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Randall Jarrell on W. H. Auden
     

Randall Jarrell on W. H. Auden

by Stephen Burt (Editor)
 

''To read Randall Jarrell on W. H. Auden is to read the best-equipped of American critics of poetry of the past century on the best-equipped of its Anglo-American poets, and we rush to read, perhaps, less out of an academic interest in fair judgment than out of a spectator's love of virtuosity in flight.'' From Adam Gopnik's foreword

Randall Jarrell was one of

Overview

''To read Randall Jarrell on W. H. Auden is to read the best-equipped of American critics of poetry of the past century on the best-equipped of its Anglo-American poets, and we rush to read, perhaps, less out of an academic interest in fair judgment than out of a spectator's love of virtuosity in flight.'' From Adam Gopnik's foreword

Randall Jarrell was one of the most important poet-critics of the past century, and the poet who most fascinated and infuriated him was W. H. Auden. In Auden, Jarrell found a crucial poetic influence that needed to be both embraced and resisted. Durgaing the 1940s, Jarrell wrestled with Auden's work, writing a series of notorious articles on Auden that remain admired and controversial examples of devoted and contentious criticism. While Jarrell never completed his proposed book on Auden, these previously unpublished lectures revise and reprise his earlier articles and present new insights into Auden's work. Delivered at Princeton University in 1951 and 1952, Jarrell's lectures reflect a passionate appreciation of Auden's work, a witty attack from an informed opponent, and an important document of a major poet's reception.

Jarrell's lectures offer readings of many of Auden's works, including all of his long poems, and illuminate his singular use of a variety of stylistic registers and poetic genres. In the lecture based on the article ''Freud to Paul,'' Jarrell traces the ideas and ideologies that animated and, at times, overwhelmed Auden's poetry. More precisely, he considers the influence of left-liberal politics, psychoanalytic and evolutionary theory, and the idiosyncratic Christian theology that characterized Auden's poems of the 1940s.

While an admiring and sympathetic reader, Jarrell does not avoid identifying Auden's poetic failures and political excesses. He offers occasionally blistering assessments of individual poems and laments Auden's turn from a cryptic, feeling, impassioned poet to a rhetorical, self-conscious one. Stephen Burt's introduction provides a backdrop to the lectures and their reception and importance for the history of modern poetry.

Editorial Reviews

Washington Post Book World
This collection is first-rate scholarship... Jarrell is more than a virtuoso performing here.

— Jon Tribble

London Review of Books
Jarrell was enthralled, dazzled and infuriated by Auden... and these lectures... encompass both his admiration and his reservation.

Magill Book Reviews
This volume may be slim, but it is substantial, a happy addition to Jarrell's criticism.

Yale Review - J. D. McClatchy
W. H. Auden's debut as a poet, in 1928, was the most prodigious since Byron's. When he arrived on the American scene in 1939, he continued to dazzle readers in this country—none more so than Randall Jarrell, who had been reading and admiring him from the start. Auden's triumphal march across the next decade, though, began to disconcert Jarrell, and these Princeton lectures are the record of his mixed feelings. His readings are bracing, and his conclusions misjudged, but where else will one encounter a major poet so intimately engaged with the work of another? We're told that, informed of Jarrell's attacks. Auden merely shrugged, "I think Jarrell must be in love with me," and in a crucial sense he was right.

Washington Post Book World - Jon Tribble
This collection is first-rate scholarship... Jarrell is more than a virtuoso performing here.

Yale Review
W. H. Auden's debut as a poet, in 1928, was the most prodigious since Byron's. When he arrived on the American scene in 1939, he continued to dazzle readers in this country—none more so than Randall Jarrell, who had been reading and admiring him from the start. Auden's triumphal march across the next decade, though, began to disconcert Jarrell, and these Princeton lectures are the record of his mixed feelings. His readings are bracing, and his conclusions misjudged, but where else will one encounter a major poet so intimately engaged with the work of another? We're told that, informed of Jarrell's attacks. Auden merely shrugged, "I think Jarrell must be in love with me," and in a crucial sense he was right.

— J. D. McClatchy

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780231130783
Publisher:
Columbia University Press
Publication date:
05/04/2005
Series:
A Columbia University Publication Series
Pages:
200
Product dimensions:
5.82(w) x 8.48(h) x 0.77(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

To read Randall Jarrell on W. H. Auden is to read the best-equipped of American critics of poetry of the past century on the best-equipped of its Anglo-American poets, and we rush to read, perhaps, less out of an academic interest in fair judgment than out of a spectator's love of virtuosity in flight. (From the foreword by Adam Gopnik)

What People are Saying About This

Jahan Ramazani

Painstakingly pieced together, these fascinating lectures represent a titanic clash between two of the most brilliant literary minds of the twentieth century. Randall Jarrell incisively probes the ethics, psychology, and aesthetics of W. H. Auden's poetry, and even when Jarrell's judgments seem vexed, his wit and intelligence dazzle.

Jahan Ramazani, William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of English, University of Virginia

Bonnie Costello

Jarrell's brilliant long essays on Auden's stylistic and philosophical development have become classics of mid-century criticism. These six lectures extend the essays in their evaluative force, lightning insight and generalizing power. He invites us not only to measure but to understand, as in Lecture Six when he walks us through the difficult terrain of Paid on Both Sides. Jarrell's Auden is a poet (like Jarrell himself) working out a moral vision for his time, and developing a language for that vision. Jarrell portrays Auden with the utmost respect, as a truly human poet whose errancy becomes part of his nobility. One senses the resistance, at times, of a poet-critic wary of another poet's strong influence. Yet in holding Auden to his own highest standard, indeed to the highest standard of English poetry, Jarrell is always illuminating. Stephen Burt's introduction provides the full story of these lectures, and of Jarrell's life-long preoccupation with Auden's work; the detailed, reliable notes answer every question and comprise a concise chapter of literary history.

Bonnie Costello, author of Shifting Ground: Reinventing Landscape in Modern American Poetry

Meet the Author

Stephen Burt is assistant professor of English at Macalester College. He is the author of Randall Jarrell and His Age and Popular Music, a collection of poems. His reviews and essays on poetry have appeared in several journals, including the Boston Review, London Review of Books, and the Times Literary Supplement.

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