Discussion Topics (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Determine the characteristics of “anxiety” in the phrase W. H. Auden made famous in the title The Age of Anxiety.
Are Auden’s strongly asserted political beliefs and his tendency to inwardness contradictory?
Show how “As I Walked out One Evening” is not a traditional love poem.
Why did Auden, much more a student of German culture, focus his attention on Spain at the time of its civil war?
With respect to “Musée des Beaux Arts,” how would you answer the question: “Is this how things must be?”
Explain whether The Sea and the Mirror is or is not an attempt to modernize William Shakespeare’s The Tempest (pr. 1611, pb. 1623).
(The entire section is 111 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Bloom, Harold, ed. W. H. Auden: Modern Critical Views. New York: Chelsea House, 1989. Arguably the most valuable anthology of Auden’s criticism in print because of its comprehensive look at the life, times, and work of the poet, sometimes mistakenly considered a glib or arch-modern poet. Essays elucidate the biographical undercurrents of Auden’s aesthetic vision with frank consideration of his homosexual relationships and conversion to Christianity. Included is Edward Mendelson’s seminal essay, “Auden’s Revision of Modernism.”
Buell, Frederick. W. H. Auden as a Social Poet. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1973. Arguing that Auden’s poetry is an ironic vision of social and moral responsibility, Buell focuses on the 1930’s, when Auden was forming his social views. Contains an interesting analysis of the influence of Bertolt Brecht’s ideas about theater on Auden, when he lived in Berlin. Contains footnotes and an index.
Carpenter, Humphrey. W. H. Auden: A Biography. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1981. Carpenter had access to private and unpublished material in crafting this comprehensive and compelling critical biography of the poet. It is the key source to biographical detail with which an Auden researcher should begin to situate Auden’s poetry within his world and worldview.
(The entire section is 661 words.)