Back to: Literary Theory in English Literature
John Crowe Ransom (1888-1974) was an American Literary critic. He was the founder of New Criticism. New Criticism was a formalist movement that emphasized the ‘closed reading’ of the text. It argues that the words on the page are the most important elements within the analysis.
New Criticism looked at the idea of a text in an aesthetic form. In other words, there was a shift within the analysis from socio-cultural aspects around a text to the internals within a text. So a text’s internal world becomes the site of focus within New Criticism. He was a member of Fugitives. The fugitive was a group of social scientists that was rooted in the preservation of classical and traditional values and styles.
John Crowe Ransom’s New Criticism, 1941, proposes the following ideas – Text becomes the focus of closed-reading. The analysis of a text has to be scientific and precise. Personal, historical, moral and biographical details around a text are all rejected in the field of New Criticism.
The idea was to take the focus of the reader closer to things inside a text rather than things outside of a text. So a lot of information that exists outside a text is rejected through New Criticism. The idea is similar to I.A. Richard’s “closed-reading” approach.
Closed Reading within New Criticism advocated the sanctity of the act of reading written words on the page. For instance – any extract from a book can be picked up in isolation from the book or author, and an analysis is carried out on the particular extract without bleeding into the rest of the context.
New Criticism focused on the purity of a text and the purity of the act of reading, analyzing without bothering about historical or political perspectives around the text. It serves an aesthetic purpose where a text becomes significant for the sake of itself. New Criticism takes the idea of text as an isolated cerebral process away from politics, morality, history, etc.
Notable works of John Crowe Ransom include The World’s Body, 1938, The New Criticism, 1941, Poems About God (1919), Chills and Fever (1924), Grace After Meat (1924), Two Gentlemen in Bonds (1926), Selected Poems (1945), Poems and Essays (1955), God Without Thunder (1931), The World’s Body (1938), The New Criticism (1941), A College Primer of Writing (1943), The Kenyon Critics: Studies in Modern Literature (1951), Poetic Sense: A Study of Problems in Defining Poetry by Content (1971), Beating the Bushes: Selected Essays.
Here is another important article on New Criticism.