Contribution and Place of I.A. Richards as A Psychological Critics

What is Psychological Criticism? Discuss about Contribution and place of I.A. Richards as a psychological critics. 

Generally, psychological school of criticism wants to make criticism more scientific by applying psychological knowledge to its problems. It is itself divided into two groups, one would ‘explain’ about the works of art, and other finds more attractive psychological investigation of the processes of appreciation. The psychological critic tries to search the hidden objects behind a work of art. The psychological criticism of literature began in 1900 with the publication of’ Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams.

I.A. Richards was the most famous psychological critic whose research and meditation on psychology make the greatest impact upon literary criticism. He has given a new dimension to modern criticism. He had written five major books on criticism. His other significant works are Science and Poetry, the Philosophy of Rhetoric and Speculative Instruments.

Current Origin: The psychological approach to literature is comparatively of recent origin. It started with Freud in 1900 and gathered motion. Most distinguished psychological critics are Dr. Ernest,

Conrad Aiken, Robert Graves, Herbert Read, Edmund Wilson, Van Wych Brooks, I. A. Richards, Lionel Trilling, Kenneth Bruke and others.

The application of psychology to literature, says I. A. Richards, ‘provides a more precise language with which to discuss the creative process’. Secondly as Edmund Wilson has pointed out, a psychological study of the lives of authors can help a great deal in understanding their art. Thirdly, as F. L. Lucas has observed, psychology can be used to explain fictitious characters in literature. 

I. A. Richards should be regarded as the most important psychological critic who has studied poetry methodically. According to him, there are conflicting characters and desires, or appetencies as he calls them, in the human mind. Man is often uncertain between conflicting attractions from different directions and consequently he suffers from mental uneasiness.

The main function of art is to enable human mind to organize itself more quickly and completely than it could do otherwise. Art is a means whereby we can gain emotional balance, mental balance, peace and rest. What is true of the individual is also true of society. A society in which arts are freely cultivated, exhibits better mental and emotional tranquility than the societies in which arts are not valued.

Knowledge of psychology: I. A. Richards uses his knowledge of psychology to decide the age-old argument regarding the sources of tragic-pleasure and the nature of tragic catharsis. His theory of poetry regarding poetry as communication and assigning a very important role to words is also based on psychology.

Richards finds little of value in the course of criticism that has followed so far. The central question, ‘What kind of activity is and what is its value,’ is left almost untouched. In the absence of psychological information, now available to the critic, it could not, perhaps, be otherwise. For there is hardly any inquiry concerning art in which psychology does not enter—from the moment it is in the making to its impact on the reader and society.