I.A. Richards and 100 Important Words

I.A. Richards is a familiar name from my college years. He was an important critic in the heyday of the New Criticism (which has long since stopped being “new” but is still a useful approach to literature).

My friend Jane McGinnis sent me an intriguing article that included Richards’ 100 Words Most Important in English. You can read the article here: https://www.thoughtco.com/important-words-in-english-1692687

Although Richards predated postmodernism, his list includes four words important to postmodern thought: copy, name, natural,  and use.

One omission from the list surprised me: imagination. Every moment of our lives is an imagining. There are no neutral events – there’s a sense in which we are always dreaming. Richards seems not to have read Carl Jung or James Hillman – but that’s not a complaint. Nobody can read everything!

What I’m hoping you’ll do is come up with your own list. (It doesn’t have to be 100 words!) Can you see something in a word that others can’t?

I’m thinking of Hillman, of course (imagine, soul, destiny, childhood) – and Derrida (write, copy, natural). Heck – I could include John Lennon with imagine. And I will.

And then there’s Paul Tillich. How many minds did he open when he wrote so powerfully about the words salvation, sin, and grace?

What words have special meanings to you?

The front cover of Principles of Literary Criticism by I A Richards


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