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Selected Letters of William Empson

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Overview


This edited collection of letters by William Empson (1906-1984), one of the foremost writers and literary critics of the twentieth century, ranges across the entirety of his career. Parts of the correspondence record the development of ideas that were to come to fruition in seminal texts including Seven Types of Ambiguity, The Structure of Complex Words, and Milton's God. The topics of other letters range from Shakespeare's Dark Lady to Marvell's marriage and Byron's bisexuality. Empson relished correspondence that was combative, if not downright aggressive. As a result, parts of this edition take the form of a serial disputation with other critics of the period, including Frank Kermode, Helen Gardner, Philip Hobsbaum, and I. A. Richards. Other notable correspondents include A. Alvarez, Bonamy Dobrée, Leslie Fiedler, Graham Hough, C. K. Ogden, George Orwell, Kathleen Raine, John Crowe Ransom, Christopher Ricks, Laura Riding, A. L. Rowse, Stephen Spender, E. M. W. Tillyard, Rosemond Tuve, John Wain, and G. Wilson Knight.

All readers of literary history and criticism will stand to benefit from this edition. Empson is universally credited as the man who "invented" modern literary criticism, so that all of his writings make a signal addition to the canon of his works. This selection provides a context for the evaluation of Empson's total literary output; and in many letters Empson seeks to defend his ideas against both published and personal attacks. This volume not only fills in all the missing links, it adds up to a completely new volume of critical writings by Empson.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"[A] sumptuous selection.... Haffenden has by now rendered so many services to Empson's posthumous reputation, editing several of his unfinished works as well as writing the biography, that it almost goes without saying that this edition is authoritative, impeccable and very usable."--Stefan Collini, Times Literary Supplement

"These fascinating letters, edited by John Haffenden, who has done more than anyone to make Empson readable rather than merely mandarin, are a testament to the virtues of spirited and truculent disagreement. And they are the closest thing we have, in Empson's case, to autobiographical writings."--Adam Phillips, London Review of Books

"William Empson's [letters] are excellent companions. A poet and critic whose work helped establish the way literature is read and written about today, Empson never forgot the solitary conversation involved in sending and receiving words. The letters in this collection are full of their writer's particular situations.... Perhaps the greatest pleasure these letters provide is enjoyment of Empson's style, or rather styles."--New Statesman

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199286843
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 5/11/2006
  • Pages: 800
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 6.50 (h) x 2.00 (d)

Meet the Author

John Haffenden is Professor of English Literature at the University of Sheffield. His books include The Life of John Berryman, W. H. Auden: The Critical Heritage, Viewpoints: Poets in Conversation, and Novelists in Interview; and he has edited Berryman's Shakespeare and several collections by William Empson including Complete Poems. The first volume of a biography, William Empson: Among the Mandarins, was published in 2005. Haffenden is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and of the English Association, and has been a British Academy Research Reader and a Leverhulme Research Fellow.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements
Abbreviations
Introduction
Note on the text
Table of dates
List of resipients and dates
Text of letters
Glossary of names
Index

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