Ransom, John Crowe

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.
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Ransom, John Crowe

John Crowe Ransom, 1888–1974, American poet and critic, b. Pulaski, Tenn., grad. Vanderbilt Univ. and studied at Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. He is considered one of the great stylists of 20th-century American poetry. His verse, elegant and impersonal, is concerned with the breakdown of traditional order and stability in the modern world. His first volume of verse, Poems about God, appeared in 1919. It was followed by Chills and Fever (1924) and Two Gentlemen in Bonds (1926). He taught at Vanderbilt from 1914 to 1937, during which time he (with Allen Tate, Robert Penn Warren, and others) founded and edited the Fugitive (1922–25), a bimonthly literary magazine. One of the so-called new critics, he brought to 20th-century criticism a new respect for poetry as a medium, emphasizing close textual analysis and the importance of a poem as a poem. From 1937 to 1958 he taught at Kenyon College; there he founded the Kenyon Review, a magazine that established him as an influential and controversial critic and editor. In The World's Body (1938) and The New Criticism (1941) he voices his literary theories.

See his Selected Poems (rev. and enl. ed. 1969) and Beating the Bushes: Selected Essays 1941–1970 (1972). See his letters, ed. by T. D. Young (1985); biography by T. D. Young (1976); study by K. Quinlan (1989).

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