I. A. Richards and the Problem of Method

  • Barry Cullen
Part of the Insights book series (ISI)


Nobody will dispute that the degree of theoretical sophistication required of a critic today is likely to be far in excess of that expected in critics of the past. Even opponents or detractors of theory as a relevant or necessary condition of critical argument are likely to display a command of theoretical weaponary superior to that of even major critics of the recent past.1 Current deprecations of traditional Shakespeare criticism, say by Hawkes or Drakakis, the Belsey-Eagleton attack on Leavis, or, in more general (and less provocative) terms, Williams’ critique of the Coleridgean-Arnoldian tradition, all emphasise the ideological inadequacy of the critical performance under review. To be a critic now is to be an ideologue not, as then, an ideal reader, who vanished in the mid 1960s, the time of the Johns Hopkins structuralist symposium. Before then twentieth-century, Anglo-American criticism was ‘innocent’ (meaning guilty of course) of its ideological determinants and co-ordinates. Since then, criticism has come of age and all haste is being made to repair the negligence of earlier decades in respect of ideological awareness and hermeneutical expertise. Little interest is shown in the history of theory in this country before the 1960s for it is assumed that there was none.


Literary Criticism Literary Theory Ultimate Reality English School Page Reference 
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  1. 2.
    For a comprehensive account of this change see D. Bell, ‘Philosophy’, in C. B. Cox and A. E. Dyson (eds.), The Twentieth-Century Mind (London and New York: Oxford University Press, 1972) vol. 1.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Undated letters from Richards to Forbes are included as an Appendix in H. Carey, Mansfield Forbes and his Cambridge (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984).Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    G. J. Warnock gives a concise summary of Moore’s thought in English Philosophy Since 1900 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1958).Google Scholar
  4. For Moore’s influence on Bloomsbury see J. M. Keynes, ‘My Early Beliefs’ and L. Woolf, ‘Cambridge Friends and Influences’, both in S. P. Rosenbaum (ed.), The Bloomsbury Group (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1975) pp. 48–65 and pp. 92–109.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    J. P. Russo (ed.) I. A. Richards Complementarities (Manchester: Carcanet Press, 1977) p. xii.Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    Richards’ account of his first meeting with Ogden is described in interview in R. Brower et al., I. A. Richards: Essays in His Honour (New York: Open University Press, 1973) pp. 19–20.Google Scholar
  7. 9.
    I. A. Richards, Principles of Literary Criticism (London: Routledge, 1960); hereafter referred to as PLC, with page references given in the text.Google Scholar
  8. 11.
    C. K. Ogden and I. A. Richards, The Meaning of Meaning (London: Routledge, 1949).Google Scholar
  9. 13.
    I. A. Richards, Practical Criticism (London: Routledge, 1929); hereafter referred to as PC, with page references given in the text.Google Scholar
  10. 16.
    W. H. N. Hotopf, Language, Thought and Comprehension (London: Routledge, 1965).Google Scholar

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© Editorial Board, Lumière (Co-operative) Press Ltd 1993

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  • Barry Cullen

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