Cleanth Brooks (1906-1994) was an influential American literary critic. He was eminent among the New Critics of the mid-twentieth century, and is still remembered as an extremely attentive reader. Brooks described inattentive, summary reading of poetry with a coined phrase which is still popular, "the Heresy of Paraphrase."
Brooks's books included The Well-Wrought Urn (1947), his best-known work, and Modern Poetry and the Tradition (1939); both works argued for the centrality of ambiguity and paradox to an understanding of poetry. He also wrote two studies of William Faulkner, ; he wrote with Robert Penn Warren an influential textbook, Understanding Poetry: An Anthology for College Students, and with W.K. Wimsatt he wrote Literary Criticism: A Short History. His later work included A Shaping Joy: Studies in the Writer's Craft.
Brooks studied at Vanderbilt University, where he met Robert Penn Warren, and then at Tulane University, after which he was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University. He was a student of John Crowe Ransom. Although he was not technically a member of either group, he was well acquainted with the members of both the Fugitives and the Agrarians, two literary groups associated with Vanderbilt in the 1920's and 1930's.