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00:00:04 - Meeting Robert Penn Warren

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Partial Transcript: I'm speaking today with Professor Charles Howell Foster and Mrs. Foster.

Segment Synopsis: Charles Foster describes his first encounters with Warren in Iowa through the university. How Foster's wife, Doris, met Warren is also recalled. The social interactions between Professor Foster and Warren outside of the workplace are also mentioned. Subjects of conversation often included literary notables including Melville and Emerson. The influence of Robert Frost and Thomas Hardy upon the two professors is emphasized.

Keywords: Allen Tate; Herman Melville; Iowa City (Iowa); Leonard Unger; Night Rider (Book); Ralph Waldo Emerson; Reading; Robert Frost; Robert Penn Warren; Socialization; T. S. Eliot; The Going (Poem); The University of Iowa; Thomas Hardy; Walking; William Faulkner

Subjects: American literature--20th century; Education; Friendship; Novels; Poetry; Professors

00:07:15 - Later interactions with Warren

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Partial Transcript: Now, you were not at Minnesota, uh, at the same time, then.

Segment Synopsis: Charles Foster recalls other interactions with Warren in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The chronology of the professors' careers is briefly mentioned. A visit to the Fosters by Warren at Grinnell College for several weeks is remembered. It is revealed that Warren wrote a significant portion of the novel "Brother to Dragons," as well as an essay on Joseph Conrad at the Fosters' home in Iowa.

Keywords: Allen Tate; Brother to Dragons (Book); Chess; Grinnell College; Italian; Joseph Conrad; Rene Wellek; Robert Penn Warren; Socialization; The University of Minnesota; Writing; Yale University

Subjects: American literature--20th century; Education; Friendship; Professors

00:10:43 - Warren as a novelist

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Partial Transcript: Since one of your main fields in teaching has been the American novel, maybe we could say a few words about Warren as a novelist.

Segment Synopsis: Charles Foster gives his opinions on Warren as a novelist. Next, Foster speculates upon Warren's inspirations for his protagonists in fiction. It is found that Byron was a great influence. Foster also critiques Warren's latest novel, "A Place To Come To," and praises the distinct nature of the book as well. A parallel between "A Place To Come To" and the writing of Melville is also drawn.

Keywords: A Place To Come To (Book); Comments; Dante; Distinct; Harriet Beecher Stowe; Herman Melville; Heroes; Letters; Lord Byron; Protagonists; Robert Penn Warren; Southern condition; Southerners; Unique

Subjects: American literature--20th century; British literature; Friendship; Novels

00:16:22 - Time as a theme in Warren's writing / Warren's influences

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Partial Transcript: Speaking of things being out of space and out of time, there's a very interesting, uh, uh, element in some of Warren's writing...

Segment Synopsis: Charles Foster briefly addresses the notion of time present in Warren's writing. Warren's diverse influences, from varying countries of origin are discussed, including those of French and American descent. The source of this multicultural literary canon is revealed to be from Warren's education at Vanderbilt University, specifically through notable professor and writer John Crowe Ransom, along with Allen Tate. Lastly, an instance with Saint-John Perse and Warren in France is also described.

Keywords: Allen Tate; Blackberry Winter (Book); Children; France; Fugitives; Influences; Italian; John Crowe Ransom; Marcel Proust; Perspectives; Robert Penn Warren; Saint-John Perse; Scholars; Thomas Hardy; Time; Vanderbilt University; William Faulkner

Subjects: American literature--20th century; Education; Friendship; Professors

00:23:23 - Warren on a radio program

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Partial Transcript: Would you go back a little and tell us a little about the radio program that you had in which Warren participated?

Segment Synopsis: Charles Foster chronicles a literary radio program that Warren participated in regularly. Many notable academics from the University of Iowa were also guests on the show frequently. An instance with the director of the program and T. S. Eliot's criticism of his work is recalled. This is compared to a story about Warren's first wife (who was Italian) and her connection with Dante's Inferno. Warren's performance on the show is discussed as well. An essay Warren wrote on a short story of Hemingway's is also examined.

Keywords: All the King's Men (Book); Austin Warren; Dante's Inferno (Book); Earnest Hemingway; Emma Brescia; Essays; Humanists; Iowa City (Iowa); New Criticism; Reading; Rene Wellek; Robert Penn Warren; Speaking; T. S. Eliot; The Killers (Book); The School of Letters Hour; The University of Iowa

Subjects: American literature--20th century; Friendship; Radio programs.

