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A History of Ambiguity$
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Anthony Ossa-Richardson

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780691167954

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691167954.001.0001

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(p.402) Afterword
A History of Ambiguity

Anthony Ossa-Richardson

Princeton University Press

This afterword argues that all definitions of ambiguity only raise further questions. It is not the historian's task to answer them, and not his task to define ambiguity; to do so would impose a false coherence on a slovenly profusion of conversations. It is his job to trace out the possibilities of such questions, not to foreclose them in advance. Ambiguity not only has a history, it is inseparable from history, makes history possible: it lies in the gulf that separates poet from critic, legislator from barrister, tragic hero from playgoer, prophet from Church Father, friend from friend, self from self, historian from exasperated reader. Ultimately, the history of ambiguity is not a history of progress or decline, not a record of pathology and delusion, and not a romance of liberation from classical strictures. It is the history of a mind that has found too many past answers and will not choose between them.

Keywords:   ambiguity, poets, critics, legislators, historians, classical strictures

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