Selected Letters of William Empson

by

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 toMarvell'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 notablecorrespondents 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 upto a completely new volume of critical writings by Empson.
  • OUP Oxford; March 2006
  • ISBN 9780191569425
  • Read online, or download in secure PDF format
  • Title: Selected Letters of William Empson
  • Author: John Haffenden (ed.)
  • Imprint: OUP Oxford

In The Press

John Haffenden's fine edition of Empson's Selected Letters contains many gems...One of the many strengths and pleasures of this edition is the way in which Haffenden's editorial labours allow us to situate Empson's line of thought.

About 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 abiography, 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.