Tantalum Memorial, Arnolfini, Bristol UK - Photograph by Jamie Woodley

bnr#57 => Tantalum Memorial, Arnolfini, Bristol UK - Photograph by Jamie Woodley

Ambiguity

Object: 13

Empson, The Seven Types of Ambiguity

Date of origin: circa 1930
Author/inventor/context: William Empson

A book that establishes a pliable typology of forms of ambiguity through the close reading of canonical literary texts. Empson's approach to ambiguity established him as an influential precursor to various schools of literary criticism and an advocate of the nuanced verbal analysis of writing, necessitated in an era rich in "mental conflict" (a second edition was published in 1949). Exploring and exploiting manifestations of such mental conflict was of crucial strategic interest to a keen reader of Empson, Jesus James Angleton, head of counter-intelligence at the CIA. Angleton’s interest in the possibilities of ambiguity was less playful.

Andy Goffey