BF. William Empson

    To Empson’s lasting regret, the manuscript ‘Asymmetry in Buddha Faces’, a decade-long study, was lost in London during the war.  

6. ‘The Faces of Buddha’. Listener 15 (February 1936): 238-40.

Some of a lost book-length manuscript about the ambiguity of Buddhist iconography (see Haffenden, 29) is prefigured in this short piece. The work does not trace the theoretical underpinnings of the lost work, but does include comment about the lack of a ‘merely racial’ influence in Buddhist iconography. This is a point Haffenden traces to Empson’s experience in Japan, for ‘having witnessed [there] in the early 1930s the effects of a fiercely misplaced nationalism, he became concerned to minimise the importance of national differences and to emphasise what different countries held in common through their religious myths and art, and through their mixtures of race’. A fuller outline of Empson’s theory of Buddhist iconography may be found in 21b3, and further Empson comment about Japanese racialist theories in 11.





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