William Empson, Volume I: Among the Mandarins by John Haffenden

William Empson, Volume I: Among the Mandarins

byJohn Haffenden

Paperback | January 22, 2009

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William Empson was the foremost English literary critic of the twentieth century. He was a man of huge energy and curiosity, and a genuine eccentric who remained imperturbable in the face of all the extraordinary circumstances in which he found himself. The discovery of contraceptives in hispossession by a bedmaker at Cambridge University led to his being robbed of a promised Fellowship. Yet Seven Types of Ambiguity, drafted while he was still an undergraduate, promptly brought him world-wide fame.Empson invented modern literary criticism in English. He acted too as a cultural fifth-columnist, challenging received doctrine in life and literature. 'It is a very good thing for a poet . . . to be saying something which is considered very shocking at the time,' he maintained. 'To become morallyindependent of one's formative society . . . is the grandest theme of all literature, because it is the only means of moral progress.'His public life took him through many of the major political events of the modern world -- the rise of imperialism in Japan, the Sino-Japanese war in China, wartime propaganda for the BBC, and the Chinese civil war and Communist takeover of Peking in 1949. His friends and critical sparring partnersincluded I. A. Richards, Kathleen Raine, J. B. S. Haldane, Humphrey Jennings, George Orwell, Robert Lowell, Dylan Thomas, Stephen Spender, Helen Gardner, and T. S. Eliot.'It is of great importance now that writers should try to keep a certain world-mindedness,' he insisted. 'Without the literatures you cannot have a sense of history, and history is like the balancing-pole of the tightrope-walker . . . ; and nowadays we very much need the longer balancing-pole of notnational but world history.' His passionate world-mindedness, and his humanism, combativeness, and wit, are fully in evidence in this, the first of two volumes exploring his remarkable life and work.

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John Haffenden is a Professor of English Literature at the University of Sheffield.
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Title:William Empson, Volume I: Among the MandarinsFormat:PaperbackDimensions:720 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 0.03 inPublished:January 22, 2009Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:019953991X

ISBN - 13:9780199539918

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Table of Contents

Table of Dates1. Introduction2. In the Blood: Sir Richard Empson, Professor William, and John Henry3. 'A horrid little boy, airing my views'4. 'Owl Empson'5. 'Did I, I wonder, talk too much?'6. 'Mr Empson gave a very competent performance'7. 'His presence spellbound us all': The Experiment Group8. The Making of Seven Types of Ambiguity: Influence and Integrity9. 'Those Particular Vices': Crisis, Expulsion, and Aftermath10. Seven Types of Ambiguity: The Critical Reception11. The Trials of Tokyo12. Poems 193513. Scapegoat and Sacrifice: Some Versions of Pastoral14. 'Waiting for the end, boys': Politics, Poets, and Mass-Observation15. Camping Out: China 1937-3816. 'The savage life and the fleas and the bombs': China 1938-3917. PostscriptAppendix: Further Famous Forebears

Editorial Reviews

`A triumph. It is funny, dense, touching and farcical. This is an exhilarating tale.'Margaret Drabble, Books of the Year, Times Literary Supplement