Abstract

This essay situates William Empson’s poetry in the ideologically charged artistic atmosphere of the 1930s. It contends that the tonal ambiguities of Empson’s verse register the difficulties he encountered in occupying a stance of political detachment during the decade. Arguing against the aestheticization of Empsonian ambiguity, I pay special attention to hiatuses in Empson’s literary productivity which coincided with his experience of war in Japan and China. The essay reevaluates the politics of late modernism by arguing that even the work of “neutral” writers was affected by the ideological antagonisms of the 1930s and the inexorable call to “take sides.”

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6547
Print ISSN
0013-8304
Pages
pp. 221-249
Launched on MUSE
2013-03-15
Open Access
No
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