he received his B.

InBrooks received his M. He received his B.

Inhe married Edith Amy Blanchord. Studying with Ransom and Warren, Brooks became involved in two significant literary movements: While he never argued for the movement’s conservative Southern traditions, he “learned a great deal” qtd.

The Fugitive Movement similarly influenced Brooks’ approach to criticism. The discussion was based on intensive readings and included considerations of a poem’s form, structure, meter, rhyme scheme, and imagery Singh This close reading formed the foundation on which the New Critical movement was based and helped shape Brooks’ approach to criticism Singh InWarren joined the English department at Louisiana State, leading Brooks and Warren to collaborate on many works of criticism and pedagogy.

Untilthey co-edited the journal, publishing works by clranth influential authors, including Eudora WeltyKenneth Burkeand Ford Madox Ford. The journal was known for its criticism and creative writing, marking it as one of the leading journals of the time Leitch In addition, Brooks’s and Warren’s collaboration led to innovations in the teaching of forrmalist and literature. At Louisiana State Universitylceanth by their formalisst inability to interpret poetry, the two put together a booklet that modeled close reading through examples Leitch The booklet was a success and laid the foundation for a number of best-selling textbooks: Brooks’ two most influential cleqnth also came out of the success of the booklet: Studies in the Structure of Poetry Leitch From toBrooks held many academic positions and received a number of distinguished fellowships and honorary doctorates.

Inhe worked as a visiting professor at the University of Texas, Austin. From tohe was an English professor at Yale Universitywhere he held the position of Gray Professor of Rhetoric and Gray Professor of Rhetoric Emeritus from until his retirement, except to Singh His tenure at Yale was marked by ongoing research into Southern literature, which resulted in criticcs publication of Brooks’ studies of William Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha CountyLeitch Inhe was a fellow of the Kenyon School of English.


From tohe was a fellow of the Library of Congress in Washington, D. During this time, he received the Guggenheim Fellowship and held it again in Brooks was the central figure of New Criticism, a movement that emphasized structural and textual analysis—close reading—over historical or biographical analysis. Brooks advocates close reading because, as he states in The Well Wrought Urn”by making the closest examination of what the poem says as a poem” qtd.

For him, the crux of New Criticism is that literary study be “concerned primarily with the work itself” qtd. In “The Formalist Critics,” Brooks offers “some articles of faith” qtd. These articles exemplify the tenets of New Criticism:. New Criticism involves examining a poem’s “technical elements, textual patterns, and incongruities” Leitch with a kind of scientific rigor and precision.

Brooks formulated these guidelines in reaction to ornamentalist theories of poetry, to the common practice of critics going outside the poem to historical or biographical contextsand his and Warren’s frustration with trying to teach college students to analyze poetry and literature Leitch Brooks and Warren were teaching using textbooks “full of biographical facts and impressionistic criticism” Singh The textbooks failed to show how poetic language differed from the language of an editorial or a work of non-fiction.

From this frustration, Brooks and Warren published Understanding Poetry. In the book, the authors assert poetry should be taught as poetry, and the critic should resist reducing a poem to a simple paraphrase, explicating it through biographical or historical contexts, and interpreting it didactically Singh For Brooks and Warren, paraphrase and biographical and historical background information is useful as a means of clarifying interpretation, but it should be used as means to an end Singh Brooks took this notion of paraphrase and developed it further in his classic The Well Wrought Urn.

The book is a polemic against the tendency for critics to reduce a poem to a single narrative or didactic message. He describes summative, reductionist reading of poetry with a phrase still popular today: In fact, he argued poetry serves no didactic purpose because producing some kind of statement would be counter to a poem’s purpose.

Brooks argues “through irony, paradox, ambiguity and other rhetorical and poetic devices of his or her art, the poet works constantly to resist any reduction of the poem to a paraphrasable core, favoring the presentation of conflicting facets of theme and patterns of resolved stresses” Leitch In addition to arguing against historical, biographical, and didactic readings of a poem, Brooks believed that a poem should not be criticized on the basis of its effect on the reader.

