A History of Ambiguity

Author:   Anthony Ossa-Richardson
Publisher:   Princeton University Press
ISBN:  

9780691167954


Pages:   488
Publication Date:   14 May 2019
Format:   Hardback
Availability:   In Print   Availability explained
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A History of Ambiguity


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Overview

Ever since it was first published in 1930, William Empson's Seven Types of Ambiguity has been perceived as a milestone in literary criticism--far from being an impediment to communication, ambiguity now seemed an index of poetic richness and expressive power. Little, however, has been written on the broader trajectory of Western thought about ambiguity before Empson; as a result, the nature of his innovation has been poorly understood. A History of Ambiguity remedies this omission. Starting with classical grammar and rhetoric, and moving on to moral theology, law, biblical exegesis, German philosophy, and literary criticism, Anthony Ossa-Richardson explores the many ways in which readers and theorists posited, denied, conceptualised, and argued over the existence of multiple meanings in texts between antiquity and the twentieth century. This process took on a variety of interconnected forms, from the Renaissance delight in the 'elegance' of ambiguities in Horace, through the extraordinary Catholic claim that Scripture could contain multiple literal--and not just allegorical--senses, to the theory of dramatic irony developed in the nineteenth century, a theory intertwined with discoveries of the double meanings in Greek tragedy. Such narratives are not merely of antiquarian interest: rather, they provide an insight into the foundations of modern criticism, revealing deep resonances between acts of interpretation in disparate eras and contexts. A History of Ambiguity lays bare the long tradition of efforts to liberate language, and even a poet's intention, from the strictures of a single meaning.

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Author:   Anthony Ossa-Richardson
Publisher:   Princeton University Press
Imprint:   Princeton University Press
ISBN:  

9780691167954


ISBN 10:   0691167958
Pages:   488
Publication Date:   14 May 2019
Audience:   College/higher education ,  Professional and scholarly ,  Tertiary & Higher Education ,  Professional & Vocational
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active
Availability:   In Print   Availability explained
This item will be ordered in for you from one of our suppliers. Upon receipt, we will promptly dispatch it out to you. For in store availability, please contact us.
Language:   English

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Reviews

This remarkable book is full of insights, wonderfully learned and often funny. --Michael Wood, author of On Empson Few scholars can be trusted to lead you from Aristotle and Augustine, through the deepest forests of early modern intellectual history, to emerge ready for modern literary thickets. You can trust Ossa-Richardson. In showing how Empson's Seven Types of Ambiguity transformed vice into virtue, he untangles the origins of modern criticism with a rare combination of scholarship and playfulness. --Richard Oosterhoff, University of Edinburgh This unequivocally brilliant book traces the tortuous evolution of ambiguity from a vice in ancient rhetoric to creative poetic indeterminacy in the twentieth century. Beginning and ending with William Empson's Seven Types of Ambiguity, this rich and challenging study ranges widely across scriptural hermeneutics, theology, legal history, classical philology, and literary criticism. An almost impossible story told with verve, erudition, and wit. --Stephen Clucas, Birkbeck, University of London For anyone who imagines that the history of ambiguity begins with William Empson, this book will come as a revelation. Anthony Ossa-Richardson presents an alternative history of ambiguity in which Empson and the New Critics are the end point rather than the beginning. In a work of thrilling ambition--ranging across biblical criticism, classical translation, religious polemic, and legal hermeneutics--he recovers a lost tradition of medieval and early modern scholarship which, rather than trying to eliminate ambiguity, reveled in its power and possibility. A History of Ambiguity takes its readers on a voyage of discovery into uncharted waters which will not only expand their horizons but redraw their map of intellectual history. --Arnold Hunt, University of Cambridge Exhilarating. Ossa-Richardson's richly textured book makes a huge contribution to our understanding of the full spectrum of ways--and reasons why--words mean more than one thing. --Reid Barbour, author of Sir Thomas Browne: A Life


oeThis remarkable book is full of insights, wonderfully learned and often funny. Michael Wood, author of On Empson Few scholars can be trusted to lead you from Aristotle and Augustine, through the deepest forests of early modern intellectual history, to emerge ready for modern literary thickets. You can trust Ossa-Richardson. In showing how Empson's Seven Types of Ambiguity transformed vice into virtue, he untangles the origins of modern criticism with a rare combination of scholarship and playfulness. Richard Oosterhoff, University of Edinburgh For anyone who imagines that the history of ambiguity begins with William Empson, this book will come as a revelation. Anthony Ossa-Richardson presents an alternative history of ambiguity in which Empson and the New Critics are the end point rather than the beginning. In a work of thrilling ambition ranging across biblical criticism, classical translation, religious polemic, and legal hermeneutics he recovers a lost tradition of medieval and early modern scholarship which, rather than trying to eliminate ambiguity, reveled in its power and possibility. A History of Ambiguity takes its readers on a voyage of discovery into uncharted waters which will not only expand their horizons but redraw their map of intellectual history. Arnold Hunt, University of Cambridge This unequivocally brilliant book traces the tortuous evolution of ambiguity from a vice in ancient rhetoric to creative poetic indeterminacy in the twentieth century. Beginning and ending with William Empson's Seven Types of Ambiguity, this rich and challenging study ranges widely across scriptural hermeneutics, theology, legal history, classical philology, and literary criticism. An almost impossible story told with verve, erudition, and wit. Stephen Clucas, Birkbeck, University of London oeExhilarating. Ossa-Richardson (TM)s richly textured book makes a huge contribution to our understanding of the full spectrum of ways and reasons why words mean more than one thing. Reid Barbour, author of Sir Thomas Browne: A Life


Exhilarating. Ossa-Richardson's richly textured book makes a huge contribution to our understanding of the full spectrum of ways--and reasons why--words mean more than one thing. --Reid Barbour, author of Sir Thomas Browne: A Life This remarkable book is full of insights, wonderfully learned and often funny. --Michael Wood, author of On Empson


Author Information

Anthony Ossa-Richardson is lecturer in English literature at the University of Southampton. He is the author of The Devil's Tabernacle: The Pagan Oracles in Early Modern Thought (Princeton).

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