00:29:16 - Warren's identity as a writer

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Partial Transcript: I suppose Hemingway we'd have to name again as one of the people who maybe has added, uh, his, uh, gift, uh, in talk...

Segment Synopsis: Charles Foster explores Warren's literary style, beginning with the early influences upon the author. Notables include Hemingway and Frost. Foster also establishes the newfound identity present in Warren's work, which in turn sets it apart from other American writers. Lastly, Foster emphasizes the correlation between a recognizable cultural style, and the resulting legacy of notable artists with this ability, including Mozart and van Gogh.

Keywords: Earnest Hemingway; Emily Dickinson; Evolution; Fame; Identities; Impressions; Influences; Personalities; Robert Frost; Robert Penn Warren; Speech; Tone; Unique; W. B. Yeats; William Faulkner

Subjects: American literature--20th century; Art; British literature; Friendship; Professors

00:33:00 - Warren's legacy / American epics

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Partial Transcript: How would you rate Warren right now as an American--(cough)--writer?

Segment Synopsis: Warren's impact upon the American poetic spectrum is examined. Warren's literary criticism is also praised by Charles Foster. Next, Foster ranks Warren among both contemporary poets and those from past generations. The influence of Warren's "Brother to Dragons" and its important place in modern literature is emphasized. The TV adaptation of "Brother to Dragons" is also described, including Warren's brief appearance on the program. Origins of what Foster calls "the American Epic," and how this relates to Warren are documented.

Keywords: Allen Tate; Aristotle; Brother to Dragons (Book); Characters; Civil War; Confluence; Critics; Edgar Allen Poe; Epics; Herman Melville; John Berryman; John Greenleaf Whittier; Nathaniel Hawthorne; Poets; Robert Frost; Robert Lowell; Robert Penn Warren; Samuel Taylor Coleridge; T. S. Eliot; TV; Television; Traditions; William Faulkner

Subjects: American literature--20th century; Friendship; Poetry

00:41:08 - Characteristics in writing / storytelling / Warren's beginning as a writer

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Partial Transcript: I'm trying to think where the--when "The Ballad of Billie Potts" actually appeared.

Segment Synopsis: Charles Foster briefly discusses the "Ballad of Billie Potts." Stylistic elements of Warren's work are also described, for example, a frequent inclusion of violence. This tendency is compared to the non-literary personality of Warren. The author's sense of humor is found to be expressed in his storytelling abilities. This trait is determined to be the source of the folk-like characters present in Warren's writing. The initial style of Warren is outlined and portrayed as an imitation of other writers, which proves to be a conventional habit of young writers.

Keywords: Allen Tate; Characters; Conversations; Doctors; Humor; Literary; Lord Byron; Obscene; Personalities; Personas; Psychosomatic; Puzzling; Robert Frost; Robert Penn Warren; Saul Bellow; Stories; T. S. Eliot; The Ballad of Billie Potts (Poem); Tone; Traits; Violence; William Faulkner

Subjects: American literature--20th century; Friendship; Life; Novels; Poetry; Storytelling

00:51:37 - Warren's views on his contemporaries / Warren's criticism

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Partial Transcript: Have you ever heard, uh, Warren speak about any modern--very late modern writers?

Segment Synopsis: Charles Foster speculates upon Warren's opinions of modern writers. Warren's professional literary criticism is also examined. Next, Foster describes Warren's treatment (and lack of criticism) of academics at the University of Iowa in a somewhat hostile environment. The positive criticism of authors that Warren has written on are also mentioned. Additionally, Foster examines a suggestion that he made for Warren during the revision process, which is found to be very central to the writing of famed author Henry James.

Keywords: Academics; Allen Tate; Brother to Dragons (Book); Central Intelligence; Contemporaries; Generous; Henry James; Kindness; Lord Byron; Protagonists; Robert Lowell; Robert Penn Warren; Saul Bellow; Stendahl; Suggestions; Theodore Dreiser; University of Iowa; William Faulkner

Subjects: American literature--20th century; Critics; Friendship; Novels

00:59:06 - Foster and Warren on the Civil War

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Partial Transcript: Uh, talking about other sources, uh, and perhaps common areas of interest between you and Warren, you've, you've, uh, done work with the Abolition movement and--

Segment Synopsis: The Civil War as a topic of conversation between the friends is examined. It is found that both of the professors' grandfathers fought in the Civil War on opposing sides, and participated in the Battle of Seven Pines. Warren's interest the Civil War is in part because of Melville's notable poetry on the subject. The opinions of Warren on both the Civil War and the Abolitionist movement are revealed. Lastly, Foster gives his thoughts on Abolitionists John Brown and The Secret Six, and why he decided not to write about these topics.

