I.A. Richards in the alps circa 1930. Photo: Richards Archive, Magdalene College Cambridge

For many of us with an interest in twentieth-century literary criticism, Ivor Armstrong Richards is at once a central and a problematic figure. He was, of course, one of the most influential critics of the modern age, if not the most influential. His emphasis on rigor, precision, and the poem-as-object earned him (from some) the impressive sobriquet “father of the New Criticism,” while his preoccupation with theory and with the relativity of literary truth reflects more than coincidental—and less than delightful—affinities with the practitioners of deconstruction. As John...


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