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The Age of AudenPostwar Poetry and the American Scene$
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Aidan Wasley

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780691136790

Published to University Press Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691136790.001.0001

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date: 13 December 2017

A Way of Happening

A Way of Happening

Auden’s American Presence

Chapter:
(p.33) 1 A Way of Happening
Source:
The Age of Auden
Author(s):

Aidan Wasley

Publisher:
Princeton University Press
DOI:10.23943/princeton/9780691136790.003.0002

This chapter argues that Auden's extensive and largely unexplored impact on the post-war generation of American poets helped not only to define the terms by which these younger poets framed their own work and careers, but also offered a new and influential model for understanding what it meant to write poetry in America after World War II and after Modernism. In particular, Auden's redefinition of his own poetic identity following his emigration from England helped to shape American poetry in terms of what Auden called “the burden of choice”: How to select an inheritance from the myriad possibilities opened up in the wake of Modernism's shattering of notions of a unified native tradition. By framing his post-1939 poetry as “a way of happening,” Auden inaugurated a poetic vision of post-Modernist America as an open, inclusive text defined not in terms of shared ideals of national, ideological, or historical inheritance, but by the freedom, and necessity, to choose among the kaleidoscopic range of formal, cultural, or transnational poetic identities made available by the collapse of those earlier ideals.

Keywords:   W. H. Auden, American poets, American poetry, post-war poetry, modernism

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