Sir William Empson b 1906
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Tuesday, 25 April 2006

Poet and Literary Scholar
Sir William Empson was born in Yorkshire in 1906 and educated at Winchester School and Cambridge University, where he studied both mathematics and literature. While at university Empson began work on his dissertation that was later published as his first, and perhaps most influential, critical work, Seven Types of Ambiguity (1930). Other critical volumes include Some Versions of Pastoral (1935), The Structure of Complex Words (1951) and Milton's God (1961).


Although first recognized as a critic, Empson's own poetry later exercised great technical influence over the group of poets known as 'the Movement'. His first volume, Poems (1935) is much influenced in tone and technique by Empson's favourite poet John Donne. It was followed by The Gathering Storm (1940) which draws vividly on his experiences in Japan and China, where he had been teaching during the 1930s. During the Second World War he was appointed Chinese Editor of the BBC but returned to a teaching post at Peking National University in 1947. He married in 1941 and had two sons. From 1953 he was Professor, and then from 1971 until his death in 1984, Professor Emeritus of English Literature at Sheffield University. He was awarded honorary doctorates from Bristol, East Anglia and Cambridge universities. He was made a Fellow of the British Academy in 1976 and received a knighthood in 1979. A volume of his critical essays entitled Essays on Renaissance Literature: Donne and the New Philosophy was published in 1993 edited by John Haffenden.

Sir William Empson was born in Yorkshire in 1906 and educated at Winchester School and Cambridge University, where he studied both mathematics and literature. While at university Empson began work on his dissertation that was later published as his first, and perhaps most influential, critical work, Seven Types of Ambiguity (1930). Other critical volumes include Some Versions of Pastoral (1935), The Structure of Complex Words (1951) and Milton's God (1961).

Although first recognized as a critic, Empson's own poetry later exercised great technical influence over the group of poets known as 'the Movement'. His first volume, Poems (1935) is much influenced in tone and technique by Empson's favourite poet John Donne. It was followed by The Gathering Storm (1940) which draws vividly on his experiences in Japan and China, where he had been teaching during the 1930s. During the Second World War he was appointed Chinese Editor of the BBC but returned to a teaching post at Peking National University in 1947. He married in 1941 and had two sons. From 1953 he was Professor, and then from 1971 until his death in 1984, Professor Emeritus of English Literature at Sheffield University. He was awarded honorary doctorates from Bristol, East Anglia and Cambridge universities. He was made a Fellow of the British Academy in 1976 and received a knighthood in 1979. A volume of his critical essays entitled Essays on Renaissance Literature: Donne and the New Philosophy was published in 1993 edited by John Haffenden.

Sir William Empson was born in Yorkshire in 1906 and educated at Winchester School and Cambridge University, where he studied both mathematics and literature. While at university Empson began work on his dissertation that was later published as his first, and perhaps most influential, critical work, Seven Types of Ambiguity (1930). Other critical volumes include Some Versions of Pastoral (1935), The Structure of Complex Words (1951) and Milton's God (1961).

Although first recognized as a critic, Empson's own poetry later exercised great technical influence over the group of poets known as 'the Movement'. His first volume, Poems (1935) is much influenced in tone and technique by Empson's favourite poet John Donne. It was followed by The Gathering Storm (1940) which draws vividly on his experiences in Japan and China, where he had been teaching during the 1930s. During the Second World War he was appointed Chinese Editor of the BBC but returned to a teaching post at Peking National University in 1947. He married in 1941 and had two sons. From 1953 he was Professor, and then from 1971 until his death in 1984, Professor Emeritus of English Literature at Sheffield University. He was awarded honorary doctorates from Bristol, East Anglia and Cambridge universities. He was made a Fellow of the British Academy in 1976 and received a knighthood in 1979. A volume of his critical essays entitled Essays on Renaissance Literature: Donne and the New Philosophy was published in 1993 edited by John Haffenden.
Last Updated ( Wednesday, 26 April 2006 )