The Structure of Complex Words

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9780674843752: The Structure of Complex Words
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Empson's classic may "have even more to teach us about language now than It did In 1951. when this remarkable book was first published," writes Jonathan Cutler in his valuable foreword. Empson elegantly demonstrates the weight of allusion and Implication borne by even the simplest words of our language: man, honest, quite, dog. he explores the complex play of such words in social situations and in literature, producing in the process brilliant critical essays--on sense in Wordsworth's Prelude, honest in Othello and King Lear all in Paradise Lost--which go straight to the heart of the matter.

Lively and irreverent, this book offers persuasive accounts of the structure of metaphor, the statements carried by words, and the failure of dictionary entries to capture the most pertinent aspects of the structure and meaning of words. Culler writes that It stakes out "a new position in debates about meaning and context about the literary in Its relation to the social and the historical. Empson's brilliant discussions of words which express complex social attitudes toward one's fellows or toward moral principles open rich chapters of social and literary history."

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Sir William Empson (1906-1984) held the Chair of English Literature from 1953 to 1971 at the University of Sheffield.

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Mr. Empson...focuses on complex words because they are the most direct and valuable evidence for the understanding of our cultural tradition...The promise of the approach seems unbounded. The achievement is great not only in originality, insight, and entertainment, but in truth and substance. So great that Mr. Empson's right to be called the most distinguished critic of his generation can hardly now be questioned. (Ian Watt The Cambridge Review)

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