William Empson

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William Empson
NationalityUnited Kingdom
Literary critic and poet

Empson, William,

1906–84, English critic and poet. His Seven Types of Ambiguity (1930), a study of the meanings of poetry, is a classic of modern literary criticism. It was followed by Some Versions of Pastoral (1935) and The Structure of Complex Words (1951). In Milton's God (1961) Empson engaged in a vehement attack on Puritanism. His works also includes two posthumously published essay collections, Using Biography and Essays on Renaissance Literature (1994). His poetry—Poems (1935) and The Gathering Storm (1940)—was noted for its wit and metaphysical conceits. A collected edition of his verse appeared in 1955, and his Complete Poems was published in 2001. Empson was knighted in 1979.


See biography by J. Haffenden (2 vol., 2005–6); J. Haffenden, ed., Selected Letters of William Empson (2006); studies by J. H. Wills (1969), R. Gill (1974), C. Norns (1978), and C. Norris and N. Mapp, ed. (1993).

References in periodicals archive ?
79, in note 67, William Empson is identified as a "twentieth-century literary"--presumably "critic" was accidentally dropped.
Others as different in their approaches as Leo Spitzer, William Empson, C.
They look at the contributions of British critics William Empson (1906-1984), Wilson Knight (1897-1985), and Claire Barber (U.
After a brief introductory chapter evoking the example of the slippery doubleness of Erasmus's fool Moria in Praise of Folly and invoking the New Critical approach of William Empson, chapter 2 describes foolery from Launce in Two Gentlemen of Verona, the Dromios in Comedy of Errors, Bottom and Puck in Midsummer Night's Dream, and Dogberry in Much Ado through Touchstone in As You Like It, Feste in Twelfth Night, and Lavatch and Parolles in All's Well That Ends Well.
Leavis, William Empson, Delmore Schwartz, Randall Jarrell, R.
Her most influential work, Poetic Artifice: A Theory of Twentieth-Century Poetry, published posthumously in 1978, turned sharply against critics of the previous generation, notably William Empson, and against emergent strains of historicism.
Empson, Milton, and God: Review of Milton's God by William Empson.
A Cambridge graduate, and a contemporary of William Empson and Michael Redgrave, he was a poet, painter and an early champion of the Surrealists.
Fry cites and then expands upon the way William Empson put Strunk and White's manual on style in its place, decades ago, when he observed how Wordsworth took a site of "indiscriminate joy" in the 1805 Prelude (the poet's recollection of dancing until dawn and then feeling committed to his artistic vocation) and turned it--to his poetic disadvantage--into "an intelligible symbol" (78) by eliminating verbs of being.
When John Haffenden's magnificent two-volume biography of the great criticpoet William Empson came out three years ago, it was little noticed.
In one of his last books, William Empson devoted fifty-two pages to an impassioned (and creative) defense of the proposition that Mary Palmer, far from being merely Marvell's opportunistic housekeeper, was actually Marvell's secret, common law wife, as she contended in her bid for the Marvell estate, which bid resulted in the publication of the 1681 Miscellaneous Poems.