British Literature 2I06
Lecture on Auden
Monday, November 19, 2012.
World War II (1939-1945) and its myths
W.H. Auden's "September 1, 1939"
Film: London Can Take It! (1940)
Definition of Myth
You may have hear do Roland Barthes
Myth does not deny things on the contrary its function is to talk about them it makes them innocent
eternal and natural justification. One of purity. It gives things a clarity which is not that of an explanation
but rather a fact. Myth acts economically when passing from nature. It abolishes the complexity of
human acts. It gives them the simplicity of essences it does away with all dialectic with what is
immediately visible. A world wide open...it establishes a blissful clarify. TERMS: PURITY, CLARITY, SELF
EVIDENT (things appear to mean something by themselves )
Auden participates in myth making and is also skeptical about it.
He lived in 1907-1973
Like Orwell, he is definitely situated within the mid 20th century.
He was a poet, critic, and professor.
He travelled widely; including to Germany; Spain; Iceland; China
After 1939, resided primarily in the US
Critical and popular acclaim
Lyric voice ("I" Subject position; vs. Eliot's doctrine of impersonality)
Plain style (compare to Orwell)
Borrows from his predecessors (again contrast with Eliot; not fragmentation, but rather the close
reworking of inherited rhyme schemes, metrical patterns, and topics)
Subject matter: love; modern history
"September 1, 1939"
German Nazi invasion of Poland
Leading to national declaration of war by England
Grid of New York City and London
This is what we could call an occasional poem--written on a historical occasion
How does this poem recall, in both topic and form, Yeats' "Easter 1916"? Implications?
Sense of situating big