Cleanth Brooks (1906—1994) was a native of Kentucky, educated at Vanderbilt University and Oxford. At Vanderbilt he was a student and associate of the Southern Agrarians. Although too young to participate in I’ll Take My Stand, he did participate in the sequel, Who Owns America? and the 50th anniversary collection, Why the South Will Survive. As a professor at Louisiana State University, among many other accomplishments, Brooks founded The Southern Review with Robert Penn Warren and directed Richard M. Weaver’s doctoral dissertation, later published as The Southern Tradition at Bay. His college textbook on poetry, The Well Wrought Urn, is considered to have revolutionized the teaching of that subject. When a carpetbagger president of LSU refused to support the teaching and publication of Southern literature, Brooks and Warren reluctantly left the South to accept prestige appointments at Yale. Over a long and multi-faceted career Brooks became one of the very top literary scholars in U.S. history. Although many scholars have assayed the study of Faulkner’s works, Brooks’s treatment is definitive. He establishes that Faulkner was not the alienated modern artist conceived by New York critics, but was a traditional bard and that the main character of all his works was the Southern community itself.
William Faulkner received the Nobel Prize in 1949 and died in 1962. Somewhat more than half of his most important works had been written by 1940, making him truly a great American writer during the time frame of interest of the Society, which concludes in 1940.