What is a stock response, according to I. A. Richards?

According to I. A. Richards, a stock response can be defined as a response to a poem that is based on established conventions or private judgments. According to Richards, such responses can lead to a misreading of the relevant text.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Practical Criticism, the work of literary criticism for which he is most famous and on which his posthumous reputation largely rests, I. A. Richards sets out to analyze a number of factors he sees as responsible for the misreading of poetry.

One such factor is what he calls...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

In Practical Criticism, the work of literary criticism for which he is most famous and on which his posthumous reputation largely rests, I. A. Richards sets out to analyze a number of factors he sees as responsible for the misreading of poetry.

One such factor is what he calls stock responses, which are responses to a poem based on established convention and/or private prejudices and judgments. This often takes place when a critic seems to find certain emotions and perspectives in the relevant poem that conform to his or her own way of looking at the world.

Richards finds such responses to be worthless. This is largely because they are subjective, whereas Richards, in his concerted attempt to place literary criticism on a more scientific footing, regards practical aesthetic judgments as being objective, in that they relate to the work of art in question rather than the individual state of mind of the critic.

The consequences of relating to works of poetry with stock responses, argues Richards, are dire indeed. For one thing, we are doomed to spend our lives "in consonance with bad poetry." Indeed, "the idle hours of most lives are filled with reveries that are simply bad poetry."

If we want, then, to get to the truth of a particular poem and to gain a better understanding of poetry in general, we need to divest ourselves of our stock responses and pay close attention to a poem as it is in itself, as a work of art.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on