John Crowe Randsom Essay, Research Paper
In Response to John Crowe Ransom’s Theory
After reading Wimsatt & Beardsley’s articles, I found that I agree with many of their ideas concerning New Criticism. I see nothing wrong with focusing on the work objectively by paying attention to dramatic form and theme and I admire how the theory is audience-centered. It claims that it’s important to separate the writing process from the reading process. And along the same line, lies Ransom’s argument. His premise insists that there should be “a structural understanding of poetry…[where it] is not to be confused with a poet’s bibliography or intentions, the audience’s response to the poem,
or the uses to which it may be put”(451, Ranson). I agree and disagree with his interpretations.
I think Ransom’s first point of excluding a poet’s bibliography and intentions is very interesting. New Criticism says that as a reader, one must look directly at the piece for true understanding. I find that I agree and disagree with that perspective. On the opposing side, knowing the upbringing of the author and the historical context can add great depth to the meaning of a piece as a whole. On the other hand, by separating the work from the author, the reader has a greater probability of achieving a purer, less bias interpretation. Approaching it from each of these methods would definitely yield quite dissimilar results because preconceptions, whether we like to admit it or not, have a heavy influence on what a reader takes from a work.
The second point Ransom made was that an audience’s response had to be disregarded to really understand the poem. I agree and disagree with this point also. I saw how this was related to the Affective Fallacy and it helped clarified one of the main principles of New Criticism. A reader has an emotion in response to an idea. However, “meaning before feeling” must apply. In one respect, I think that’s fair because when the feeling is secondary, the work’s objective interpretation can be primary. However, I also believe that response to a piece should be a fair combination of both meaning and feeling. That would seem to be the most natural and common response in a fair rendering.
I agree with the last point that was made, that the structural understanding of a piece should only have one use-precise dramatic form and theme. A work, through clear structure and texture, creates a formal balance can achieve that significant goal. I think that’s important because once that is established, there’s a greater sense of purpose and value, as well as realism in the piece. Ransom made an interesting comment that when a piece is successful in achieving that, can actually be more precise than science. I found that fascinating because of how dissimilarly people view the two. Yet, it is a valid point if you consider New Criticism’s stance. “In every new experience, even in science, there is a feeling. [And] no discourse can sustain itself without interest, which is a feeling”(454). That makes sense.
I really enjoyed Ransom’s ideas. I agree with them, or at least aspects of them and liked how they clearly displayed the beliefs of New Criticism.