William Empson is, alongside T. S. Eliot, the greatest genius among twentieth-century critics, and Some Versions of Pastoral is widely recognised as one of the most extraordinary works of the golden age of English literary criticism. Ranging with astonishing virtuosity between works of several centuries and moving purposefully between cultures, William Empson has dazzling things to say here about Shakespeare and the Elizabethan theatre, the political poetry of Marvell, Milton's Paradise Lost, the complex satire of John Gay's Beggar's Opera, and the convoluted psychology at work in the Alice books of Lewis Carroll. The book is alert to questions of politics, psycho-analysis, and anthropology, and speaks to a wide range of contemporary concerns. Written in Empson's charismatically informal and wonderfully approachable voice, the book appeared in 1935 without footnotes or references. This edition is the first to identify the quotations and allusions, to explain the pertinence of his references, and to place the work within its Empsonian context. It is published with an appendix of other texts by Empson which illuminate the issues at work in the book.
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