John Crowe Ransom 1888–1974
American critic, poet, and editor.
Ransom is best known as an influential spokesman for two literary movements: New Criticism (the adherence to a textual analysis of poetry) and Agrarianism (the attack on modern industrial society, citing its adverse effect on the arts).
While teaching literature at Vanderbilt University, Ransom joined an informal group of professors and students who read and discussed poetry. In 1922 this group published the first issue of The Fugitive, a journal which contained their view of Southern regionalism and literature as well as their own poetry. In 1930 Ransom wrote the "Statement of Principles" for the book I'll Take My Stand, in which he and other Fugitives, including Allen Tate and Robert Penn Warren, argued for a return to agrarian culture.
Ransom gained prominence with the publication of The New Criticism in 1942. In this work, he proposed a close reading of the text, insisting that criticism should be based on a study of the "structure" and "texture" of the poem, not its content. The New Criticism outlined a system of critical thought that would dominate the American academic scene for nearly three decades. As George Core has written, "[Ransom's] performance as ontological critic … deeply affected the whole course of contemporary criticism."
(See also CLC, Vols. 2, 4, 5, 11 and Contemporary Authors, Vols. 5-8, rev. ed., Vols. 49-52 [obituary].)