The Cambridge Companion to W. H. Auden (Cambridge Companions to Literature)

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The Cambridge Companion to British Poetry, brings together sixteen essays that explore the full diversity of British poetry since the Second World War, a period of significant achievement in which varied styles and approaches have flourished. As a comprehensive critical, literary-historical and scholarly guide, this Companion offers not only new readings of a wide range of poets but a detailed account of the contexts in which their verse was written and received. Focusing on famous and neglected names alike, from Dylan Thomas to John Agard, leading scholars provide readers with insight into the ongoing importance and profundity of post-war poetry.

Poetry and the Reading Public. Late Modernists and Poets of the s. Hughes Hill Tomlinson and Fisher. The Mersey Poets the International Poetry. His dismantling is a mode of construction. Flanking Poems are two compositions which point in opposite directions. One is a via negativa of formality, and the other the closest Auden ever came to inventing an apocalypse. It is also the only work of his approved by F.

What works over the span of a short poem becomes otiose in this over-extended farce. It is a poor guide to his prevailing style as it is all style: the lack of seriousness obliges its many quiddities to be little more than attitudinising. The Orators is a very different case. This remarkable work shows Auden, still in his mid-twenties, practising to become the mid-Atlantic Goethe he wanted to be in later years.

Topped and tailed by some of his most daring ode-shaped Pindarics, and prefaced by the lines about private faces and public places which became his carrying-card, The Orators is a mad-house study of the failing land England had become after the First World War. It is as if an oracle had swept the historical airwaves and left an utterly confused but enormously panoptic set of data on the desk of one highly imaginative student.

An account of The Orators here can do no more than merely assert its crucial importance in terms of subject matter and language. He seemed to rejoice in paradox. The excitement of his originality passed among his early readers as the epitome of modernism. But restoration was quite as powerful an innate drive in his work and personality as anything revolutionary. His use of language made him an experimenter all his life, but he hated obscurity posing as profundity, and he loved tradition and sought ways of realigning modern poetry with its inheritance.

His great tradition was wider and more natural than F. They are knowing enough but reveal how his poetry was beginning to look more traditional by the day. Auden stressed the popularising function of verse. He is the great reviver of past disciplines within modern times. Only the triolet, he believed, was not worth the effort. Pound has a fondness for the hierarchical and despotic; there is too much stained-glass medievalism in his poetry right up to the last of the Cantos. It will be new wine however much it is going to be shaped by its container.

Auden gives no credence to the idea that form must be governed historically, or should spring mysteriously but inevitably from contemporary necessities. Language changes, but its preoccupations stay the same. You cannot write like Keats, but you can make a thoroughly up-to-date poem using the blank verse renovation Keats employed in Hyperion. Consciousness of history is instinctive and needs no special imperative. Close examination of his thirties writing will demolish this notion. He was always a Freudian rather than a Marxist. His Freudian leanings kept him from too much faith in human reformation or working-class solidarity.

When he propagandises for Communism, a schoolboy exaggeration turns his more preposterous poems into pieces of Surrealist theatre. Lord Baden-Powell with a piece of string Was proving that reef-knots honour the King. EA, pp. Ambiguity can hardly go further than this all-too-knowing countdown to apocalypse. Edmund Wilson noticed that, however much its authors were hoping for revolution, the poem is a showcase for the English establishment, a power circuit where everybody seems to know everybody else.

Has any poet composed more haunting lyrics since the heyday of the Earl of Rochester, even Blake or Tennyson? The plays can be mustered under the rubric of popular art, as joky as they are didactic. Auden the educator was seldom silent throughout his career. As compiler of anthologies he is rivalled only by Geoffrey Grigson.

In the United States Auden became an occasional university teacher, acknowledged by students as a disturbingly original setter-aside of academic shibboleths. The Faber Book of Aphorisms, edited with Louis Kronenberger, allots more entries to neglected masters of the genre such as Halifax and Lichtenberg than to Rochefoucauld, Wilde and the more slippery maxim-makers. The moral insistence of much of his poetry is alleviated by his constant questioning of ethical seriousness.

