AUDEN: A CARNIVAL OF INTELLECT by Edward Callan

AUDEN: A CARNIVAL OF INTELLECT

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Far less microscopic than either Mendelson's Early Auden or Carpenter's recent biography, Callan's guide to Auden may nonetheless be a more generally useful source for students of the poetry--who will find here a balanced, sensible approach to the shape of Auden's career. Unlike Mendelson, Callan has no revisionist mission in mind: if he has a thesis, it is the generally unexceptionable one that Auden rejected Romanticism early on as being ""one-sided Platonist presuppositions""--and gradually grew instead into a ""Christian regard for the unity and coinherence of nature and spirit."" Thus, treating all but the earliest Auden as more the work of a thinker than a poet (which may ultimately be a fair categorization), Callan traces Auden's interest in psychology (Freud, Jung, Groddeck), which resulted in the grotesque and politically dangerous The Orators and The Ascent of F6; he goes on to see Auden as acquiring more of a ""double-focus"": a Christian revisionism, both personal and literary, which from then on carefully eschewed all absolutes. (Auden's late heroes were Horace, Goethe, Charles Williams, Kierkegaard.) And Callan acknowledges that this intellectual development also made Auden more of an essayist-in-lines (as opposed to pure poet) than ever--though there is some rudimentary analysis of meter-and-rhyme throughout. A cogent and valuable handbook, then, emphasizing philosophical/intellectual shifts and making only modest claims for the esthetic qualities of late Auden.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1983
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press