John Crowe Ransom - Criticism

Criticism

Ransom was a leading figure of the school of literary criticism known as the New Criticism, which gained its name from his 1941 volume of essays The New Criticism. The New Critical theory, which dominated American literary thought throughout the middle 20th century, emphasized close reading, and criticism based on the texts themselves rather than on non-textual bias or non-textual history.

In his seminal 1937 essay, "Criticism, Inc." Ransom laid out his ideal form of literary criticism stating that, "criticism must become more scientific, or precise and systematic." To this end, he argued that personal responses to literature, historical scholarship, linguistic scholarship, and what he termed "moral studies" should not influence literary criticism. He also argued that literary critics should regard a poem as an aesthetic object.

Many of the ideas that Ransom explained in this essay would become very important in the development of The New Criticism. "Criticism, Inc." and a number of Ransom's other theoretical essays set forth some of guiding principles that the New Critics would build upon. Still, Ransom's former students, specifically Allen Tate, Cleanth Brooks, and Robert Penn Warren, had a greater hand in developing many of the key concepts (like "close reading") that later came to define the New Criticism.

Ransom remained an active essayist until his death even though, by the 1970s, the popularity and influence of the New Critics had seriously diminished.

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