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That so culturally aware a writer should, ultimately, make a stand against the obligations of history is as much a hopeful gesture as a revolutionary one. His notorious withdrawal of approval from some of his most admired poems is not due only to fastidiousness of moral conscience but to a horror of becoming the complacent celebrator of doom, a species of contemporary Spengler. To persist in the dystopian prophecies of his early poetry would have been intolerable not merely to his own sense of good taste but might have disturbed his serious allegiance to Christian hopefulness.

Christians are not permitted an excess of Manicheism. Ambiguity is at the heart of any Auden poem. Perhaps the problem is how to write dramatically and yet remain loyal to truth. Taking up public responsibilities came to involve expectations far exceeding the capabilities of the art he was practising. But how is he to be a truthful reporter of the human condition? One way is to reprimand his own mental tendencies. He felt a vernacular poet with his pulse on modern life had become a boringly mandarin one — and foreign to boot. In truth, the change was simply from one vernacular British to another International American.

The Horatian tone which Auden believed was characteristic of his later work is already perceptible as far back as Look, Stranger! There is, however, a genuine watershed in the Auden canon traceable to his removal to the United States. His long poems belong to his American years. He told Louis MacNeice in that America had enabled him to make himself into a truly professional writer. But the American challenge was felt to be more serious, and received from him a more concentrated response.

But the four extended Auden works of the forties are considerable achievements of organisation. Auden too is very theological in his several dramatic monologues and lyrical intermezzi. Once readers have congratulated themselves on spotting the Henry James syntax, they can go on to appreciate that never before or after did Auden sustain so formidable and prolonged an excursion into convincingly stylised soliloquy.

The miracle is how such indirectness leads to so brilliant a clarity of argument. As reading matter it is another of his grand pot-pourris, a gallimaufry of ideas about the incarnation of Christ. Each of its four characters, three men and a woman who meet by chance in a New York bar in wartime, is equipped with several monologues. Though these speeches are largely self-contained the poem is in some ways a return to the eclogue form popular in the thirties, particularly with Louis MacNeice.

Being an advertisement for his virtuosity, it will always be relished by devoted Auden hands, but it does not reach to the heart of his genius. New Year Letter, surprisingly, is the long poem which does. The sonnets and other pieces included in this book show Auden adopting a very de-haut-en-bas attitude to history, an approach which came under pressure immediately in New York.

He plunged into the life of a hard-working and relatively lonely professional writer. It consists of some 1, lines of tetrameter rhyming couplets, predominantly in iambics, and is supplemented with notes which are a forest of brilliant notions and devices, some of them in doggerel verse. He had used tetrameter before, in lyrics in his plays and for interpolated lyrics in longer forays, but nothing could have anticipated so remarkable a performance as this — a philosophical and witty poem touching on the most serious issues of faith, politics and art.

Like some oracular river, it carries forward an existential concern with life at its crisis point in mid-century. He is aware of why his detractors scorn him as a loose journalist and commentator, a glib Theophrastian and not a pure poet: For I relapse into my crimes. To which those who love his work, warts and all, reply: his preaching is witty and does not serve any easy orthodoxy; his sympathy profound; and his recognition of the human condition unparalleled among poets of his time.

Above all, he has returned to poetry its ancient privilege as a major component of world literature. He has made verse interesting and restored to language its birthright of play and dazzle. His fondness for quoting in German and other languages, his familiarity with arcane diction, his apparent pedantry and concentration on works of art rather than the latest manifestations of modern mores, may earn him the suspicion of doctrinaire democrats and Little Englanders.

Auden has fought to limit the destruction of our inheritance. B O LY Auden and modern theory Auden discusses only two theoretical systems at any length, Freudianism and Marxism, though he does glance at myth criticism. This leaves out two important contemporaries, the rhetorically based formalism known as New Criticism, and the linguistically based formalism which runs from Saussure through Jakobson to structuralism, Lacanian psychology, poststructuralism and deconstruction.

To avoid equally perplexing because overly compressed explanations, this group must be relegated to passing references. More accessible are the culturally based approaches of the last three decades. On the related grounds of supporting enquiry into recent critical thought and illuminating the relatively hostile theoretical environment in which Auden worked, this introduction will focus on his three main contemporaries, New Criticism, Freudianism and Marxism.

