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On the Collision and Harmony of "Love and Knowledge" in Robert Penn Warren’s Poetry

Author ChenYaoTing
Tutor TuoJianMing
School Lanzhou University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords Robert Penn Warren love and knowledge view on time collision and harmony
CLC I712.072
Type Master's thesis
Year 2008
Downloads 20
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Robert Penn Warren (1905—1989) is one of twentieth-century America’s mostdistinguished men of letters. Honored with three Pulitzer Prizes, Warren is the onlywriter who has been a Pulitzer Prize winner in two different genres—poetry and fiction.In1986, Warren was crowned as the first American Poet Laureate. Though he is aRenaissance man of letters in many genres, the central thrust of Warren’s literary careerlies in the field of poetry. Warren has a strong sense of morality and that makes himconcerned about human’s moral dilemma in his fictional and poetic works. Love andknowledge are the two themes which penetrate his sixty years’ poetic career. Based ontextual analysis, applying the method of close reading, the present study intends toexplore the collision and harmony between love and knowledge. Tension, imagery, andthe “impure” elements are the technical devices which reinforce the theme of love andknowledge.One of the main aspects of pursuing knowledge lies in the meditation of historyand time. Knowledge is composed of man’s experiences in nature and society. It reflectsthe natural surroundings, man’s mission in history, his moral dilemma and theendurance and other virtues in life. Through seeking self-knowledge, man may reachharmony between love and knowledge.Firstly, the thesis introduces Warren as a writer in America’s Southern Renaissanceand he thinks dialectically in his poetic imagination. In the early period of his poetry,Warren focuses on time and history.Following the brief introduction to the research, is the main body of the thesis andconsists of three chapters.Chapter One begins with the definition of knowledge in the context of “Poetry as away of knowledge”(C. Day Lewis.). It then reveals how Warren explores the humanexperience in his imaginative world. Augustinian time influences Warren’s poeticimagination. This influence is seen through three dimensions of pursuit of knowledge:pursuit of knowledge in nature, quest for man’s mission, and pursuit of knowledge intime and history. Based on the theory of morality, Chapter Two focuses on the notion of love and itsthree senses: Eros, Philia and Agape. These senses are embodied in Warren’s poetry asromantic love, maternal love, and divine love. Self-love is of importance in pursuingself-knowledge, but the true love Warren pursues is an unconditional and sacrificingother-love. Through analysis of the theme of love, this thesis discusses the three phasesof collision between love and knowledge: the collision between knowledge andinnocence, the collision between knowledge and responsibility and the collisionbetween knowledge and the dignity of life.Chapter Three further explores the special features of Warren’s poetry as well ashis creative use of tension, imagery and “impure elements” in poetry. These deviceshelp reinforce the theme of love and knowledge. For the thematic aspect, the thesisfurther elucidates how self-knowledge links the seeking of knowledge and the pursuit oflove.

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