Empson’s poetry and criticism; literary criticism; modern poetry; Modernism


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This paper attempts to offer a fresh examination of the relationship between Empson’s early career as a poet and his later erudite, largely influential, critical output. The theme of waste, which dominates his Collected Poems, partly accounts for his decision to abandon poetry, and invest his interest in complexity and ambiguity in a modernist/postmodernist procedure, way ahead of contemporary literary theory at the time. The theme of waste is further highlighted through readings of crucial key poems, as several critics of his time, such as Leavis and Alvarez, accurately signaled. The Empson canon is, thus, enriched, inviting the application of twenty-first century schools such as deconstruction and post-structuralism more broadly, to track down an early reference as well as an origin for literary theory.



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