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  • Date Submitted: 11/02/2011 04:16 AM
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W. H. Auden is considered one of the preeminent English-language poets of the twentieth century. In many ways a contradictory personality, at once prudent, revolutionary, pious, and intemperate, Auden is distinguished for his enormous intelligence, technical virtuosity, complex philosophical and moral vision, and keen wit. His prodigious output, spanning nearly a half century, includes inventive experiments with lyric and prose poetry, verse drama and notable contributions to literary criticism.   He is depicted as the most influential and, in many cases, best-loved member of his generation of English poets, the generation falling between the airy heights of T.S. Eliot and the grim postmodernism of Philip Larkin. It is important to divide W.H. Auden's career into two distinct phases, bisected, in his case, by the Second World War. The earlier poetry, particularly that of the thirties, is defined by a preoccupation with political and historical matters, while that of the forties, fifties, and particularly the sixties, is concerned with more modest affairs such as friendship and the household. There is, however, a clear shift in mid-career from peripatetic European to convivial New Yorker, when he took up residence in various apartments in New York. Around this time he also became an American citizen and embraced conservative Christianity, despite his homosexuality, which was open in his circles but hardly advertised publicly.
Auden is widely regarded as one of the greatest poets of the twentieth century. Though a decidedly modern poet in terms of his radical politics and bold experimentation with accepted literary forms, Auden's idiosyncratic virtuosity and ethical perspective distinguishes him from his contemporaries. As many critics note, Auden's striking originality stems from his counterrevolutionary appropriation of traditional poetic forms, unabashed Christian faith, and mistrust of irrationalism, all seemingly at odds with the tenets of both modernism and...


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