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John Crowe Ransom Biography

(1888–1974), Kenyon Review, Poems about God, Chills and Fever, Two Gentlemen in Bonds, Selected Poems, Fugitive

American poet and critic, born in Pulaski, Tennessee, educated at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, and at Christ Church, Oxford. He taught at Vanderbilt from 1914 to 1937, when he was appointed Carnegie Professor of Poetry at Kenyon College and began the Kenyon Review. Poems about God (1919), his first collection of verse, has much in common with the distinctively ironic manner of his subsequent poetry, which Randall Jarrell described as ‘detached, mockpedantic, wittily complicated’. He did not include any poems from the volume in the selected editions of his work, regarding Chills and Fever (1924) and Two Gentlemen in Bonds (1927) as his principal collections. His poetry is remarkable for its almost unremitting concern with man's divided nature; tensions between the intellectual and instinctual faculties, the ‘two gentleman’ in the title of his 1927 volume, and the paradoxical inseparability of life and death are recurrent themes. Selected Poems of 1945 was revised in 1963 and 1969. He was a founding editor of the Fugitive (19225), a Nashville journal notable for the standards of its poetry and criticism. Its contributors included Allen Tate, Robert Penn Warren, and Laura Riding. The concern with the literary identity of the Southern states shared by the Fugitive group culminated in the emergence of the Agrarian movement; Ransom contributed the ‘Statement of Principles’ to I'll Take My Stand (1930), the Agrarian manifesto, which declared their commitment to a unified regional culture. His ideas are expanded in the defences of art, myth, and ritual against the ascendancy of scientific technology, which he dismissed as a mode of interpreting human experience, in God without Thunder (1930) and The World's Body (1938). As a critic he exercised wide influence with The New Criticism (1941), in which he argued for methods of literary analysis adequate to the imaginative, philosophical, and emotional complexes embodied in poetry. Among his other critical works are Poetics (1942) and the essays of Beating the Bushes (1972). T. D. Young's Gentleman in a Dustcoat (1976) is a biography of Ransom.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: David Rabe Biography to Rhinoceros (Rhinocéros)