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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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5. Masculine Heroes   

13. Southern Renaissance

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Activities: Author Activities

Robert Penn Warren - Author Questions

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  1. Comprehension: Much of Warren's poetry is grounded in particular places and relies for its effect on specific descriptions of landscape. Compare the setting of "Bearded Oaks" to that of "Mortal Limit." What settings and what kind of "mood" does each evoke? If we consider that both poems are concerned with the journey of life, how do their different settings help Warren create different variations on this similar theme?

  2. Context: In "American Portrait: Old Style," the speaker tells us that his childhood friend, K, who was known as a good baseball pitcher in his youth, has grown old and thin. Review lines 105-09, in which K considers the passage of time. Compare K's actions to the position taken by the Southern Agrarians with regard to "modern progress" in the South. What might "the big brown insulator" symbolize? Also consider the speaker's conclusions in the final stanza of "American Portrait." How do the speaker's feelings about time and "progress" compare with K's, above? What might Warren's poem be saying about southern history and the passage of time more generally?

  3. Exploration: In the late 1920s and 1930s, Robert Penn Warren expressed support for racial segregation, but he later changed his mind. Like Warren, other prominent writers of the early twentieth century expressed controversial views that later became very unpopular. For example, T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound (Unit 10) were attracted to fascism and some of their writing has been called anti-semitic. Yet, despite these unpopular views, writers like Warren, Eliot, and Pound are considered among America's best authors. As readers and critics, how should an author's political and social views affect our reception of his or her works?

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