In 1976 -- the bicentennial year -- Robert Penn Warren told Bill Moyers that he was "in love with America" but his love for the nation was more often than not troubled and angry. Warren once remarked that "any intelligent person is inclined to criticize his country more strongly than he will criticize anything else. And he should It's a way of criticizing himself, too.... Trying to live more intelligently, and more fully." In The American Vision of Robert Penn Warren, a noted Warren scholar traces the evolution of our first poet laureate's distinctive stance toward the American experiment in democracy, showing how Warren sought to balance off the claims of self and society in the New World.
This book surveys the full six decades of Warren's career, combining close reading with a historian's eye for social and political context. While pointedly avoiding the reductive pitfalls of the "new historicism," Clark documents the informing role the Great Depression played in shaping Warren's attitudes toward art and politics, and he demonstrates the necessity of regarding Warren's major achievements in fiction and verse as forms of "public speech." Read in this light, Warren's vision offers a set of possibilities for renego¬tiating America's covenant with its Founders on new and pragmatic terms.
Based solidly on the best previous commentary on Warren and his work, Clark's study represents a new approach to its subject and incorporates insights and information garnered from the Warren Papers at Yale. A wide-ranging account of the interplay between an author's imagination and contemporary history, this book should prove of interest to all students of American culture, especially those concerned with the interrelationships of literature, politics, and ideology. Written in a lively and direct style, it will appeal to specialists and general readers alike.