Robert Penn Warren

Robert Warren was one of the founders of a movement of a way of understanding literature, or reading literature, called the New Criticism. They started this stuff in the thirties, but it really took off in the forties. It was a way of studying literature. Instead of worrying about what role this had in the author's life, this is in its pure form, instead of worrying about Shakespeare's relationship with the Dark Lady, instead of worrying about the entomology of the words, you would read the poem as a poem. You could validly study Shakespeare without having to delve all into his personal history. This is fortunate for some works because some were anonymous and sometimes we don't know much about the author. The point of the movement was that you could read this stuff without having to know everything about it. You could just read a poem as a poem. Herald Bloom, I guess, was the last new critic. He was a cranky old guy who said bad things about anybody who didn't agree with him. He said that Shakespeare is universal. It's for all times and all places. Of course, this is very new critically. They focus on the universality of poetry.

Robert Penn Warren taught for a while at LSU and started the movement with his buddy Cleanth Brooks from 1935-1942. It really took hold after WWII. Many soldiers were coming back home  & going to school on the G.I. Bill; the college population exploded; and there were guys getting their Ph.D.'s who would move off to teach at places like Louisiana Tech that didn't very good libraries, and how are you going to write about Shakespeare when you don't have the first folio over there in the library? Well, you don't worry about it. In New Criticism, you don't have to worry about such things. You could just get your Shakespeare off the shelf and study it.