Haffenden, John. William Empson Volume I: Life Among the Mandarins

Haffenden, John. William Empson Volume I: Life Among the Mandarins

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Haffenden, John. William Empson Volume I: Life Among the Mandarins. Oxford University Press, 2005. ISBN: 9780199276592.

720 pp. New with dust jacket. New in new dust-jacket. Hardcover.  [4682] 

William Empson (1906-1984) 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...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.