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Richards, I. A. (Ivor Armstrong), (1893-1979) | University of Miami Finding Aids

Name: Richards, I. A. (Ivor Armstrong), (1893-1979)

Historical Note:

Ivor Armstrong Richards was born on February 26, 1893, in Sandbach, Chesire, England.  He attended Magdalene College, Cambridge, where he graduated with honors in moral sciences.  Known as the founder of modern literary criticism, Richards participated in groundbreaking work in aesthetics, semantics, literary criticism, elementary reading, and second-language training.  While participating as a lecturer at Magdalene College from 1922 to 1929, Richards authored some of his most famous and influential works, collaborating with C.K. Ogden, a British writer and English teacher.  The two coauthored Foundations of Aesthetics (1922), which developed the theory of synaesthesis, and The Meaning of Meaning (1923), where Richards and Ogden created the triadic theory of semantics.  During this time, Richards also wrote Principles of Literary Criticism (1924) and Practical Criticism (1929), which outline Richards' method of close reading and other aspects of his literary criticism, known as New Criticism.

In 1929, Richards took a position as a visiting professor at Tsing Hua University in China.  He then served as director of the Orthological Institute of China from 1936 to 1938.  While serving these positions, he taught Basic English to Chinese students and began utilizing media for reading and second language instruction.  Basic English, created by Ogden, was seen as a “beginner’s first” language.  With only 850 words, this simplified version of English was intended to become an international language that all would be able to understand.  Richards collaborated with Christine Gibson to create a Language Through Pictures series, which combined the use of textbooks, workbooks, film, audio, and other media for learning both primary and secondary languages.  These were adapted into many different languages, including English, French, Spanish, Italian, German, and Russian.

In 1939, Richards became an English professor at Harvard University, where he continued work in primary education and author books on criticism, poetry, semantics, and language instruction.  He is also known for acting as a mentor and influence to other prominent critics, including William Empson and F.R. Leavis.  Richards served as a professor at Harvard until 1963, when he began to write his own poetry, publishing four collections and three verse plays.  In 1974, Richards returned to Cambridge, England.  He fell ill a few years later while lecturing on language instruction in China and died on September 7, 1979

Note Author: Marie Hanewinckel

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