Keywords: Abolitionists; Allen Tate; Battle of Seven Pines; Battles; Confederates; Diaries; Epics; Grandfathers; Harper's Ferry; Heritage; Herman Melville; Imaginative; John Brown; Liberation; Robert Penn Warren; The Briar Patch; The Civil War; The Secret Six; Tragic; U.S. Army

Subjects: American literature--20th century; Friendship; Race relations; Racism; United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.

01:07:07 - On John Greenleaf Whittier

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Partial Transcript: So Red and I had, uh, uh, common ground there.

Segment Synopsis: Charles Foster talks about the book on John Greenleaf Whittier that Warren dedicated to him and his wife. The reasoning behind this dedication is speculated upon. The discussions that Warren and Foster had on Whittier are compared to the material included in the book. Whittier both as an artist and Abolitionist is examined. Additionally, Whittier's style in prose is compared to that of his poetry.

Keywords: Abolitionists; Dedications; History; John Greenleaf Whittier; Non-romantic; Poets; Propaganda; Prose; Robert Frost; Robert Penn Warren; Simplicity; Snow-bound; The Civil War; The Today Show; The University of Minnesota Press

Subjects: American literature--20th century; Friendship; Life; Novels

01:12:22 - Warren's religion and morals

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Partial Transcript: Would you say Warren admires this kind of, uh, of--maybe crusading spirit is, is too extreme a phrase, but, uh, he admires men of commitment?

Segment Synopsis: The influence of politics (according to Warren's definition) in both Warren and Whittier's writing is investigated. Warren's religious tendencies over the years are discussed, including brief participation in several Christian denominations. The influence of religion on Warren's novel "Brother to Dragons" is examined as well. Next, the religious elements in Warren's writing are compared to that of contemporary William Faulkner. The Catholicism of Emma Brescia (the first wife of Warren) is discussed.

Keywords: Allen Tate; Atheist; Brother to Dragons (Book); Catholicism; Churches; Edwardian; Emma Brescia; Episcopalian; Existential; Godfathers; Iowa; John Greenelaf Whittier; Louis D. Rubin; Methodist; Morals; Philologies; Politics; Protestant; Robert Penn Warren; William Faulkner

Subjects: American literature--20th century; Friendship; Poetry; Religion

01:19:52 - Foster and Warren currently / letters

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Partial Transcript: Uh, ha--so, over the past ten years your, your contact with Warren has, has been mainly through correspondence.

Segment Synopsis: Charles Foster illustrates his friendship with Warren in recent years. It is revealed that Warren and Foster continue to write each other well into the 1970s. The amount of mail that Warren receives is also contemplated. Next, Doris Foster reads a letter from Warren that he sent the couple a few years ago. Included within the letter is a description of a trip to Boston and the people that Warren interacted with there. The Fosters' collection of letters from Warren over the years and their possible donation to a university are examined.

Keywords: A Place To Come To (Book); American Academy of Arts and Sciences; Boston (Mass.); Collections; Connecticut; Correspondence; Harvard University; Henry David Thoreau; Letters; Mail; Prizes; Ralph Waldo Emerson; Robert Frost; Robert Penn Warren; The University of Iowa; The University of Kentucky; The University of Minnesota

Subjects: American literature--20th century; Friendship; Life; Travel

01:28:07 - Warren and music

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Partial Transcript: Mrs. Foster has kindly agreed to add a few comments of her own.

Segment Synopsis: Doris Foster recounts her experiences with Warren and music. Warren's supposed lack of understanding or interest in music is described. An instance with a famous conductor in Minnesota is also given. Another example of musical disinterest was Warren's refusal to attend a concert in Iowa with the Fosters. The musical background of Warren's first wife is mentioned as well.

Keywords: All the King's Men (Book); Classical music; Concerts; Dialects; Dimitri Mitropoulos; Emma Brescia; Grinnell College; Minneapolis (Minn.); Music; Robert Penn Warren; Voice

Subjects: American literature--20th century; Friendship; Life; Music