This book, an important landmark in twentieth century critical theory, reviews the thinking of I. A. Richards, T. S. Eliot, and Yvor Winters. As Ransom notes, the New Criticism begins with these men, is indeed indistinguishable from them.
He singles out I. A. Richards as the originator of the new way of looking at language, a way dependent on psychology and semantics rather than on taste or feeling. The aspects of Richards’ theories that are singled out are Tone, Intention, and Dramatic Situation. The first of these, according to Ransom, is a form of particularization. It represents some particular speaker and indicates who his auditor might be. A poem’s tone, then, is a quality of its characters, their situation, and their language. The intention of a poem, Ransom suggests, is equivalent to what might be called its logical thesis. Intentions may not always be clearly stated, nor is it desirable that this be the case. Ransom believes that Richards is not always clear on this aspect of his theory, but he adds that intention is what the critic sees as the meaning of the play. An example might be the reaction of a Freudian to HAMLET, compared with that of a spiritualist or a medieval historian. The psychologist might see the intention of the play as a statement of incestuous love; the spiritualist might read it as a statement of faith in the supernatural; the historian might see it as a reflection of Elizabethan monarchal policies.
(The entire section is 1452 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of The New Criticism Critical Essays. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!