Sunday, 28 December 2014

I.A. Richards: Figurative Language

The Figurative Language: I.A. Richards


  Ivor Armstrong Richards – pioneer in the domain of New Criticism.
Ø  His path breaking works: `
1.       The Meaning of Meaning – 1923
2.       The Principles of Literary Criticism – 1924
3.      The Practical Criticism – 1929.
a.      Four Kinds of Meaning
b.      Two Uses of Language
c.       On Simile, Metaphor and Symbol
*     He was staunch advocate of a close textual and verbal study & analysis of a work of art.
*      Three objectives to write The Practical Criticism:
1.        To introduce a new kind of documentation to those who are interested in the contemporary state of culture whether as critics, philosophers, as teachers, as psychologists, or merely as curious persons.
2.       To provide new technique for those who wish to discover for themselves what they think and feel about poetry (and cognate matters)and why they should like or dislike it.
3.       To prepare the way for educational methods more efficient than those we use now in developing discrimination and the power to understand what we hear and read.
Ø  His approach is pragmatic and empirical.
ü  His experiment: Comments of students on poems without title and author. He gave suggestions, comments, interpretations and conclusions.
Ø  His practical approach gave new path to literary criticism.
ü  Instead of intuitive and impressionistic criticism, it became more factual & scientific.
*     In his methodology, a lot of importance is given to the “words”.
ü  He believed that poet writes to communicate, and language is the means of that communication. Language is made of words, and hence a study of words is all important if we are to understand the meaning of a work of art. Words carry four kinds of meaning: Sense, Feelings, Tone and Intention.
*     To him, language of poetry is purely emotive, in its original primitive state. This language affects feelings. Hence we must avoid intuitive and over-literal reading of poems. Words in poetry have an emotive value, and the figurative language used by poets conveys those emotions effectively and forcefully.
Ø  The importance of context and rhythm &metre: the sound of the word invokes feeling. Rhythm, metre and meaning cannot be separated; they form together a single system. They are not separate entities but organically related. Therefore, a prose-paraphrase or an over-literal reading can never convey the total meaning of a poem.
Ø  The nature of poetic truth
*     Metaphors: sense and emotive.
ü  How do I. A. Richards differ from other New Critics?
Figurative Language: I.A.Richards
(A brief outline of Questions and Answers)
v  What are the possible sources of misunderstanding in poetry?
v       “How are we to explain to those who see nothing in poetical language but a tissue of ridiculous exaggerations, childish ‘fancies’, ignorant conceits and absurd symbolizations – in what way its sense is to be read?” explain with reference to the I.A.Richards’s essay The Figurative Language.
v       “Poetry is different from prose and needs a different attitude for right understanding.” Elucidate.
v  Critically evaluate I.A.Richards’s view on the language of poetry. (M-07) (O-07)
Key to write answer:
Four types of misunderstanding:
o   1. Misunderstanding of the sense of poetry: Careless, intuitive reading (rhyme or irregular syntax)

o   2. Over-literal reading – prosaic reading
o   3. Defective scholarship
o   4. Difference in meaning of words in poetry and prose
Example: Solemn and gray…
*      What is the value of figurative language?
Explain with the example of - A health, a ringing health…..
v  What are the dangers of over-literal examination of figurative language?
·         Discuss three critics’ comment on Climb, cloud….
-          What are Richards’s views on Personification?
-          ………………………………visual memory?
-          ……………………. Comparative criticism?

ü  Conclude: The Aim of the Poem … 

(Download Teacher's Class Notes)





Solemn and gray, immense clouds . . . the vast whiteness of the rain-swept heaven

A health, a ringing health, unto the king;
Unless the sea were harp, each mirthful string

While below the Hawthorns smile like milk splashed down

Susan Noon's painting


  • Task: Do verbal analysis of the poem / song / film song lyric / hymns / devotional songs  or any poetic expression in any language. Keep in mind the kinds of misunderstanding discussed in the essay 'Figurative Language'.  Based on the analysis given in the essay, give your comments on the poetic expression selected by you. Post the original work along with your comments on your personal blog. Share the link of this blog-post in the COMMENTS below this blog-post. In the comment, write an 'ABSTRACT' of your blog-post along with link of the post.