Robert Penn Warren, Southern Writer, Critic, and Professor
“I didn’t expect to become a writer. My ambition was to become a naval officer and I got an appointment to Annapolis… Then I had an accident. I couldn’t go – an accident to my eyes – and then I went to [Vanderbilt University] instead, and I started out in life there as a chemical engineer. That didn’t last but three weeks or so, because I found the English courses so much more interesting… ” — John Baker interview with Robert Penn Warren in Conversations with Writers.
Penn Takes Up the Pen
After he discovered writing, Robert Penn Warren became a very important Southern writer, literary critic, and professor of the last century. He wrote novels, poems, and scholarly works about literature. He taught at a number of different universities and became a leader in promoting the New Criticism, a different way of interpreting literature which gained popularity during the last century. His most famous work, a novel called All the King’s Men was made into a movie.
Warren was born in Guthrie, Kentucky, in l905 and finished high school by the age of 15. He suffered a terrible injury after being hit in the eye by a rock thrown by his brother. He eventually lost his eye. The same summer that this tragedy occurred, he published his first poem. He entered college at age 16.
Robert Penn Warren Birthplace Museum
The Robert Penn Warren Birthplace Museum is located in his home town of Guthrie. Here you can visit and view the home where Warren lived his very early life. Guthrie, Kentucky is a small town, population 1,000. According to numerous reviews, the museum and tour guides do an excellent job of introducing visitors to Warren. It wasn’t open when we stopped by so we trust others’ words of experience.
The Robern Penn Warren Birthplace Museum is the sixth stop on our Kentucky Author Adventure Trail.
Rebecca Blake Beech