Practical Criticism: A Study in Literary Judgement
a term used by I. A. Richards at Cambridge University to illustrate his experiment in criticism, described in his Introduction to Practical Criticism: A Study in Literary Judgement (1929) as ‘a piece of fieldwork in comparative ideology’; it revealed, by asking a group of readers to respond to unidentified texts, how much they assumed about authors and reputations, and how little they were accustomed to attend to the words on the page. It was effectively a call for a new schooling of reading, and it lay at the heart of the New Criticism. ‘The lesson of all criticism’, Richards wrote, ‘is that we have nothing to rely upon in making choices but ourselves. The lesson of good poetry seems to be that, when we have understood it, in the degree in which we can order ourselves, we need nothing more.’ ‘Practical’ for Richards was not opposed to ‘theoretical’, but was meant to carry a strong sense of hard scientific work, an aura of the laboratory. See also Scrutiny.