W. H. Auden

W. H. Auden: (Wystan Hugh Auden) (ô´dən), 1907–73, Anglo-American poet, b. York, England, educated at Oxford. A versatile, vigorous, and technically skilled poet, Auden ranks among the major literary figures of the 20th cent. Often written in everyday language, his poetry ranges in subject matter from politics to modern psychology to Christianity. During the 1930s he was the leader of a left-wing literary group that included Christopher Isherwood and Stephen Spender. With Isherwood he wrote three verse plays, The Dog beneath the Skin (1935), The Ascent of F6 (1936), and On the Frontier (1938), and Journey to a War (1939), a record of their experiences in China. He lived in Germany during the early days of Nazism, and was a stretcher-bearer for the Republicans during the Spanish Civil War.

Auden's first volume of poetry appeared in 1930. Later volumes include Spain (1937), New Year Letter (1941), For the Time Being, a Christmas Oratorio (1945), The Age of Anxiety (1947; Pulitzer Prize), Nones (1951), The Shield of Achilles (1955), Homage to Clio (1960), About the House (1965), Epistle of a Godson and Other Poems (1972), and Thank You, Fog (1974). His other works include Letters from Iceland (with Louis MacNeice, 1937); the libretto, with his companion Chester Kallman, for Stravinsky's opera The Rake's Progress (1953); A Certain World: A Commonplace Book (1970); and The Dyer's Hand and Other Essays (1968).

In 1939, Auden moved to the United States, he became a citizen in 1946, and beginning that year taught at a number of American colleges and universities. From 1956 to 1961 he was professor of poetry at Oxford. Subsequently he lived in a number of countries, including Italy and Austria, and in 1971 he returned to England. He was awarded the National Medal for Literature in 1967.

See his Collected Poetry (1945), Collected Shorter Poems, 1927–1957 (1967), and Collected Longer Poems (1969); E. Mendelson, ed., The Complete Works of W. H. Auden (8 vol., 1997–); biographies by C. Osborne (1979, repr. 1995), H. Carpenter (1981), E. Mendelson (2 vol., 1981–99), and R. Davenport-Hines (1996) and Auden in Love (1984) by D. Farnan; studies by S. Hynes (1977, repr. 1982) and E. Callan (1983).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

W. H. Auden: The Critical Heritage
John Haffenden.
Routledge, 1997
The Poetry of W. H. Auden: The Disenchanted Island
Monroe K. Spears.
Oxford University Press, 1963
Librarian’s tip: This is a book of literary criticism
Collected Shorter Poems, 1930-1944
W. H. Auden.
Faber and Faber, 1950
Look, Stranger!
W. H. Auden.
Faber & Faber, 1936
On the Frontier: A Melodrama in Three Acts
W. H. Auden; Christopher Isherwood.
Random House, 1938
The Dog beneath the Skin: Or, Where Is Francis? ; a Play in Three Acts
W. H. Auden; Christopher Isherwood.
Random House, 1935
The Enchafed Flood: Or, the Romantic Iconography of the Sea
W. H. Auden.
Random House, 1950
In Solitude, for Company: W.H. Auden after 1940, Unpublished Prose and Recent Criticism
W. H. Auden; Katherine Bucknell; Nicholas Jenkins.
Clarendon Press, 1995
The Mentor Book of Major American Poets: From Edward Taylor and Walt Whitman to Hart Crane and W. H. Auden
Oscar Williams; Edwin Honig; Edwin Honig; Edwin Honig.
New American Library, 1962
Librarian’s tip: "W. H. Auden (b. 1907)" begins on p. 507
Auden's Games of Knowledge: Poetry and the Meanings of Homosexuality
Richard R. Bozorth.
Columbia University Press, 2001
The Romantic Survival: A Study in Poetic Evolution
John Bayley.
Constable, 1957
Librarian’s tip: Chap. XI "W. H. Auden"
Lectures on Some Modern Poets
Margaret Foster Leclair; Beekman W. Cottrell; Erwin R. Steinberg; A. Fred Sochatoff; Dorothy W. Goodfellow.
Carnegie Institute of Technology, 1955
Librarian’s tip: "Poetic Drama in General and Auden and Isherwood in Particular" begins on p. 43
In Defense of Ignorance
Karl Shapiro.
Random House, 1960
Librarian’s tip: "The Retreat of W. H. Auden" begins on p. 115
The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century Poetry in English
Ian Hamilton.
Oxford University Press, 1996
Librarian’s tip: "Auden, W(ystan) H(ugh) (1907-73)" begins on p. 21
W.H. Auden: Contexts for Poetry
Peter Edgerly Firchow.
University of Delaware Press, 2002
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