William Empson

William Empson (1906-1984) is best known for his first work, Seven Types of Ambiguity: A Study of Its Effects on English Verse (1930). He was an English poet and supported the school of literary criticism known as New Criticism through his many works and his critical process. Empson encouraged a close and detailed reading of works and was well known for his ability to explain meaning in poetic language.

Spring 1958

Tom Jones

By William Empson

I had been meaning to write about Tom Jones before, but this essay bears the marks of shock at what I found said about the book by recent literary critics, […]

Spring 1951

Sense in the Prelude

By William Empson

One does not think of the poetry of Wordsworth, even the parts which expound his philosophy, as depending on a concentrated richness of single words. There are of course “key” […]

Fall 1950


By William Empson

George Herbert and Miss Tuve Sirs, Miss Rosamond Tuve’s article “On Herbert’s Sacrifice” in the Kenyon Review for Winter 1950 makes some good points against the way I wrote about […]