WH Auden Age Of Anxiety

Topics: Anxiety, Mirror Pages: 367 (13211 words) Published: November 1, 2013
Copyrighted Material
INTRODUCTION
The
Poem
The Age of A nxiety
begins
in
fear
and
doubt,
but
the
four
protagonists
find
some
comfort
in
sharing
their
distress.
In
even
this
accidental
and
temporary
community
there
arises
the
possibility
of
what
Auden
once
called
“local
understanding.”
Certain
anxieties
may
be
overcome
not
by
the
altering
of
geopolitical
conditions
but
by
the
cultivation
of
mutual
sympathy—perhaps
mutual
love,
even
among
those
who
hours
before
had
been
strangers.
The Age of Anxiety
is
W.
H.
Auden’s
last
booklength
poem,
his
longest
poem,
and
almost
certainly
the
leastread
of
his
major
works.
(“It’s
frightfully
long,”
he
told
his
friend
Alan
Ansen.)
It
would
be
interesting
to
know
what
fraction
of
those
who
begin
reading
it
persi
st
to
the
end.
The
poem
is
strange
and
oblique;
it
pursues
in
a
highly
concentrated
form
many
of
Auden’s
longterm
fascinations.
Its
meter
imitates
medieval
alliterative
verse,
which
Auden
had
been
drawn
to
as
an
undergraduate
when
he
attended
J.R.R.
Tolkien’s
lectures
in
AngloSaxon
philology,
and
which
clearly
influences
the
poems
of
his
early
twenties.
The Age of Anxiety
is
largely
a
psychological,
or
psychohistorical,
poem,
and
these
were
the
categories
in
which
Auden
preferred
to
think
in
his
early
adulthood
(including
his
undergraduate
years
at
Oxford,
when
he
enjoyed
the
role
of
confi
dential
amateur
analyst
for
his
friends).
The
poem
also
embraces
Auden’s
interest
in,
among
other
things,
the
archetypal
theories
of
Carl
Gustav
Jung,
Jewish
mysticism,
English
murder
mysteries,
and
the
linguistic
and
cultural
differences
between
England
and
America.
Woven
through
it
is
his
nearly
lifelong
obsession
with
the
poetic
and
mythological
“green
world”
Auden
variously
calls
Arcadia
or
Eden
or
simply
the
Good
Place.
Auden’s
previous
long
poem
had
been
called
“The
Sea
and
the
Mirror:
A
Commentary
on
Shakespeare’s
The Tempest,“
and
Shakespeare
haunts
this
poem
xii
Copyrighted Material
INTRODUCTION
too.
(In
the
latter
stages
of
writing
The Age of Anxiety
Auden
was
teaching
a
course
on
Shakespeare
at
the
New
School
in
Manhattan.)
But
it
should
also
be
noted
that
this
last
long
poem
ended
an
era
for
Auden;
his
thought
and
verse
pursued
new
directions
after
he
completed
it.
Many
cultural
critics
over
the
decades—starting
with
Jacques
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