A brief guide to the interpretative systems that most interested Auden could simply thumb through his essays for the charts, diagrams, lists, headings or outlines which resemble the notes of an architect or engineer. Sometimes he took a synecdochical approach and listed only a few elements. If necessary, though, he drew elaborate maps. But a few provisos are essential. Auden considered Romanticism one of several contributory factors to the politics of despair, not the main cause. Figure Breakthroughs in technology and science had potentially at least freed humans from back-breaking labour and bondage to the land.

Romanticism attempted to make this situation tolerable to an ambivalent middle class. Hence they needed a paradigm to reconstruct the social scene in a way that distracted them from their angst but otherwise left things unchanged. Despite occasional revolutionary aspirations, it diverted attention from actual living and working conditions, and grew beguiled instead with the labyrinth of its one-sided version of human identity. Having framed the problem of the disaffected individual in a way that made it insoluble, Romanticism then designated the resulting condition as the authentic human lot.

Eliot on a small group of American poets and critics, and grew into the most widely accepted critical orthodoxy of the twentieth century. That move let them shield their own positions behind a bristling defence of pre-emptive refutations.

The Cambridge Companion to W. H. Auden (Cambridge Companions to Literature)

Both offer valuable correctives. Yet unless carefully applied, both the intentional and biographical fallacies can lead to unnecessary restrictions. Its fall from grace during the cultural upheavals of the late s ended what many still consider an era of intellectual tyranny. For proof-text one can take any Auden poem and develop the tension between its evident statement and the complexities introduced by its poetic uses of language.

His monologue insinuates a prior narrative in which his audience is cast as quest heroes who have arrived at a crucial turning point. Because this new protagonist must substitute a world of his own making for any further explorations by the audience, the expected helper turns into a boundary guardian. Unlike Auden, who possessed a detailed knowledge of character codes, this particular dramatic speaker shows little understanding of the directives which compel his behaviour. One requires his total control of the audience.

Accordingly, he orders them where to stand, when to listen, what to notice and how to name it. This phantom-entity projects an equally spectral audience, which has no purpose except to listen and no existence outside the moment of his utterance. His transcendent aspirations tolerate only the hollowed-out shell of a timeless world. History disappears when the ships and artefacts that might date the scene are left vague enough to include any era from neolithic to modern times.

We have seen how Romantic codes oblige the speaker to suppress his human attributes, in pursuit of an ideal of pure possibility. But the language refuses to play along. Since tone enables inferences about character, so by extension must the syntax-dependent actions of writing and speaking. Auden creates a character who keeps at a safe distance, doubts the authority he usurps and fears his audience. In the last stanza, the optative mood, relaxed pace and more variable stress disclose a character who has lost sight of his original intent, forgotten his audience and fallen captive to his own meditation.

Development, however, requires a motivating force which, because the speaker has banished nearly everything else from his world, most likely originates in his language. The audience can only guess what so enthralls him. But more important than any answers is that in prompting this speculation, the poem introduces an ambiguity, which in turn shifts control of its meaning from the intentions of the speaker to the interpretations of his audience. Light leaps and discovers, tides pluck and knock, ledges oppose, shingles scramble, ships run errands, a view enters like an actor and clouds saunter.

Each verb initiates numerous sequels by transforming the now humanised words into characters awaiting a future which the speaker cannot control. Elsewhere he added that psychology and poetry share a common mood, disillusionment, and a common hope, that individuals can become more free and thus more human by discovering the hidden forces that rule them without their knowledge or consent. By concentrating on personal neurosis, while neglecting its social contexts beyond the family, psychology fashions a world from private experience.

Even though it views this world as pathologically distorted by repression, it has little interest in the underlying cultural problems that require and enforce those distortions. Like the neurotic individual, a society can be torn by opposing codes of knowledge, value, authority, law, duty and purpose. But as societies become more diverse in their living and working conditions, they develop the equivalent of a cultural unconscious. While rules and punishments can keep sceptics and blasphemers in check for a while, coercion is not always feasible on a large scale.

So a dominant discourse eventually develops effective mechanisms of repression. Few would expect the quiet voice of poetry to surpass the collective din. Its objective would be to help unveil and thus diminish the resources of cultural repression. The lucid uncanniness of its image-driven development bears the stamp of misrepresented desire. Having survived the fatal journey and suffered its forbidden knowledge, he must thereafter accost the unsuspecting and rehearse his warning fable.

