On Empson

Michael Wood (Author)

Product Details

$22.95  $21.11
Princeton University Press
Publish Date
April 04, 2017
4.8 X 7.4 X 0.9 inches | 0.4 pounds

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About the Author

Michael Wood is professor emeritus of comparative literature at Princeton University and the author of many books, including Yeats and Violence, Alfred Hitchcock: The Man Who Knew Too Much, and The Magician's Doubts: Nabokov and the Risks of Fiction (Princeton). He is a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books and the London Review of Books. He lives in Princeton.


"Wood's On Empson offers the most fluent guidance imaginable to the genius and the ingenuity of the man."---David Bromwich, New York Review of Books
"A brilliant introduction to one of the most original and beguiling intellects of the 20th century."---Michael Dirda, Washington Post
"An elegant and concise study of the great British literary critic William Empson (1906-1984). . . . If we come away with one thing from On Empson, it is the reminder, in the age of STEM courses, of just how much poetry matters--matters not on ethical or political grounds but simply for its own sake, for its exposure of the possibilities of the language that we use every waking moment of every day without taking into account its astonishing possibilities for knowledge, power, and, especially, pleasure."---Marjorie Perloff, Weekly Standard
"On Empson [is] a small capstone to a distinguished career of commentary on poetry, novels, and film."---William H. Pritchard, Hudson Review
"There couldn't be a more seductive partnership: Wood's sidelong, subtle sentences, both understated and exhaustive, reflecting on Empson's brisk and thrilling originality. Returning to Empson is always a pleasure, but so too is watching Wood read."---Frances Wilson, Times Literary Supplement
"The trick of Wood's book is to subject Empson's work to the same kind of collaborative, close reading to which Empson subjects Shakespeare, Milton and Donne. In its most enthralling passages, Wood's own writing participates in Empson's critical creativity, providing an additional layer of interpretation, and constructing a critique of critique itself."---David Hawkes, Times Literary Supplement
"Part of the dexterity of Wood's own critical idiom lies in using the resources of the colloquial register to say just enough, leaving us to complete and digest the thought. His stylish brevity avoids the dogmatising implicit in all attempts to turn an observation into a theory . . . Wood even manages to make Milton's God (1961), Empson's grumpiest, most obsessive book, seem attractive . . . An appropriately subtle yet spirited introduction to the seductive power of a particular form of literary criticism."---Stefan Collini, The Guardian
"An excellent introduction to a figure whose legacy we still haven't quite worked out how to use . . . a mellow and appreciative study, rich in casually enlightening phrases dropped in passing, with a nice-and Empsonian-mixture of subtlety and a conversational style . . . this is a fine study that demonstrates how literary critics can be a pleasure to read and it earns its place in the Princeton series 'Writers on Writers'."---Peter Swaab, Daily Telegraph
"Michael Wood's reflections on Empson celebrate his unusual genius, focusing on the wit and nuanced thinking of both his criticism and poetry. Wood is the best expositor of Empson's poetry to date, and this book is a fine exhibit of Wood's own brilliance as a critic."--Paul H. Fry, author of William Empson: Prophet Against Sacrifice
"On Empson is a work of learning, reflection, grace, and wit. It will be the go-to volume for anyone who wants to get a sense of William Empson's career and why it matters. Michael Wood celebrates Empson as a writer and a thinker, deftly showing how his prose and poetry join in a single enterprise. Those coming new to the work will find this an invaluable guide; and already confirmed admirers will delight in Wood's subtle account of one of the great literary figures of the modern period."--Seamus Perry, University of Oxford
"It's thrilling to experience Wood's mind at work on Empson's, and Empson's mind at work on Wood's. Wood's style is engaging and his readings of Empson's prose and poetry are clear, compelling, persuasive, and fresh. I enjoyed On Empson from first page to last."--Lisa Rodensky, Wellesley College