Seven Types of Ambiguity (Empson)

Seven Types of Ambiguity (Empson)

"Seven Types of Ambiguity" was first published in 1930 by William Empson. It was one of the most influential critical works of the 20th century and was a key foundation work in the formation of the New Criticism school. ["Sir William Empson", Enyclopedia Britannica 2003 DVD Edition.] The book is organized around seven types of ambiguity that Empson finds in the poetry he criticises. The first printing in America was by New Directions in 1947.

"Seven Types of Ambiguity" ushered forth New Criticism in the United States. The book is a guide to a style of literary criticism practiced by Empson. An ambiguity is represented as a puzzle to Empson. We have ambiguity when "alternative views might be taken without sheer misreading." Empson reads poetry as an exploration of conflicts within the author.

even types

# The first type of ambiguity is the metaphor, that is, when two things are said to be alike which have different properties. This concept is similar to that of metaphysical conceit.
# Two or more meanings are resolved into one. Empson characterizes this as using two different metaphors at once.
# Two ideas that are connected through context can be given in one word simultaneously.
# Two or more meanings that do not agree but combine to make clear a complicated state of mind in the author.
# When the author discovers his idea in the act of writing. Empson describes a simile that lies halfway between two statements made by the author.
# When a statement says nothing and the readers are forced to invent a statement of their own, most likely in conflict with that of the author.
# Two words that within context are opposites that expose a fundamental division in the author's mind. ["The Sacrifice", Chapter VII from "Seven Types of Ambiguity", William Empson. [] ]

Popular culture citations

*Shirley Jackson penned a short story of the same title, in which a young man who frequents a used bookstore admires Empson's book even though he can't afford it.
*Melbourne author Elliot Perlman's 2003 novel "Seven Types of Ambiguity" takes its title from Empson's first book. Empson is the intellectual hero of the book's protagonist, who names his dog accordingly.

External links

* [ "Seven Types of Ambiguity"] The Open Archive copy of the second edition, Chatto & Windus, London, 1949.


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  • Seven Types of Ambiguity — may refer to the following:*Seven Types of Ambiguity (Empson), a 1930 work of literary criticism by William Empson …   Wikipedia

  • Empson —   [ empsn], Sir (seit 1979) William, englischer Lyriker und Literaturkritiker, * Yokefleet Hall (bei Kingston upon Hull) 27. 9. 1906, ✝ London 15. 4. 1984; ab 1953 Professor in Sheffield. Seine Arbeiten über die Mehrdeutigkeit der Dichtersprache… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Empson, Sir William — born Sept. 27, 1906, Hawdon, Yorkshire, Eng. died April 15, 1984, London British poet and critic. He studied at Cambridge and later taught in Japan and China. His precocious Seven Types of Ambiguity (1930), which suggests that uncertainty or… …   Universalium

  • ambiguity — /am bi gyooh i tee/, n., pl. ambiguities. 1. doubtfulness or uncertainty of meaning or intention: to speak with ambiguity; an ambiguity of manner. 2. an unclear, indefinite, or equivocal word, expression, meaning, etc.: a contract free of… …   Universalium

  • Empson, Sir William — (27 sep. 1906, Hawdon, Yorkshire, Inglaterra–15 abr. 1984, Londres). Poeta y crítico británico. Estudió en Cambridge y después fue docente en Japón y China. Su obra precoz Seven Types of Ambiguity [Siete tipos de ambigüedad] (1930), en la cual… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Empson, Sir William — (1906 1984)    Born at Yokefleet Hall, Howden, Yorkshire, son of an Army officer, he was educated at Winchester College and studied mathematics and English at Magdalene College, Cambridge. His first book, Seven Types of Ambiguity (1930),… …   British and Irish poets

  • William Empson — Sir William Empson (27 September 1906 – 15 April 1984) was an English literary critic and poet.He is sometimes praised as the greatest English literary critic after Samuel Johnson and William Hazlitt, and widely influential for his practice of… …   Wikipedia

  • William Empson — Sir William Empson (27 de septiembre, 1906 15 de abril, 1984) fue un crítico literario y poeta Inglés. Repetidas veces ha sido elogiado como el mayor crítico literario Inglés después de Samuel Johnson y William Hazlitt. Jonathan Bate ha afirmado… …   Wikipedia Español

  • literature — /lit euhr euh cheuhr, choor , li treuh /, n. 1. writings in which expression and form, in connection with ideas of permanent and universal interest, are characteristic or essential features, as poetry, novels, history, biography, and essays. 2.… …   Universalium

  • Antithese — Eine Antithese (griechisch αντίθεσις antithésis ‚Gegenbehauptung, satz, Opposition‘, aus anti ‚gegen‘ und thésis ‚These‘) bezeichnet allgemein eine Gegenbehauptung zu einer Ausgangsbehauptung (der These). Dabei werden zwei Wörter, Begriffe,… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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