The dramatic speaker, for example, piles up rationales for why no one should follow in his path. Out they go on their futile journey, crossing into hostile lands and risking capture or death, but only to bring vengeance and shame on those left behind. Much like an analyst, the language of a poem, which for present purposes should be thought of as an agent independent of its speaker, can use misemphasis, feigned solemnity and bare-faced lies to expose structural patterns of repression.

Some inversions are emotional rather than cognitive. The love of home forges the bars of a terrible prison. The plaintive petition disguises a bitter curse. But while Auden valued the struggle towards individuation, he thought its goal unattainable and, even were it reached, without social impact. Its three lectures anatomise Romanticism into opposing archetypes of quest destination sea and desert , modes of truth stone and shell and types of hero Ishmael and Don Quixote. But this gathering of so much nineteenth-century English, American and European literature within the span of a few contraries enacts a silent indictment.

The poet uses the manifest, even intrusive nature of literary form to expose and target the concealed paradigms of culture. This is not mere traditionalism or antiquarianism, however, but a design to break the trance of an unquestioning passivity. Given the rise of fascism and its virulently nationalist and racist propaganda and practices, it is understandable that some writers would advocate subordinating art to ideological ends. Nonetheless, Auden steadfastly rejected any suggestion that poetry should champion some cause. Whereas a propagandist must conceal the contradictions of his pet paradigm, the poet must expose precisely such discontinuities, a task that endears him to few true believers.

Although Auden left few doubts concerning his poetic intentions, he said little about how to put them into practice. Brecht drew his primary inspiration from the Marxist tenet that social economies evolve a superstructure intellectual systems such as history, religion, education, etc. People arrive at the theatre well entrenched within a largely unnoticed because already familiar assemblage of beliefs and perceptions. The alienation effect uses an array of strategies to undermine this conditioning. It satirises the hypocrisies and contradictions of accepted truths.

A good actor, however, can recapture a sense of realism with an impassioned performance and powerful voice, despite a poor or non-existent set. To counter such intensity, Brecht encouraged his actors to overplay or otherwise distance themselves from their characters. In a parallel move, Auden frequently undermined his speakers by having them begin cogently enough, but then lapse into camp, which substitutes comic derivation for Romantic originality.

The medley of high-sincerity genres in The Orators dramatises a number of these self-imploding speakers: the hurried dignitary at a prize-day, paranoid cult leader, surrealist prelate, lucidly mad political pamphleteer and stomach-turning confessee. Other works fashion purposely unsympathetic, overbearing or preposterous personae designed to arouse resistance. As suggested above, Brecht favoured a harsh lighting which exposed the hasty carpentry and clumsy painting of the sets. He replaced the description of a subject with a summary of the norms often found in its representation.

But the poem can also be approached as a dialectic of representation and syntax which effectively disclaims a precondition for absolutist paradigms, whether on the right or left, namely a master narrative. To identify his discursive target, Auden borrows a device from the religious oratorio, a petitionary chorus.

The voices of the poor yearn for some myth of inevitable progress to exonerate them from responsibility for their lives. Having framed the problem, Auden responds with techniques that draw readers into a game of designing their own myths of history, or if that fails, then at least recognising how others do it. By cutting the expected narrative into a congeries of changeless and dehumanised states, the nominalisations foster an opposing imaginative impulse, somewhat like the syntactic equivalent of an after-image.

Yet each one might also be developed in myriad ways. There can be little understanding of one without the other. In all his writing, he sought to encourage a broadly applicable recognition and wariness of the interpretative paradigms that would deny individual freedom. However criticism replies, it must fairly acknowledge the question. Once love struck in, Yeats and Graves proved a help. This necessarily concertinas a wide stretch of years. More interestingly, it avoids mention of the name that, during the period of the crumbling economy, meant at least as much to Auden as Brecht did — Karl Marx.

This is not to say that Auden was ever a wholly committed Marxist. That Auden came eventually to turn his back on Marx is not to be doubted, even if he was never entirely able to rid himself of a manner of arguing, a way of thinking, that took for granted the complex engagement of individual with, in the loosest sense of the word, history. This has been ably done by Smith and others. My aim is more modest. To use this word at all may seem to beg the question. And surely anyone at all committed to Marxist thinking would be sceptical of liberal claims to the integral selfhood which individuality implies?

