I. A. Richards is often remembered as a father of close reading and New Criticism, but his work was also deeply indebted to experimental psychology. That cross-disciplinary foundation introduces not only a reader but also a reading body. This article traces Richards’s continual invocation and deferral of the body, with particular attention to the eyes, which for Richards stand at the beginning and outside of the literary experience. The author argues that this deferral exists in Richards’s work and persists into embodied cognitive science’s research into eye movement in reading today because in both cases the movement is filtered down to what is meaningful for cognition or experience. Turning to recent literary criticism that engages with eye movement, the article suggests a path forward that uses the body of research built over 140 years in psychology and cognitive sciences to open new ground for criticism, disrupt our understanding of reading, and develop new bodily poetics.
Eye Movement, I. A. Richards, and the Limits of Embodied Reading
Benjamin Kossak received his PhD in English from the University of California, Davis, and is currently an editorial associate at Duke University Press. His research brings together experimental psychology and experimental poetry to turn our attention to the minutiae of physical movement and propose new modes of thinking about reading, readers, and the physical and affective relationships they participate in. His work on Meimei Berssenbrugge and cellular intimacy is forthcoming at Journal of Modern Literature.
Benjamin Kossak; Eye Movement, I. A. Richards, and the Limits of Embodied Reading. Poetics Today 1 December 2020; 41 (4): 475–501. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/03335372-8720029
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