chapter  52
Advanced Verbal Education 1937
ByF. R. Leavis
Pages 8

Dr Richards proposes 'a persistent, systematic, detailed inquiry into how words work'. He proposes to replace the old Rhetoric, which worked 'on a microscopic scale' by a 'revived Rhetoric' that shall undertake inquiry into 'the modes of meaning' 'on a microscopic scale by using theorems about the structure of the fundamental conjectural units of meaning and the conditions through which they, and their interconnections, arise'. The fact is that Dr Richards, in effect, lends his authority to the uncritical interest in 'ambiguity' with which 'the new criticism', and Cambridge in particular, have become associated. For instance, the reader has to comment that the scientific pretension, while in itself seeming helpless to become anything more than a pretension, stultifies the concern for education. Mr. James is, although clearly a writer of cultivation, distinguished intelligence, and philosophic training, in a sense naive about the 'modes of meaning' and the 'interinanimation of words'-for instance, his chapter on 'The Imaginative Use of Language'.