William Empson: The Critical Achievementby Christopher Norris
Pub. Date: 03/18/1993
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
William Empson (1906SH84) was one of the twentieth century's most distinctive critical voices, and left a profound mark upon Anglo-American literary culture. This book is the first full study of Empson's literary criticism in its various aspects, taking account of recent developments in critical theory and of Empson's complex SH at times deeply antagonistic SH attitude towards those developments. In their diversity of viewpoint and critical approach the nine essays reflect this sturdy resistance to fashionable trends of 'Eng. Lit.' opinion. Topics include the relations between Empson and Derrida's approaches to the issue of textual 'undecidability', and Empson's prominent (if unwilling role) in the shaping of English as an academic discourse. Christopher Norris's extended introduction charts the ground and offers a major revaluation of Empson's place in the theoretical tradition.
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Table of Contents1. Introduction: Empson as literary theorist: from ambiguity to complex words and beyondChristopher Norris; 2. Empsonian honesty and the beginnings of individualism Gary Wihl; 3. Empson, Leavis, and the challenge of Milton Willaim E. Cain; 4. Empson's Satan: an ambiguous character of the seventh type Paul H. Fry; 5. Compacted doctrines: Empson and the meanings of words Alan Durant and Colin MacCabe; 6. Figural narrative and plot construction: Empson on pastoral Pamela McCallum; 7. More lurid figures: de Man reading Empson Neil Hertz; 8. 'Fool' and 'pharmakon' William Righter; 9. William Empson's cosmicomiques Jean-Jacques Lecerle; 10. Empson as teacher: the Sheffield years Philip Hobsbaum; Index.
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