Cleanth Brooks ( KLEE-anth; October 16, 1906 – May 10, 1994) was an American literary critic and professor. He is best known for his contributions to New Criticism in the mid-20th century and for revolutionizing the teaching of poetry in American higher education. His best-known works, The Well Wrought Urn: Studies in the Structure of Poetry (1947) and Modern Poetry and the Tradition (1939), argue for the centrality of ambiguity and paradox as a way of understanding poetry. With his writing, Brooks helped to formulate formalist criticism, emphasizing "the interior life of a poem" (Leitch 2001) and codifying the principles of close reading.
Brooks was also the preeminent critic of Southern literature, writing classic texts on William Faulkner, and co-founder of the influential journal The Southern Review (Leitch 2001) with Robert Penn Warren.