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John Crowe Ransom Portrait

Born in Pulaski, Tennessee, John Crowe Ransom was educated at Vanderbilt University and Christ Church College at Oxford University in England. After World War I service on the front in France, he joined Vanderbilt's faculty, where he helped lead the Agrarian Movement. It counted Allen Tate and Robert Penn Warren among its members, generally resisted racial integration, urged a renewal of religious belief in the context of a hierarchical society, and championed a southern agrarian economy as an antidote to northern industrialism. Later, at Kenyon College, he helped shape American New Criticism, with its preference for analysis of poems according to their internal character rather than their historical context. Elegant, ironic, carefully crafted, Ransom's own poems repeatedly attempt characterizations of fundamental differences between men and women. After 1927, most of his poetry writing consisted in repeatedly revising the poems he had already published, which he issued in new editions of his Selected Poems in 1945, 1963, and 1969. His ideas about gender are succinctly articulated in the titles to the first two sections of the Selected Poems: "The Innocent Doves" and "The Manliness of Men." Among his critical essays is a notoriously contemptuous piece on Edna St. Vincent Millay.