Topic: Problems in Comprehending Poetry
10-second review: IA Richards’ famous study about problems that prevent readers from understanding poetry.
Title: “The Practical Criticism of IA Richards and Reading Comprehension.” RE Shafer. Journal of Reading (November 1970), 101-108. The Journal of Reading was renamed Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy from the International Reading Association (IRA).
Summary: IA Richards tried to find out why people had difficulty reading and interpreting poems. Some of the reasons were failure to understand the plain sense of the poem, failure to recognize its rhythm, and failure to visualize images in figurative language. He also found a variety of personal distractions, including prior beliefs about the nature of poetry and emotional personal experiences that distorted the poet’s overall meaning.
Comment: As a result of Richards’ Practical Criticism, the “New Critics” eliminated outside distractions like the lives of the poets and the readers’ personal experiences from the interpretation of literature. Thanks to Louise Rosenblatt, the use of personal experience in interpretation has been restored to literary criticism. As is often true in education in “either/or” situations, the combination of both points of view is helpful: the focus on poetic technique and personal experience. RayS.