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Robert Penn Warren

Robert Penn WarrenRobert Penn Warren (1905–1989), B.A. 1925

Warren was an American novelist, poet, critic and teacher, best known for his treatment of moral dilemmas in a South beset by the erosion of its traditional rural values. He was named the first poet laureate of the United States in 1986. When he enrolled at Vanderbilt in 1921, he became the youngest member of the group of poets called the Fugitives, which included John Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate, Donald Davidson and Merrill Moore. The Fugitives were advocates of the rural Southern agrarian tradition and based their poetry and critical perspective on classical aesthetic ideals.

After graduation in 1925, Warren studied at the University of California–Berkeley (M.A. 1927) and at Yale. He then went to the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. From 1930 to 1950, he served on the faculty of several colleges and universities, including Vanderbilt and the University of Minnesota. He taught at Yale University from 1951 to 1973.

Though regarded as one of the best poets of his generation, Warren was better known as a novelist. His most popular novel, All the King’s Men (1946), won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1947 and was made into an Academy Award-winning film in 1949. In addition, he twice won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry (1958, 1979) and, at the time of his selection as poet laureate in 1986, was the only person ever to win the prize in both categories.