John Crowe Ransom - Life

Life

Ransom was the third of four children of a Methodist minister. His family was highly literate. He published five main books of poetry, four books of essays, and edited three anthologies. He also published one textbook on writing, A College Primer of Writing (1943).

Ransom was home schooled until age ten, and entered Vanderbilt University at fifteen, graduating first in his class in 1909. He interrupted his studies for two years to teach sixth and seventh grades in Taylorsville, Mississippi and Latin and Greek in Lewisburg, Tennessee.

After teaching one more year in Lewisburg, Ransom was selected as a Rhodes Scholar. He attended Oxford University's Christ Church, 1910–13, where he read "Greats", as the course in Greek and Latin classics is called.

After one year teaching Latin in the Hotchkiss School, Ransom was appointed to the English department at Vanderbilt University in 1914. During the First World War, he served as an artillery officer in France. After the war, he returned to Vanderbilt. In 1920, he married Robb Reavill; they raised three children.

In 1937, Ransom accepted a position at Kenyon College in Ohio. He was the founding editor of the Kenyon Review, and continued as editor until his retirement in 1959. In 1966, Ransom was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His ashes were buried behind the Chalmers Library at Kenyon College.

Ransom has few peers among 20th century American university teachers of humanities; his distinguished students included Donald Davidson, Randall Jarrell, Robert Lowell, Andrew Lytle, Allen Tate, Peter Taylor, Robie Macauley, Robert Penn Warren, E.L. Doctorow, Cleanth Brooks, Richard M. Weaver, and Constantinos Patrides (himself a Rhodes Scholar, who dedicated his monograph on John Milton's Lycidas to Ransom's memory).

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