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practical criticism


Subject Literature

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405168908.2010.x


The critical method originating from I.A. R ichards's Practical Criticism ( 1929 ), a work recording a teaching experiment at Cambridge in which students were asked to analyze unidentified T exts . In its broad sense, practical criticism is thus synonymous with “close reading” or the French explication de texte . But, historically, it came to mean something much more specific and contentious, the New Critical doctrine of “intrinsic” analysis which encouraged students to read a text (usually a short poem) as an isolated object, exploring its internal S tructure and functioning without reference to, say, its author's biography or its historical context. In its pure form this would mean asking the reader to interpret Milton's “When I consider how my light is spent” without knowing that he was blind, or Blake's “Tyger” without knowing that the tiger was a contemporary metaphor for the French Revolution. Practical criticism has been widely criticized not only for being unhistorical, and for depending on an indefensible ideal of the autonomous text, but also for focusing too exclusively on the purely verbal aspects of literature and neglecting other elements, such as patterns of action in drama or P lots in novels, which also determine meaning. See also E mpson , W illiam ; N ew C riticism ; R ichards , I.A. 1953 : The Languages of Criticism and the Structure of Poetry . ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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