This is an indispensable reference guide to the works of one of the most important poets of the twentieth century. W. H. Auden's writing is notoriously complex--full of puzzling allusions and shaped by influences as diverse as Old English poetry and Auden's own theory of psychosomatic illness. To help readers understand Auden's work, the poet and scholar John Fuller examines all of Auden's published poems, plays, and libretti, leaving out only some juvenilia. In unprecedented detail, he reviews the works' publishing history, paraphrases difficult passages, and explains allusions. He points out interesting variants (including material abandoned in drafts), identifies sources, looks at verse forms, and offers critical interpretations. Along the way, he presents a wealth of facts about Auden's works and life that are available in no other publication.
The book is a major revision of Fuller's critically acclaimed Reader's Guide to Auden, published in 1970. It contains more than twice the material of that earlier volume. Fuller organizes the book on the basis of the individual collections that Auden himself originally published, with sections of "uncollected" work interwoven. Clear, meticulously researched, and carefully designed for ease of use, it is an essential guide for anyone interested in Auden's remarkable and sometimes elusive writing.
"Nobody who wants a richer understanding of this great but often willful poet can dispense with Fuller's assistance."--Frank Kermode, The New Republic
"The entries--this is a work of reference--are marvels of wit, tact, learning, and connoisseurship. Some articles seem definitive. . . . Fuller's commentary bears a family resemblance to scientific, lyrical compendia such as Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy. The odd detail dances in amber sunbeams, translucent, and symbolic."--Tom D'Evelyn, Boston Book Review
"W. H. Auden: A Commentary is a meticulous labor of love and scholarship."--Roger Kimball, The New Criterion
"Auden's criticism is exceptional in its depth and breadth. He thoughtfully comments on almost all the plays as well as the sonnets. . . . Readers will admire Kirsch's Auden. It is quite possible that they will like him, too."--Joseph Sullivan, The World and I
"Fuller's book is a deeply impressive and valuable achievement that has no real equal in the critical literature on any modern poet. It explains thousands of allusions in all of Auden's plays and poems--and covers virtually all of Auden's published work, not only the poems that he collected. But it is not simply the work of a source-hunter. It is the work of a scholar and successful poet, who can write illuminatingly about verse form and poetic tone as well as about sources and influences. In almost every case, Fuller makes the poems he writes about more enjoyable to read, not merely more comprehensible. It is an astonishingly full guide to reading and research that will remain the main reference work on Auden for many decades."--Edward Mendelson, Editor of The Complete Works of W. H. Auden (Princeton)
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