In an essay called “The Formalist Critics,” he says that “the formalist critic assumes an ideal reader: While he admits that it is problematic to assume such a reference point, he sees it as the only viable option. Since the other options would be either to give any reading equal status with any other reading, or to establish a group of “‘qualified’ readers” and use those as a range of standard interpretations.

In the first case, a correct or “standard” reading would become impossible; in the second case, an ideal reader has still been assumed under the guise of multiple ideal readers Rivkin Thus, Brooks does not accept the idea of considering critics’ emotional responses to works of literature as a legitimate approach to criticism.

He says that “a detailed description of my emotional state on reading certain works has little to do with indicating to an interested reader what the work is and how the parts of it are related” Rivkin For Brooks, nearly everything a critic evaluates must come from within the text itself.

This opinion is similar to that expressed by W.

Cleanth Brooks

Wimsatt and Monroe C. Beardsley in their famous essay “The Affective Fallacy,” in which they argue that a critic is “a teacher or explicator of meanings,” not a reporter of “physiological experience” in the reader qtd. Because New Criticism isolated the text and excluded historical and biographical contexts, critics argued as early as that Brooks’ approach to criticism was flawed for being overly narrow and for “disabl[ing] any and all attempts to relate literary study to political, social, and cultural issues and debates” His reputation suffered in the s and s when criticism of New Criticism increased.


Brooks rebuffed the accusations that New Criticism has an “antihistorical thrust” Leitch and a “neglect of context” Leitch He insisted he was not excluding context because a poem possesses organic unityand it is possible to derive a historical and biographical context from the language the poet uses Singh He argues “A poem by Donne or Marvell does not depend for its success on outside knowledge that we bring to it; it is richly ambiguous yet harmoniously orchestrated, coherent in its own special aesthetic terms” Leitch New Criticism was accused by critics of having a contradictory nature.

Brooks writes, on the one hand, “the resistance which any good poem sets up against all attempts to paraphrase it” qtd. On the other hand, he admonishes the unity and harmony in a poem’s aesthetics. These seemingly contradictory forces in a poem create tension and paradoxical irony according to Brooks, but critics questioned whether irony leads to a poem’s unity or undermines it Leitch Poststructuralists in particular saw a poem’s resistance and warped language as competing with its harmony and balance that Brooks celebrates Leitch Ronald Crane was particularly hostile to the views of Brooks and the other New Critics.

In his later years, Brooks criticized the poststructuralists for inviting subjectivity and relativism into their analysis, asserting “each critic played with the text’s language unmindful of aesthetic relevance and formal design” Leitch This approach to criticism, Brooks argued, “denied the authority of the work” Leitch Understanding Poetry was an unparalleled success and remains “a classic manual for the intellectual and imaginative skills required for the understanding of poetry” Singh Further, critics praise Brooks and Warren for “introducing New Criticism with commendable clarity” Singh and for teaching students how to read and interpret poetry.

Arthur Mizener commended Brooks and Warren for offering a new way of teaching poetry:. For us the real revolution in critical theory It made sense because it opened up for us a way of talking about an actual poem in an actual classroom, and because the technique of focusing upon a poem as language rather than as history or biography or morality, gave a whole new meaning to and justification for the teaching of poetry qtd.

In an obituary for Brooks, John W. Stevenson of Converse College notes Brooks “redirect[ed] and revolutionize[d] the teaching of literature in American colleges and universities” Further, Stevenson admits Brooks was “the person who brought excitement and passion to the study of literature” and “whose work Further, Winchell praises Brooks for “help[ing] invent the modern literary quarterly” through the success of The Southern Review. As testament to Brooks’ influence, fellow critic and former teacher John Crowe Ransom calls Brooks “the most forceful and influential critic of poetry that we have” qtd.

Elsewhere, Ransom has even gone so far as to describe Brooks as a “spell binder” qtd. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Cleanth Brooks – Wikipedia

Murray, KentuckyU. In a conversation lasting several hours, Brooks and Faulkner spent most of their time discussing dogs and coon hunting. Archived from the original on Retrieved from ” https: Views Read Edit View history. This page was last edited on 8 Novemberat By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. October 16, Murray, KentuckyU.