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Seven Types of Ambiguity (Pelican) Paperback – 29 Mar 1973


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Product details

  • Paperback: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New impression edition (29 Mar. 1973)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014021478X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140214789
  • Product Dimensions: 18 x 11.2 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 464,889 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jennings on 7 Jan. 2014
Format: Paperback
Empson's principal theme throughout this book is that metaphor is nothing other than ambiguity but this confessional reveals his lack of understanding of metaphor. There is no ambiguity in metaphor except by those unable to grasp its meaning. The best children's stories and those of Aesop and of the Bible convey obvious metaphorical connotations which, regrettably, few people (including scholars) are able to comprehend. There are occasions when Empson, to prove his point, adds content which does not exist in the writing he is reading then attempts to explain the meaning with the added content!

In the middle of page xiv Empson is reputed to have admitted the following where it says, "...but I am much hampered by a doubt as to whether any of it is true." One presumes from this admission that in his critique of English literature he is conscious of guessing.

Empson was banished from Cambridge for having on his possession such appalling items as a few condoms (set-up to presumably get rid of him) yet in an extract from the Times Literary Supplement the journalist attempts to correct a statement made by Empson but fails miserably yet goes on to say, "Mr Empson is a young writer only recently down from Cambridge, where he had a brilliant career." Really; with condoms secreted in his room; how dreadful; and in a single sex establishment too? Did his academic elevation arise from this notoriety?

Empson wrote in a letter to a friend, "...it is a very amateur sort of book!" Can it be presumed then that his conscience, regarding the bone fide of his views, was troubling him?

I read the 1955 edition in which Empson had made numerous corrections to the original 1929 edition.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Lovborg on 22 Oct. 2003
Format: Paperback
"Seven Types of Ambiguity" can claim to be the fountainhead from which modern critical theory in English springs. The argument, made from a number of perspectives with extensive examples is that the resonance of poetry (in particular versus works in other more "exact" languages)is based on the ambiguity conjured by our language, necessitating the reader's involvement with and interpretation of the work. His thesis is not "reader as creator" or any of that sort of horrifying tummywash, but a beautifully argued, expansive and compelling study that celebrates and illuminates the greatest achievements in English Literature. It really is indispensable for any student of literature and a beautifully readable study as well.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mr. B. P. Van-asten on 10 Feb. 2012
Format: Paperback
First published in 1930 (revised in 1947 and 1953), 'Seven Types of Ambiguity' by William Empson (1906-1984) is the classic study of ambiguity within English verse which became very influential in the development of literary criticism. Empson presents us with an analysis of the multiple in-depth meanings or verbal 'nuances' found within a text which can be interpreted as an alternative view or reaction in the scope of the main theme. An example of this, and the simplest form, is the metaphor, which can be seen as a word or grammatical construction which is effective in more ways than one. Then there is the pun which may have simultaneous meanings and interpretations, and so on.
Using examples from Shakespeare, Donne, Hopkins, Keats, Shelley and Swinburne, 'Seven Types of Ambiguity' is an invaluable work to the student and lover of English Literature and critical analysis.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By squirrel wrangler on 3 Mar. 2013
Format: Paperback
You think you'll get something substantial on the possibility of meaning (after all it does, doesn't it?) and then it just does clever things with words on the words of others.
Good bit about the drive to urinate on beauty makes up for all the betrayals.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Thales on 6 Jun. 2009
Format: Paperback
Anyone who buys this book does so on recommendation or because they know what's in it. Still a fascinating read decades after publication.
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