Yes and no. Once the poem was written he either jettisoned the structure or tacked on a new idea. And this is so whether he is fox or hedgehog, or playing, as at different times he does, Prospero or Ariel. Play is crucial. In England there is a long tradition, which comes from Nonconformity, of identifying radicalism with an unremitting seriousness in which there is precious little room for fun. Ten years earlier, the undergraduate Auden had, like many of his fellow students, lent a hand at the time of the General Strike.

Nearly all those volunteers chose to help the Conservative government by acting as policemen or by driving buses. Auden however decided to support the strikers. Tawney to Mecklenburgh Square. As a cousin married to a stockbroker lived nearby, Auden invited himself to her house for lunch.

Although these words were written in , nearly forty years after the events to which they refer, I am not about to accuse Auden of revising history. According to A. You bloody little prig! None of these voices is reliable. The use of masque makes evident his intent to connect emergent political and social energies with new, or newly revived, cultural forms. The point is rather that for all these writers, radical political thinking goes hand-in-hand with consideration of formal radicalism. That this regularly required or at least encouraged an opportunism is obvious.

But unlike many commentators I see nothing in this that needs to be defended. All four recognise that between sections i and ii, written in April and May, , and iii and iv, written in August and October, there is a noticeable switch of meaning. My contention is that Auden is content with this switch. He means it. Easter is at once the time of death and rebirth. For an older generation change was bound to be for the worse. It would usher in hooded hordes, the rough beast itself.

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What makes the young Auden so exhilarating a poet is his readiness to turn doom back on its prophets. Aerial photography fascinated English artists of the time, especially perhaps John Piper. But a helmeted airman may also be piloting a bomber plane. Several years before Auden wrote his poem in March , London had staged a number of pretend air-raids in order to alert the public to the danger of war from the air. Auden, in common with many of his generation, had no doubt about its malaise. One manifestation of this was the Great War.

Here, it is enough to suggest that Auden synthesises and variously rearranges the events of recent history and the cause-and-effect inferential claims of psychologists in order to arrive at his own version of both the cause of and cure for civilisation and its discontents. In fact, he went on being a preacher all his life, though the manner of address certainly shifted from the public and hortatory towards the more relaxed utterance of the private priest.

But the s was a decade which uniquely seemed to require writers to speak out. In the leading article of New Verse no. But the remedy is as certainly not to be found in keeping out of politics. But certain of his poems register political feeling more profoundly than any other writing of the s.

But Mendelson dates its composition to October , which means that it was written before even Hitler came to power. Yet no poem more fully captures that feeling so prevalent in the decade, of the abandonment of their responsibilities by Western liberal governments, of their betrayals, their obeisance to the jackboot. The poem could well have been written after the Anschluss and the invasion of the Sudetenland, both of which happened in Chamberlain at Heston airport? Neither, of course, and yet both. This collision between private and public is a matter he returns to in several key poems, never settling for one position, never repeating himself in either manner or matter.

Forster called the inner world of personal relationships and the outer one of telegrams and anger. The word has a double meaning: the gentility, the genteel, a class of people, but also those who are mild and kindly disposed. But the river-dreams are not, even so, to be discounted. Nor can we know what they will become, how they will evolve. The typical line is iambic, even pentameter. In one sense its movement is impeccably Marxist: history, both personal and social, is seen in terms of thesis, antithesis and synthesis.

Throughout the thirties Auden continued to make poems out of his questioning of the private versus public, of individual versus social desires and forces. In this context Spain is therefore crucial. Right in the middle of wars and troubles and weddings and birth and death — the lot. He said he must and would go to Spain, but was afraid of what he might see — he dreaded seeing wounded people in pain. History, as Stan Smith notes, is for Auden a collective experience: it is our thoughts that have bodies, the menacing shapes of our fevers that are precise and alive Smith, p.

Recognition of this brings with it the recognition of agency. And those who stand stable may serve the cause by refusing to be panicked into retreat. It may therefore seem odd that Auden chose to preface the book with a sonnet to E. Forster, and even odder that he then in later versions tacked the sonnet on to the end of the sequence. But Auden knows what he is doing, even if he seems to be conscripting Forster to a larger cause than the novelist would wish to serve.

