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Seven Types of Ambiguity Paperback


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Seven Types of Ambiguity + The Well Wrought Urn: Studies in the Structure of Poetry
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions (January 17, 1966)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 081120037X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811200370
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.2 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #122,926 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

This book really goes through the English language and the creative uses of ambiguity.
Jt Wright
It is heartily recommended to anyone with an interest in poetry, and is absolutlely essential for anyone working for a college or graduate English degree.
Ulysses
I found the experience generally frustrating, though the book does contain a fair amount of interesting information.
Haruki-San

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

147 of 157 people found the following review helpful By PeterM Schuller on February 8, 2001
Format: Paperback
The prose of the author is delightful: it was originally published in 1930 when better authors had a genteel but sophisticated style. The author's original intention was to set forth a theory of metaphor by distinguishing and analyzing, as the title says, seven forms of (linguistic) ambiguity. He draws the examples on which he exercizes his probative skill mostly from great writers in the English language. But for those schooled after, say, the 1950s it is a wonderful exhortation to read, speak and write with more subtelty than is usually encountered. A corollary of the case he makes is that ambiguity--carefully crafted ambiguity, not ambiguity of the slothful kind--can be very powerful, but it presupposes a precision in reading and writing which is a precondition for well-crafted metaphor. As such it stands for OUR generations as an exhortation to lingusitic sophistication and an implicit disproof that "liberty" goes hand in hand with slovenliness. It certainly does make better readers out of those who go through his book.
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19 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Robert E. Koskulics on March 22, 2007
Format: Paperback
This book is for people who love words. Not just love them, but have a serious lust for them, who have such a powerful desire to absorb as much as possible that you can't even fully articulate why. What this novel does is help us remember why we love poetry, and the enormous power it can have. That's not to say it can make you like poetry if you don't already have a healthy understanding of it; indeed, in order to read this book I need complete silence and total concentration. This is not a book to read before you go to bed, or while you're at the gym. This is a book to read on your day off, when you can shut off all outside distraction. That seems like a lot to ask, but the rewards are great. After reading this, take another look at your all time favorite works of literary art. Take a look at "Macbeth," or, "The Sun Also Rises," or even, "Fight Club." This book will help you get more depth of meaning than you ever suspected out of these words.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Blockhed Blockhed on November 29, 2009
Format: Paperback
This is one of the finest introductions to the power of words ever written. I read it when I was the same age as the author, and it etched itself on my mind. I cannot think of a more convincing analysis of how poetry works, beyond the simplicities of rhyme and rhythm. Poetry compresses emotion. It makes the words work hard. That is why it is effective and memorable. A line of poetry contains multiple meanings, which is what I understand by Empson's "ambiguity". Prose attempts to eliminate ambiguity, and the result is legalese, or the writings of the denser philosophers: hopelessly boring, unmemorable, ultimately incomprehensible. This book is a guide. I have kept it with me for the last fifty years.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Ulysses on February 18, 2006
Format: Paperback
This is one of the great milestones of twentieth century literary criticism. Published originally in 1930, its relevance has not faded. It is heartily recommended to anyone with an interest in poetry, and is absolutlely essential for anyone working for a college or graduate English degree. It could also be profitably used by younger persons in high school honors English programs.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jt Wright on October 29, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I thought that William Empson is one of the best writers of his time and now. I have not read book like this one. This book really goes through the English language and the creative uses of ambiguity. Anyone and everyone should read this book.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By THUMBTOM on July 29, 2013
Format: Paperback
After digging so deep for the treasure, following the old charts, in between Caribbean tides or similes for them, that would flood the workings; William Empson, held up his golden doubloons of ambiguity for a while; but all seven were soon reburied by him in the famous book he chose to call "Seven Types of Ambiguity". As a record of his interminable and ultimately vain labours the book deserves to be credited. It is unlikely that another will revisit the place.

That there are SEVEN types of ambiguity might have been an impressive thesis, especially written at the age of 22. It could have laid the foundations for a new type of literary criticism; so that a neophyte, just "up" to Oxford might be impressed, as I am to this day, by the university lecturer who might recite, like an alphabet, the twelve labours of Hercules. The truth is however, that ambiguity is ambiguous itself, and it is made clear in the book, that there are as many types of ambiguity; as there are, in the wild, countless and therefore nameless varieties of hawkweed.

By offering so few types, and by his labours making them all pointless to differentiate, Empson, amazingly has secured a critical reputation. In this precocious masterpiece of unintelligibility he has given us the very essence of ambiguity: two things at the same time. First he managed to bluff his way to the end; but second, there is the unfortunate evidence of the debauching of his own literary instrument. Empson has provided the university syllabus compiler with a controversial book that has been in print since 1937; but also has provided our basis for understanding the mercy of Empson's own complete withdrawal from the writing of poetry itself in 1940; for this which we must be grateful.
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