Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Aimless Reading: The E's, Part 9 (William Empson)

Empson, William
7 Types of Ambiguity


Great title. Great cover. Interesting ideas.

Unreadable book. For instance:

from Chapter 1

The important meanings of this sort, as may be seen from the example about the cat, are hard to isolate, or to be sure of when you have done so ; and there is a sort of meaning, the sort that people are thinking of when they say * this poet will mean more to you when you have had more experience of life/ which is hardly in reach of the analyst at all. They mean by this not so much that you will have more information (which could be given at once) as that the information will have been digested; that you will be more experienced in the apprehension of verbal subtleties or of the poet's social tone; that you will have become the sort of person that can feel at home in, or imagine, or extract experience from, what is described by the poetry; that you will have included it among the things you are prepared to apprehend. There is a distinction here of the implied meanings of a sentence into what is to be assimilated at the moment and what must already be part of your habits; in arriving at the second of these the educator (that mysterious figure) rather than the analyst would be helpful. In a sense it cannot be explained in language, be-cause to a person who does not understand it any statement of it is as difficult as the original one, while to a person who does understand it a statement of it has no meaning because no purpose.

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