Auden says very much the same thing. They spread a desert of uniformity and very often a pool of blood, too. He mentions no names, though he invents an Admiral de Toma whom he imagines as staging a coup, failing, and so retiring from history. But de Toma-like ambitions threaten to overwhelm the world. Signals of the invincible army! There seems little doubt that Auden was among them. On the face of it this is an impeccably Marxist statement. And it is this, I believe, that helped Auden to reshape his own political thinking during the next thirty years.

It is rather that the move coincided with a reformulated desire to stand stable, to resist or at any rate challenge the unopposable power of Authority whose buildings grope the sky. Hence, the epigraph for New Year Letter.

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The greatness of this poem undoubtedly has much to do with its deromanticising of art. This is so, but we should add that it is also about the need for art to confront the worst rather than seek refuge in dream. He is still in opposition. But Auden is not yet consistently prepared to walk away from History into a cultivated privacy, although the signs are there. This of course cuts both ways. As a living place, not merely an archaeological wonder, it contributes to the ways we think about the lives we try to choose. The complicated story of this poem, of its revised titles and text, is rehearsed by Edward Mendelson, in EA, pp.

John Lucas ed. Layard had travelled to Malekula in the New Hebrides in —15 with W. From the start of his career as a writer, Auden became used to thinking about psychological models in relation to the customs and rituals of an entire society, rather than exclusively with reference to the personal history of the individual. His earliest writings show an understanding of the role of repression in both art and behaviour.

Here, there is a certain degree of political utopianism that fails to acknowledge the revisionism inherent in the Freudian programme, the extent to which it seeks accommodation within the existing social and political framework. In this respect, Auden became more excited by the radical promise he found in the teachings of Lane and Groddeck. His basic ideas are easy to assimilate.


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Instinctual desires are implanted by nature and are therefore inherently good. Of course, if the instincts are acted upon without restraint of any kind, they may be a nuisance to others and even a danger to oneself. It is the function of parents and teachers to prevent such an eventuality. But parental prohibitions — and this was the key for Lane — should never carry any moral connotations. The child should be allowed to learn about moral standards only as a natural consequence of its own behaviour, which will enable it to understand the pragmatic value of morality. Psychological disorders resulted from a failure of the loving relationship, and the remedy was its restoration.

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Another medically unethical practice he adopted was telling certain of his patients stories about other patients. What Groddeck provides is a focus on the meaning of illness, on the body in trouble, on physical symptoms. But the It is not the name of something in opposition to the Ego; it does not represent the forces of the unconscious as opposed to the conscious.

Both unconscious and conscious comprise the psyche, and the psyche as a whole forms only one part of the It. There is no opposition between the ego and the It, rather is the ego a phenomenon of the It. In the Journal of , Auden makes reference repeatedly to the doctrines of Freud, Lane and Groddeck. The development of consciousness may be compared with the breaking away of the child from the Oedipus relation.

This is only one half of pleasure and the least important half. This is wrong. Part of the problem that Freud represented for Auden was his very authoritativeness, his effective dominance of intellectual culture. In the writings of Groddeck, the rejection of authority is a prerequisite of the movement towards health.

This is to give a cultural reference to the need for separation. But there was also a sustained interest among both psychologists and Marxists in the possibility of forging a historic alliance between the two methodologies. But this salutary adjustment of focus is happening too late. The transatlantic perspective makes this condition less fraught than it might otherwise have seemed, but does not eradicate the bleakness with which Auden measures the correlation of external and internal pressures: We are lived by powers we pretend to understand: They arrange our loves; it is they who direct at the end The enemy bullet, the sickness, or even our hand.

The elegies of draw a line under the attempt to make workable a constructive synthesis of psychological and sociological viewpoints. The use of apposition and metaphor suggests a mere parallel whereas Auden perceives a direct, aetiological connection between the social history of the First World War and the neurotic anxieties of his own generation. The methodology of the new movement was to assemble a variety of responses to given themes and issues and to work out a statistical average that would approximate to the national social consciousness.

