Wystan Hugh Auden
Auden was born in York in 1907, of a middle-class High Church Anglican parents. Starting from his youth, he was a voracious reader. He moved to Oxford where he got in touch with the Modernist poetry and where he became the leader of the so-called “Oxford poets”, a group of left-winged young intellectuals
=> He was deeply committed with social and political issues:
• 1926: he worked for the strikers during the General Strike
• in Berlin he witnessed the rise of Nazism
• he became an ambulance driver during the Spanish Civil War
1935: he married a Jewish woman in order to provide her the passport to escape from Nazi Germany
He became concerned with homosexuality
1939: he moved to New York
1940: he began teaching in New York and published Another Time
1948: Pulitzer Price for The Age of Anxiety
He died of heart attack in 1973
The English period
At the beginning of his career he was influenced by Freud and psychoanalysis and he thought about psychological models in relation to the costumes of an entire society.
Another influence was that of Karl Marx. His way of arguing took for granted the engagement of the individual with history.
Role of the poet → tell stories of particular people and experiences from which each person can
draw her own conclusion according to her own immediate needs
Poet's task → act as a public voice, support the causes for freedom against tyranny, express the anxieties of the contemporary left-wing intellectuals
The American Period
It started when Auden moved to New York and left the political commitment.
He expresses his disillusionment with political events such as the Republican defeat in Spain.
With his move, he freed himself from the social and political commitment in order to become a verbal artist.
Style → refuses the identification with a single poetic culture
He started to believe that improvement must begin within the self, not within society.
Theme of the quest:
English period: quest for a new society and a new self
American period: quest for a new life
Another time - 1940
Collection of poems
Symbolic title: the poet enter another time through the exile that would lead to his becoming an American citizen
Pivotal collection: Auden turns from political interests towards ethical concerns
It contains some of Auden's famous poems and shows the main features of his poetry: it combines intellectual rigor and social conscience with a mix of styles
He uses simple popular forms (ballads, songs)
The poems are organized into three sections:
People and places ═► theme of sorrow, relationship between man and nature
Lighter poems ═► light comic tone
Occasional poems ═► celebration of the deaths of great figures examples of transgression and of moral and artistic renewal (Freud, Yeats)