IA Richards’ Concept of the Two Uses of Language

IA Richards, the New Critic, who, since Coleridge, formulated a systematic and complete theory of poetry, discusses in Principles of Literary Criticism the theory of language and the two uses of language the scientific and the emotive. David Daiches says, “Richards conducts this investigation in order to come to some clear can about what imaginative literature is, -how it employs language, how its use of language differs from the scientific spec use of language and what is its special function and value.”

When language is used for scientific purposes, it is matter of fact and requires undistorted references and absence of fiction, whereas when language is used for emotive ends, it may be true or false. In the scientific use of language, the references should be correct and the relation of references should be logical. In.the emotive use of language, any truth or logical arrangement is not necessary —it may work as an obstacle. The attitudes due to references should have their emotional interconnection and this has often no connection with logical relations of the facts referred to.

Richards goes on to consider the connotations of the word ‘truth’ in criticism. In literary criticism, the common use is ‘acceptability’ or ‘probability’. For example, Robinson Crusoe is true in the sense of the acceptability of things we are told, in the interest of the narrative whether or not such a person existed in real life is not relevant to the ‘truth’ of the novel. A happy ending to Lear or Don Quixote would be false because it would be unacceptable. In this sense ‘truth’ is equivalent to ‘internal necessity’ or ‘rightness’. That is ‘true’ which accords with the rest of the experience and arouses our ordered responses. Keats uses ‘truth’ in a confused way. He said, ‘What the imagination seizes as beauty must be truth.” Sometimes it is held that all that is unwanted or redundant is false; as Walter Pater says, ’Surplusage! The artist will dread that, as the runner on his muscles’. But then superabundance is common in all great art, and is much better than contrived economy. The essential point is whether this so-called surplusage interferes or not with the rest of the responses.

Categories: Literary Theory, Uncategorized

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4 replies

  1. Good to have such great scholars

  2. Thank you sir

  3. Thank you sir for this article. It helped me out in the last moment of my revision. 👍🏻


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