I. A. Richards bigraphy, stories - English literary critic

I. A. Richards : biography

26 February 1893 - 7 September 1979

Ivor Armstrong Richards (26 February 1893 – 7 September 1979) was an influential English literary critic and rhetorician. He was educated at Magdalene College, Cambridge where his love of English was nurtured by the scholar 'Cabby' Spence. His books, especially The Meaning of Meaning, Principles of Literary Criticism, Practical Criticism, and The Philosophy of Rhetoric, proved to be founding influences for the New Criticism. The concept of 'practical criticism' led in time to the practices of close reading, what is often thought of as the beginning of modern literary criticism. Richards is regularly considered one of the founders of the contemporary study of literature in English.


Richards' life and influence can be divided into periods, which correspond roughly to his intellectual interests. In many of these achievements, Richards found a collaborator in C. K. Ogden.

Collaboration with Ogden

An assessment of Richards' work and biography requires mention of Ogden, collaborator on three of the most important projects of Richards' life and work.

In Foundations of Aesthetics (co-authored by Richards, Ogden & James Woods), Richards maps out the principles of aesthetic reception which lay at the root of his literary theory (the principle of "harmony" or balance of competing psychological impulses). Additionally, the structure of the work (surveying multiple, competing definitions of the term "aesthetic") prefigures his work on multiple definition in Coleridge on Imagination, in Basic Rules of Reason and in Mencius on the Mind.

In The Meaning of Meaning: A Study of the Influence of Language upon Thought and of the Science of Symbolism, Richards and Odgen work out the triadic theory of semiotics which, in its dependence on psychological theories, prefigures the importance of psychology in Richards independently authored literary criticism. Additionally, many current semioticians (including Eco) salute this work as a vast improvement on the dyadic semiotics of Saussure.

Finally, in works like The General Basic English Dictionary and Times of India Guide to Basic English, Richards and Ogden developed their most internationally influential project—the Basic English program for the development of an international language based with an 850-word vocabulary. Richards' own travels, especially to China, made him an effective advocate for this international program. At Harvard, he took the next step, integrating new media (television, especially) into his international pedagogy.

Aesthetics and literary criticism


  • The Foundations of Aesthetics (George Allen and Unwin: London, 1922). Co-authored with C. K. Ogden and James Wood. 2nd edition with revised preface, (Lear Publishers: New York 1925).
  • The Principles of Literary Criticism (Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner: London, 1924; New York, 1925). Subsequent editions: London 1926 (with two new appendices), New York 1926 (Same as London 1926, but with new preface, dated New York, April 1926), 1928 (with rev preface).
  • Science and Poetry (Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner: London, 1926). A reset edition was published in the same year in New York, by W. W. Norton, 1926. Second edition, revised and enlarged: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner: London, 1935. There is no known US publication of the 2nd Edition, however the text of the 1935 edition was reset, with a 'Preface', 'Commentary', and an additional essay, 'How Does a Poem Know When it is Finished' (1963), as Poetries and Sciences (W. W. Norton: New York and London, 1970).
  • Practical Criticism (Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner: London, 1929). Subsequent editions: 1930 (rev).
  • Coleridge on Imagination (Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner: London, 1934; New York, 1935). Later editions: NY and London 1950 (Revised with new preface), Bloomington 1960 (Reprints 1950, with new foreword by Richards and introduction by K. Raine).
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