A number of poets were involved from the outset, most notably Madge himself, Humphrey Jennings and David Gascoyne; but not Auden. Nonetheless, it was little over a year before the emergence of Mass-Observation that Auden had been utterly absorbed in collaborative work for a mass medium, in the shape of his contributions to the GPO. Film Unit. His forms of address were changing in response to the need to engage with the social consciousness of a public much broader than that of readers of poetry. All the usual references to Groddeck, Lane and Freud are there, but they are made curiously weightless by having to contribute to the relentless maintenance of epigrammatising wit.

But neither in the poem to Byron, nor in the elegy to Freud, is there a faltering line, unless deliberately contrived. The vulnerability epitomised here is rendered totally inaccessible by the verbal armature. In the later years of the Great War, W. Lane, Talks to Parents and Teachers, p. Collins London: Vision Press, , p. Day Lewis ed. Lawrence and Georg Groddeck, among others, Auden did much to adapt psychoanalytic thought for Anglo-American modernism. If he wrote some of the most memorable love poetry of his time, this also constituted a sophisticated engagement with a body of erotic and Romantic writing stretching from Plato through Petrarch and Dante to Shakespeare.

Along with T. Eliot, he ranks as one of the most important English-language religious poets of the last hundred years, for whom the interrelation of Eros and Agape was an abiding concern. It is easier, in other words, to say what Auden wrote that does not impinge on love, sex and desire, than what does. With the exceptions of Gertrude Stein and E. Given the sway of Formalist approaches in English studies in the decades following the Second World War, scholars found it congenial to consign his homosexuality to the realm of extra-textual irrelevance.

Changes in sexual politics have combined with evolving critical approaches to yield new insight into literary portrayals and expressions of same-sex desire, from the ancient world to the present. From his early poetry, with its tropes of espionage and atmosphere of embattlement and paranoia, to his later concern with secrets and reticence, Auden was incessantly fond of blurring distinctions between the unspoken, the unspeakable and that which goes without saying.

This blending of provocation and obscurantism, seriousness and playfulness, is a characteristic gesture for the later Auden, and coming at the end of a poem, it implies something deeply serious and revealing in the frothy verbosity of light verse. To approach poetry in this way is more than just intellectually misguided, Auden suggests. How convincing such claims would be depends at least partly on what one might know about Auden and his other work. A lifelong.

Look, Stranger! Published Letters from Iceland , written jointly with MacNeice. On his return to Britain, met the writer and theological scholar Charles Williams, who was soon to have an enormous influence on his thought.


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September: the Munich Agreement. The travelogue Journey to a War , jointly written with Isherwood. January: Spanish Civil War ended with victory for the right-wing Falangist rebels and a nationwide massacre of supporters of the Republic. Isherwood moved to Hollywood, to work as script-writer for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. They were to remain partners, with several turbulent interruptions, for the rest of their lives. Widespread disillusion on the Left led to divisions both within and outside the Communist movement, reflected in the poems of Another Time.

Another Time , technically his first American volume, but with poems primarily written in Europe. Met Reinhold and Ursula Niebuhr, Christian Socialist Americans of German extraction, who were to have a profound influence on his later thinking. Under their. Met Rhoda Jaffe, with whom he was to have an intermittent and intense sexual relationship between and Labour Government elected in Britain. Death of Roosevelt. Auden returned to Europe via the UK as a major in the US Airforce Strategic Bombing Survey, charged to monitor the effects of civilian bombing and to contact anti-Nazis known before the war.

Collected Poetry published in USA. Became US citizen. Prolonged affair with Rhoda Jaffe. Communists under Mao Tse Tung seized power in China. Rented each spring and summer a villa on Ischia, a small island off Naples, Italy. Collected Shorter Poems — published in UK. Taught at Mount Holyoke College. Korean War began, focusing the new. Cold War with the Soviet Union which succeeded the wartime alliance against Hitler. Labour Government ousted in Britain. Nones published in the USA. Death of Stalin. Berlin Uprising brutally suppressed. Hungarian Uprising and Suez Crisis. With the proceeds of an Italian literary prize, bought a farmhouse in the village of Kirchstetten, Lower Austria, shared with Kallman until his death.

In later years Kallman spent much of his time in Athens, where he had short-lived affairs with a series of young Greek men. Revisited Iceland. Six months Ford Foundation artists-in-residence programme, Berlin. Collected Shorter Poems published. May Events in Paris. Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia.



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