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William Empson, Volume I: Among the Mandarins Editor

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William Empson, Volume I: Among the Mandarins Editor

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William Empson was the English literary critic of the twentieth century. A man of huge energy and curiosity, he was a genius and a genuine eccentric. His public life and travels took him through many of the major events of the modern world. This account is the first of two volumes exploring his life and work.

William Empson, Volume I: Among the Mandarins Zusammenfassung

William Empson, Volume I: Among the Mandarins Editor

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 his possession 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 morally independent 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 partners included 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 not national 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.

William Empson, Volume I: Among the Mandarins Bewertungen

Haffenden's narrative is driven along with such gusto, such alert intelligence, such obvious pleasure in the task, that no one could reasonably grumble at the story's inordinate length. It is a virtuoso feat of scholarship: a telling demonstration of what biography, as it finest, can actually achieve. Ian Donaldson Australian Book Review ...a stunning demonstration of the power of intellectual biography Ronald Shusterman, Universite de Provence '...measured and affectionate in tone, exhaustive in detail, lucid in the exposition of his difficult verse and often anguished life.' Sam Leith, The Spectator Magisterial scholarship Ruben Christiansen, The Spectator A magnificent biography. Terry Eagleton, New Statesman A triumph. It is funny, dense, touching and farcical. This is an exhilarating tale. Margaret Drabble, Books of the Year, TLS Haffenden is without doubt the world's foremost authority on the details of Empson's life. Jason Harding, TLS 'a magnificent biography... [a] grippingly readable volume'. Terry Eagleton, New Statesman Books of the Year One of the finest biographies of an English literary figure. James Wood, Guardian Review Magnificent and surprisingly gripping book, intelligently written, with a background of thorough research, well-illustrated and well-indexed. Anthony Thwaite, Sunday Telegraph A wonderful book...Haffenden's research is exhilaratingly deep and wide, his feeling for both the work and the man is warm but always judicious, and his prose is a model of elegant, grown-up clarity, seasoned with quiet and civil wit. Kevin Jackson, The Sunday Times Haffenden is the most genial of scholarly chroniclers, adopting a leisurely and discursive pace and tone that are appropriately Empsonian in warmth and wit, as well as suggestive explications de texte. This is a very long and detailed book, in the door-stopper category but never for a minute dull. The Spectator In some biographies, the biographer has to keep out of his subject's way. On virtually every page of this biography, Empson writes or says something startlingly interesting in his startlingly unusual way. Adam Phillips, The Observer Few critics have done more for poetry than Empson (1906-1984); few have led stranger or more adventurous lives... Empson's travels make entertaining reading... The main reason for reading Empson's own writings is to see what he made of the authors he cherished. (He was the best reader Donne ever had.)... In an era when readers debate whether poetry matters, it helps to remember a man who defended it, and pursued his own arguments about it, even to the ends of the earth. New York Times Book Review


Table of Dates; 1. Introduction; 2. In the Blood: Sir Richard Empson, Professor William, and John Henry; 3. '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 Group; 8. The Making of Seven Types of Ambiguity: Influence and Integrity; 9. 'Those Particular Vices': Crisis, Expulsion, and Aftermath; 10. Seven Types of Ambiguity: The Critical Reception; 11. The Trials of Tokyo; 12. Poems 1935; 13. Scapegoat and Sacrifice: Some Versions of Pastoral; 14. 'Waiting for the end, boys': Politics, Poets, and Mass-Observation; 15. Camping Out: China 1937-38; 16. 'The savage life and the fleas and the bombs': China 1938-39; 17. Postscript; Appendix: Further Famous Forebears

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William Empson, Volume I: Among the Mandarins Editor
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