Let us ask, first, why we read
literature at all. Ultimately, we read it because it gives us an image of
the human soul confronting its fate.
—Robert Penn Warren
"The Use of the Past"
Warren-Brooks Award was established to honor the innovative, critical
interpretation of literature offered by Robert Penn Warren (1905-1989) and Cleanth Brooks (1906-1994) and
to celebrate the continuation of such achievement. It is awarded for
outstanding literary criticism originally published in English in the United
States of America and is given in those years when a book, or other worthy
publication, appears that exemplifies the Warren-Brooks effort in spirit,
scope, and integrity. The recipient receives a $1,000 check and a
certificate of recognition. Arrangements for the recipient include an
expense paid trip to Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, Kentucky to
receive the award.
Advisory Group to the Center for Robert Penn Warren Studies, Western
Kentucky University, originated the Warren-Brooks Award in 1992 and
continues to administer the jury process by which winners are selected. A
successful developmental campaign paved the way for the first award
presentation in 1996, and juries have met every year since to evaluate the
field of eligible works.
award was made possible by an endowment from the late Eleanor Clark Warren,
the Warren Estate, and Western Kentucky University. Early each year, a three
member jury from the Advisory Group reads works of literary criticism
published during the preceding calendar year by scholarly and commercial
presses. The winning author is notified by mid-February.
process is closely related to the ongoing programs and activities of the
Warren Center. Western Kentucky University, located in Bowling Green,
Kentucky, is home to both the Warren Center and Robert Penn Warren's
personal library. The Center was established in 1986, and operates under the
direction of a local committee of university faculty, administrators, and
Center's Advisory Group consists of a nationwide network of Warren Scholars
and creative thinkers who have distinguished themselves in support of Warren
studies. The Advisory Group presents the Warren-Brooks Award in April,
during the annual Symposium sponsored by the Warren Center on the campus of
Western Kentucky University.
award honors two native Kentuckians who distinguished themselves in
teaching, in scholarship, and in literature. Robert Penn Warren, perhaps
best known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, All the King's Men, published in every major
genre, including ten novels and seventeen volumes of poetry, and in 1984
became America's first Poet Laureate.
Cleanth Brooks's literary
criticism gained him international recognition for The Well Wrought Urn,
studies in the structure of poetry, and for his two-volume study of the
works of William Faulkner. Both Warren and Brooks won Rhodes Scholarships
during the 1920's; a decade later, while teaching at Louisiana State
University, they founded the Southern Review.
Warren and Brooks are credited with changing the way poetry was taught in
university classrooms after the publication of their best-known textbook,
Understanding Poetry, in 1938. They also wrote textbooks for the various
genres of literature, including An Approach to Literature (with John
Thibaut Purser), Understanding Fiction, American Literature: The Makers
and the Making (with R. W. B. Lewis), and a composition textbook,
new winner brings the Warren-Brooks Award closer to a very significant
milestone: the Warren and Brooks centennial years (2005-2006) will mark the
transition of the award into its second decade. It is already regarded as a
major annual literary prize by many scholars and presses, and the Warren
Center advisors are now working to increase the original endowment to a
level that will support a larger annual award for the winning author.
who care about the Warren and Brooks legacies in American culture must be
the ones to sustain the award established in their honor; as the centennial
years approach, we encourage you to add the Warren-Brooks Award to the
projects you support with annual contributions. For more information,
contact Professor Mary Ellen Miller, Center for Robert Penn Warren Studies,
Western Kentucky University, 1 Big Red Way, Bowling Green, Kentucky
42101-3576 (phone 270-745-5721).
you can give a substantial amount but would like to discuss what form your
gift should take, Professor Miller can provide you with expert advice
through the Western Kentucky Foundation offices (call toll free at
Penn Warren and Cleanth Brooks helped define the ways that society valued
its literary heritage in the twentieth century; please help us continue to
recognize the best critical scholarship of the new century by supporting the