Born: April 30, 1888
Died: July 3, 1974
Ohio connection: Former Resident
John Crowe Ransom was the son of Methodist minister John James Ransom, and Ella (Crowe) Ransom. He was born in 1888 in Pulaski, Tennessee. He was educated at home until he was ten years old, entering public schools in 1898. He graduated from high school in 1903, and entered Vanderbilt University at age fifteen. He studied there for two years and then left to teach school in Mississippi (1905-06) and Tennessee (1906-07), before returning to Vanderbilt. He graduated in 1909 at the top of his class with a major in Greek and Latin and a minor in philosophy. He then moved to England, where he was a Rhodes Scholar at Christ Church College, Oxford University, graduating there with a Literae Humaniores degree in 1913. After teaching Latin in a private school in Connecticut for a year, he joined the faculty at Vanderbilt University, where he rose through the academic ranks to become professor of English in 1927. In 1920, during his Vanderbilt years, he met and married Robb Reavill and they had three children: Helen, David, and John. Ransom remained at Vanderbilt until 1937, when he moved to Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, to become Carnegie Professor of Poetry, a position he held until he retired in 1958. He was professor emeritus until his death in 1974.
Ransom gained notoriety not only as a college professor, but as a poet and literary critic. From around 1915, he was the leader of a group of Vanderbilt faculty and students known as the “Fugitives.” They published a magazine of verse called The Fugitive. They became the leaders of a new literary movement, Agrarianism, and a new style of art analysis known as the New Criticism. The group called for a return to an agrarian rather than an industrial economy. This approach tended to fade with the onset of the Depression in 1929, but its effect was not lost in Ransom`s later works. Some of his poetry titles are Poems about God; Chills and Fever; and Two Gentlemen in Bonds. Some other books are I’ll Take My Stand; The New Criticism; The Intent of the Critic; The Kenyon Critics; and Beating the Bushes: Selected Essays, 1941-1970. John Crowe Ransom died July 3, 1974, in Gambier, Ohio.
Rhodes scholar, Oxford University; Guggenheim fellow, 1931; Bollingen Prize for poetry, 1951; Russell Loines Prize for poetry, 1951; honored at Chicago Poetry Day, 1957; Brandeis University Creative Arts Award, 1958-59; Academy of American Poets fellow, 1962; National Book Award, 1964, for Selected Poems; National Endowment for the Arts award, 1967; Emerson-Thoreau Medal, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1968; Gold Medal, National Institute of Arts and Letters, 1973.