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William Empson (1906–1984)

Teoksen Seven Types of Ambiguity tekijä

18+ Works 1,487 Jäsentä 14 arvostelua 3 Favorited

About the Author

Tekijän teokset

Seven Types of Ambiguity (1930) 817 kappaletta
Some Versions of Pastoral (1935) 174 kappaletta
The Structure of Complex Words (1951) 115 kappaletta
Collected Poems (1949) 79 kappaletta
The complete poems (2000) 55 kappaletta
Milton's God (1961) 47 kappaletta
Essays on Shakespeare (1986) 43 kappaletta
Using Biography (1984) 23 kappaletta
The Royal Beasts and Other Works (1986) 22 kappaletta
The Face of the Buddha (2016) — Tekijä — 22 kappaletta

Associated Works

Paradise Lost [Norton Critical Edition] (1667) — Avustaja, eräät painokset2,156 kappaletta
The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms (2000) — Avustaja — 1,228 kappaletta
Alice in Wonderland [Norton Critical Edition, 2nd ed.] (1992) — Avustaja — 600 kappaletta
A Pocket Book of Modern Verse (1954) — Avustaja, eräät painokset435 kappaletta
The Faber Book of Modern Verse (1936) — Avustaja, eräät painokset283 kappaletta
The Penguin Book of Contemporary Verse (1950) — Avustaja, eräät painokset263 kappaletta
Alice in Wonderland [Norton Critical Edition, 1st ed.] (1971) — Avustaja — 145 kappaletta
Shakespeare: Othello (1971) — Avustaja — 36 kappaletta
Lewis Caroll (1971) — Avustaja — 6 kappaletta
Selected Poetry (1989) — Toimittaja — 5 kappaletta

Merkitty avainsanalla




Letto rapidamente, soprattutto senza le necessarie conoscenze della poesia inglese qui usata come base per la dissertazione. A ogni modo, estremamente utile da (qualsiasi) punto di vista narrativo la riflessione di Empson sul concetto di ambiguità come strumento del racconto.
Merkitty asiattomaksi
d.v. | 10 muuta kirja-arvostelua | May 16, 2023 |
Empson's basic contention is that Marlowe's Doctor Faustus was heavily censored, that the A-text is the direct result of the censorship, and that the B-text is a compromised stage-friendly version with copious amounts of non-Marlovian (I love that word) verse added to complete the running-time.

All well and good, and hardly controversial. But Empson decides to go further, and to uncover what was censored, performing a sort of forensic literature analysis. And this is where things get interesting.

The short-short version is this: Mephistopholes is not a devil, but a Middle Spirit. He acts as a broker between Faust and the actual devils, who are trapped in hell. Now, Middle Spirits live a few thousand years and include beings such as the Greek gods: they have no souls, and therefore die "like beasts" unless they can obtain the soul of a human. The Faustian pack suddenly becomes less one-sided: Faust, having no interest in the afterlife (in fact wanting to die like a beast), sells his soul to Mephistopholes directly: Faust gets fame, knowledge, and enjoyment (but not possession!) of the world's riches; Mephistoheles gets a soul, and therefore a shot at paradise when the End Times come.

This adds new meaning to Faust's last words ("Ah, Mephistopholes!") and clears up the many many contradictions in Mephistopholes' theological lectures. Empson asserts that the existence of Middle Spirits was heretical under Calvinist doctrine, and that the rejection of God/Heaven must be punished, just like in the old movie codes (which may still exist, judging by the fifth and final season of a popular drug-themed TV show which shall not be named).

The actual proof, however, involves some reaching. I'm not sure I'm convinced, but I do like to entertain the theory.

