British poet and scholar Ivor Armstrong Richards was born in Cheshire and educated at Cambridge University’s Magdalene College. His scholarship and research on how students read poetry helped shape the foundation of the New Criticism and its emphasis on close reading. With C.K. Ogden, Richards created the teaching tool Basic English, a simplified version of the English language that, in the interests of clear expression, limited both the number of words and the rules of their usage. Richards’s scholarly work includes Practical Criticism (1929), The Philosophy of Rhetoric (1936), and The Meaning of Meaning (1946, co-authored with C.K. Ogden).
In his own poetry, Richards wove philosophical argument with musical turns. Critic Helen Vendler described his poetry as “gnarled, intellectual, angular, unsparing.” In the last 20 years of his life, Richards published three collections of poetry: Goodbye Earth and Other Poems (1958), The Screens and Other Poems (1960), and Internal Colloquies: Poems and Plays of I.A. Richards (1971). Selections of these volumes are included in his New & Selected Poems (1978).
Resources on Richards’s work include I.A. Richards: Essays in His Honor (1973) and a biography by John Paul Russo, I.A. Richards: His Life and Work (1989).
Richards taught at Cambridge University and Harvard University. He died in 1979, on his return home to Cambridge from a teaching trip to China.
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