Seven Types of Ambiguity by William Empson

By William Empson

First released in 1930, Seven sorts of Ambiguity has lengthy been well-known as a landmark within the historical past of English literary criticism.
Revised two times because it first seemed, it has remained probably the most generally learn and quoted works of literary research.

Ambiguity, in accordance with Empson, comprises "any verbal nuance, besides the fact that moderate, which provides room for replacement reactions to an analogous piece of language." From this definition, extensive sufficient by way of his personal admission occasionally to work out "stretched absurdly far," he launches right into a really good dialogue, lower than seven classifications of differing complexity and intensity, of such works, between others, as Shakespeare's performs and the poetry of Chaucer, Donne, Marvell, Pope, Wordsworth, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and T. S. Eliot.

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It can be either felt or thought; the two SEVEN TYPES OF AMBIGUITY 17 things are similar but different; and it require? practice to do both at once. Or the statement might, one cannot deny, mean that there has been some confusion of the senses. But it may mean something more important, ' sensation ' and * ' feeling ; that involving a distinction between what the poet has conveyed is no assembly of grammatical meanings, capable of analysis, but a 'mood/ an 'atmosphere/ a 'personality/ an attitude to life, an undifferentiated it is mode of being.

Similarly developed. more refined sort of implication is very highly comparable to the use of facial muscles, in- in conversation this It is tended for different or immensely cruder uses (such as the muscles round the eyes designed to prevent them from being gorged with blood when you scream), to convey fine shades of expression/ They are comparable, again, in that there are fewer verbal devices, as there are fewer ways of moving facial muscles, than there are sorts of feeling to convey by them this gives an * ; inherent opportunity for ambiguity which is regularly exploited.

They know, say, a ible novel-reading amount of French, a public-school amount of Latin, half- forgotten, and a smattering of Italian they try read; ing the Oxford Book of Spanish Verse, and are impressed by the discovery that they can get a great deal of pleasure out of individual lines without understanding the 'meaning* at all. Now such poetry is in a tradition to which they are accustomed they know roughly what to look for in the poetry of a Latin language they know what the syntax connecting one or two large words is and they are almost sure to know the root meaning likely to be not the precise meaning) of the one or two large word& (though It seems to be true that with this equipment one has a very fair chance of seeing what I may call the lyrical point of one or two This may be an important piece of evidence about the lines.

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