A fifth star added for the academic smack-talking. Empson really gets his digs in where he can, making this a surprisingly entertaining read.
… (lisätietoja)
Merkitty asiattomaksi
mkfs | Aug 13, 2022 |
Here, William Empson introduces a classification scheme for understanding the types of ambiguity to be found in literature. There is a focus on poetry among the types of literature, as it is a better source of effective uses of ambiguity. However, what he says implies to all written content.
What this book does best is to increase the readers’ awareness of ambiguity, and appreciation of how writers can use it in different ways to do different things.
Really a masterpiece of literary criticism, and it should be required reading for those studying English literature.… (lisätietoja)
Merkitty asiattomaksi
P_S_Patrick | 10 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Sep 24, 2020 |
I got off to a very rocky start with this book — beginning with the first sentence!

"An ambiguity, in ordinary speech, means something very pronounced, and as a rule witty or deceitful."

Skipping over "in ordinary speech" for the moment, I was not aware that ambiguity was "as a rule witty or deceitful." This sentence sent me to two different dictionaries and ultimately — when I was at the library the other day anyway — to the 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary. None of these sources contradicted my presumed definition of "ambiguous" or "ambiguity," but interestingly and as an aside, the OED actually quotes this very sentence in its section of historical usage. For the sake of brevity, let me quote the Concise Oxford English Dictionary:

ambiguous: having more than one meaning; open to different interpretations.

Nowhere in any of my sources — the third being Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition (2008) — were the words "witty" or "deceitful" to be found.

While Empson's presumably working definition invokes "ordinary speech," his book deals almost exclusively with an analysis of poetry — hardly anybody's concept of ordinary speech. But let us forget about this unfortunate phraseology because it merely detracts from what turns out to be a very useful and important book.

Empson has conceived of seven main types of literary ambiguity along with innumerable subtypes and variations, all of which he illustrates with detailed exegesis of poems, especially from Shakespeare, John Donne and John Dryden. Some of Empson's types are easier to absorb than others, but his explanation of individual poems are highly enlightening and worth the investment of time to understand and overlook his sometimes obscure language.

For example, the first type is so complicated that a complete definition is difficult to sum up and state succinctly, but a single line from Shakespeare will serve to illustrate the idea that "a word or a grammatical structure is effective in several ways at once":

      Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang
                              —Sonnet LXXII

". . . because ruined monastery choirs are places in which to sing, because they involve sitting in a row, because they are made of wood, are carved in knots and so forth, because they used to be surrounded by a sheltering building crystallized out of the likeness of a forest, and colored with stained glass and painting like flowers and leaves, because they are now abandoned by all but the gray walls colored like the skies of winter . . . all combine to give the line its beauty, and there is a sort of ambiguity in not knowing which of them to hold most clearly in mind. Clearly this is involved in all such richness and heightening of effect, and the machinations of ambiguity are among the very roots of poetry."

How powerful is that?

Here is another example, the third type of ambiguity, in which two ideas "can be given in one word simultaneously":

      That specious monster, my accomplished snare.
                        —Milton, Samson Agonistes, line 230

The operative word here is specious, which in its original definition meant "beautiful," and only later acquired the meaning of "having deceptive attraction or allure." If you know both meanings, you feel the hidden power of "That specious monster."

Empson refers to these words with double meanings as puns, and technically perhaps they are. Shakespeare's poetry — both sonnets and plays — is full of them, as Empson demonstrates again and again. He directly says that most of the ambiguities he has considered seem beautiful to him — again, not our customary notion of a pun.

The many ambiguities seen in poem after poem make us conscious of the tensions raised by the contradictions if we can see them. The more prominent the contradiction, the greater the tension.

Some critics have argued that Empson's ambiguities are not that at all but merely demonstrate the many creative uses of language in poetry. I see in his analysis something akin to hermeneutics, which originated among Biblical scholars in identifying different levels of interpretation and later made more generally familiar in literary criticism by Norbert Fry. However, one wishes to look at it, Empson's analysis opens us up to a deep understanding of the complexity of poetry.
… (lisätietoja)
6 ääni
Merkitty asiattomaksi
Poquette | 10 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Apr 1, 2015 |



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