chewing, sucking, envying, and going torncocktail parties.” For Lee the GoldenrnAge is not the splendors of the antebellumrnSouth, but the harsh and unremittingrntoil of his grandfather’s generation.rnComing across a photograph album, hernsees the very house he is living in, thernvery window he is staring out of, but theyrnare new and fresh. He looks at a picturernof “three soiled men … his people, farmersrnand mail carriers and the like who,rnstarting from nothing, had not onlyrnbrought off an Age of Integrity, but hadrnthought to take pictures of it as well.”rnHis hatred evaporates as he contemplatesrnsuch pictures, in which “every humanrnerror was redeemed, by the exercisernof hardness and lovely gorgeous poverty.”rnLabor omnia vincit, improbm or, tornuse the tongue that Lee would prefer:rnkrupsantes gar echousi theoi bion anthropoisin.rnNeither conservative nor liberal, but arnreactionary radical, Tito Perdue has writtenrnsome of the best satire on contemporaryrnAmerica, and he has put his criticismrnin the form of novels which canrnhold their own with the best postmodernrnfiction.rnThomas Fleming is the editor ofrnChronicles.rnThe WellrnWrought Lifernbyf.O. TaternCleanth Brooks and the Rise ofrnModern Criticismrnby Mark Royden WinchellrnCharlottesville: UniversityrnPress of Virginia;rn510 pp., $34.95rnThis book is certainly a book—thernbook—for those interested in itsrnsubject, but I believe that it is a book,rntoo, for those who have no particularrninterest in Cleanth Brooks (1906-1994),rnor in criticism. In telling the story of arnman’s life, Mark Winchell has also, byrnplacing that life in context, addressedrnmany issues of broad concern.rnThe son of a Methodist minister,rnCleanth Brooks was born in Kentucky.rnHis attendance at the McTyeire school,rnwhere he studied Latin and Greek, set arnseal on him early, as did his religiousrnbackground. But Brooks did not find hisrncalling until relatively late. He enteredrnVanderbilt in 1924, at a time when thatrnuniversity had on campus its most illustriousrnstudents and teachers, and whenrnthe South was already in its literary Renaissance.rnPoetry and criticism were inrnthe air; the Fugitives were already publishing.rnJohn Crowe Ransom was teaching,rnand Donald Davidson, Allen Tate,rnAndrew Lytle, and Robert Penn Warrenrnwere on the campus, or the horizon. Thernyoung Brooks read a poem to one of thernlast meetings of the Fugitives and discoveredrnthe power of close reading in hisrnsenior year at college. Later on, his ownrnworks were to be a revelation to many arncollege student.rnBrooks wrote a master’s thesis at Tulanernon Elizabethan poetry, and met hisrnfuture wife in New Orleans. But he wasrnsoon off to Oxford in 1929 as a Rhodesrnscholar, and not long after that he wasrnteaching English at LSU. There he andrnRobert Penn Warren began a pedagogicalrnrevolution with their textbooks, thernmost famous of which was UnderstandingrnPoetry (1938), and edited one of thernfinest of all literary quartedies, the firstrnseries of The Southern Review. By 1947,rnBrooks was at Yale and had published hisrnmost imposing book on poetry. The WellrnWrought Urn. His work on Faulkner ledrnto four books, the first of which, WilliamrnFaulkner: The Yoknapatawpha Countryrn(1963), is unquestionably the finestrnsingle volume devoted to America’srnpremier modern novelist. By the timernBrooks retired from Yale, he was ready tornleave an academy that was no longer therncommunity of scholars that in one formrnor another he had loved and served.rnHearing a fatuous paper at a conferencernin 1993, he finally declared, “For over 60rnyears now, I’ve tried to teach people howrnto read literature. After hearing thisrnpaper, I’m about ready to give up.” Althoughrnit was not in Brooks’ characterrnto give up on anything, after a long andrnproductive life he was ready to go.rnNeedless (or needful) to say. Brooks’rnintimates included in a special sensernsuch luminaries as William Shakespeare,rnJohn Donne, John Milton, AndrewrnMarvell, Alexander Pope, WilliamrnWordsworth, John Keats, Lord AlfredrnTennyson, W.B. Yeats, and many anotherrndistinguished creator. His responsernto their work is a fascinating story in itsrnown right, and so are the stories of hisrnrelations not only with the Agrariansrnbut with such notables as WillmoorernKendall, Eric Voegelin, Katherine AnnernPorter, Robert B. Heilman, MaynardrnMack, and others. But the best thingrnabout Winchell’s life of Brooks is hisrnpoised and decisive account of the risern(and fall) of modern criticism. CleanthrnBrooks, rational and decorous as well asrnradical and aggressive, is the hero of thatrnaccount of what followed upon the triumphrnof the “new criticism” he embodied.rnWinchell sums up more than 40rnyears of reaction to Brooks and what hernstood for as well as it can be stated:rn. . . by stressing paradox, irony, andrnambiguity in literary study, thernnew critics were cautioning usrnagainst accepting facile and simplisticrnexplanations of any aspect ofrnreality…. by making us more carefulrnstudents of language, theyrnmade it more difficult for authoritarianrnand venal interests to manipulaternsociety with cliches, euphemisms,rnand jargon…. Whateverrntheir shortcomings, the newrncritics realized that the enemies ofrnliterature were the enemies of humanityrnitself.rnA good man, one as modest as he wasrngreat, Cleanth Brooks was a preternaturalrngentleman as well as an accomplishedrnscholar. When the academy and criticismrnwere the domain of such as he, hisrnwork and his demeanor were literally exemplary.rnThose days are gone, but thernrecovery has already begun. One of thernsigns of that recovery of mind is the veryrnbook that tells the story of a career, a life,rndevoted to the thought that literature isrnnot politics but a special kind of knowledge.rnThe ironic implication of tragedyrnimposes a limit to totalitarian, utilitarian,rnand egalitarian agendas, and the proponentsrnof those agendas know it very well.rnThat is why they have done so much torndestroy the very concept of literature itself.rnMark Winchell’s life of CleanthrnBrooks is therefore more than the accountrnof one man and of modern criticism;rnit is a book that speaks eloquentlyrnto pressing national issues about education,rnthe curriculum, and the canon. Irndare say it is the best critical biographyrnwe have seen in years.rn].0. Tate is a professor of English atrnDowling College on Long Island.rnDECEMBER 1996/35rnrnrn