Study Guide

John Crowe Ransom Influences

Robert Penn Warren

This fellow Fugitive and Agrarian was also an accomplished novelist. I'm not just saying that because he was one of my besties; I'm saying that because All the King's Men, Red's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, really was all that. My work influenced his, and his influenced mine. Take for example, my poem "Dead Boy." That poem and Warren's great novel of the American South were both about man's profound connection to the earth and the trauma brought on by modern life.

T.S. Eliot

To be a New Critic, you had to be interested in T.S. Eliot, which is a weird rule given that I started New Criticism and was never the greatest enthusiast for old Thomas Stearns. That "Waste Land" really got under my skin, though, because it was all about decay and decline—all the stuff that depressed me about modern life.

Honestly, I just felt that T.S. wasn't going along with the program: poetry is supposed to lift the readers' spirits out the degradations of modern existence, not stick their faces in it. Still, I knew Eliot's work was important work.

The Bible

So, the subtly titled God Without Thunder: An Unorthodox Defense of Orthodoxy was my big stab at critiquing religion. I felt like "progress" and "industrialism" had ruined the way we were thinking about God. Our obsession with development and industrialism was making people into fanatics enslaved to machines and technology. By forgetting the importance of the Bible, people were forgetting the importance of mystery, and they were losing their modesty in their drive to succeed.

What came out of this modern horror was an attitude that was undermining man's spiritual bond to nature.

Wallace Stevens

Loved this American poet. (OMG: "The Emperor of Ice-Cream.") His poetry was there for me as I grew older and lost my faith in traditional religion. Stevens showed me that poetry could help keep you spiritual, even without God. Just like everyone else, we super smart guys were also struggling to finding meaning in this crazy, mixed-up world, and poems like Stevens's "Sunday Morning" helped us get a grip on reality.

William Faulkner

I have to confess, this famous Southern writer was a bit of a mixed bag for me. My reluctance to join the Faulkner cheerleading squad wasn't just due to the fact that he wrote page-long sentences. (Although I did almost have an aneurism reading Absalom, Absalom!, I can still admit that it's worth checking out.) I just didn't like that no matter what or whom he writing about, old Faulkner pretty much just wrote about himself.

Sometimes that worked; sometimes it really didn't.

I wrote a piece called "Faulkner: South's Most Brilliant But Wayward Talent, Is Spent." Ouch, right? But that didn't stop me from turning around and talking about how exciting he was. There was just no denying Faulkner's dedication to understanding the South.