Study Guide

John Crowe Ransom Introduction

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John Crowe Ransom Introduction

Look, this guy helped found a group called the Fugitives, which should be cool enough to get your attention. But on top of that surface hipster appeal, John Crowe Ransom was an amazing poet (he loved him some romantic visions of the Old South—it's complicated) and a renowned literary scholar (he started New Criticism and was a hot shot Southern Agrarian theorist).

Already back in the 1920s, Ransom was taking a good, hard look at the world and seeing the dramatic rise of industry as a huge downer. Ransom loved the South and all its earth-bound beauty—man in nature, the rhythm of the seasons, small farms, traditions, manners... you know, that whole Southern thing.

He gave a definite thumbs down to greedy industrial culture, Northern urban expansion, economic development, and the disharmony of modern life. These likes (and dislikes) made it hard for him to live in an era of scientific and industrial advancement—and don't even get him started on the Great Depression.

Ransom worked out his frustrations by putting pen to paper, as a poet and a critic—and he was successful at both. He cranked out beautiful little lyric gems about how superior daily agrarian (relating to land and agriculture) existence was and how living on a former plantation in the South was way better than being a slave to the soulless industry in the North. (Get comfortable with the word agrarian. It's not going away.) He fought the good fight, as he saw it, by composing poems about the nobility of labor and life on the land.

But that's not all. Ransom was also a New Critic—in fact, he is credited with coining the term New Criticism. To promote the cause, he published books and academic articles about stressing the importance of close reading; promoting the poem as an art piece in itself; and spreading the word that the political, social, and biographical context in which a poem was written doesn't matter a bit. Everything you need to know is in the text.

So get your hands dirty, gaze at a field of wheat, and grab your Faulkner, because we're heading south—to the Old South, that is…

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