A landmark in the history of criticism, Seven Types of Ambiguity was published in 1930, when Empson was only twenty-four, and was immediately hailed as a masterpiece. Although critics had previously noted the indeterminate and playful aspect of 'ambiguity' in literary language, the term itself only entered into the critical lexicon after the publication of Empson's landmark study. In his enjoyable readings of ambiguity, puns and paradox, Empson draws on a variety of authors from Chaucer to Eliot, illuminating the strategies of individual writers and creating a brilliant general theory of poetic practice: wide-ranging, witty and still controversial today.
William Empson (1906-84) was Professor of English at Sheffield University. His is also the author of Some Versions of Pastoral, The Structure of Complex Words, Milton's God, Using Biography, and several volumes of poetry, including Poems (1935) and The Gathering Storm (1940).