BF. William Empson

18. Milton’s God. London: Chatto and Windus, 1961. Rev. ed, 1965. Reprint, Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1981.

In a brief passage in his chapter on ‘Critics’ Empson ties the attitudes of Japanese English literature professors in the thirties with the rise of Japanese nationalism: ‘When the young Empson got a university job in Tokyo in 1931 his advice was kindly asked by a wise old Japanese professor about some proposed appointment for another Englishman. There was a suspicion that this man held excessively “liberal” views, which were very much unwanted of course—Japan had just begun her swing towards Manchuria and Pearl Harbour; and the old professor said, “We gather he isn’t quite sound on Shelley.” If he admired the revolutionary Shelley, that would mean he was a reliable old-school reactionary, whereas an anti-Shelley man might hold advanced political ideas. I found this very entertaining, and have thought our current literary orthodoxy a very confused body of doctrine ever since.’.





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