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The Age of Anxiety: A Baroque Eclogue (W. H. Auden: Critical Editions) Hardcover – February 27, 2011

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Product Details

  • Series: W. H. Auden: Critical Editions
  • Hardcover: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; Ant Cri edition (February 27, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 069113815X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691138152
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.5 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #542,518 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2011

"[Auden's] most significant piece of work. . . . [W]e have in W. H. Auden a master musician of rhythm and note, unable to be dull, in fact an enchanter, under the magic of indigenous gusto . . . . The Age of Anxiety assures us that fear and lust have, in faith and purity, a cure so potent we need never know panic or be defeated by Self."--Marianne Moore, New York Times

"[M]agnificent . . . . [and] enormously rich in allusion, sound, and intellectual power. . . . For pessimism and naturalism and virtuosity, The Age of Anxiety makes one think of Shakespeare's Tempest."--Jacques Barzun, Harper's Magazine

"[An]emotionally stunning work. . . . [O]ne of the splendid poems of our language."--M. L. Rosenthal, New York Herald Tribune

"Princeton University Press's new critical, annotated edition of The Age of Anxiety seeks to repair and renew contemporary readers' relationship with the poem. That it should triumphantly succeed in this task, however, has less to do with unraveling the poem's intricacies than with clearly showing how its many knots are tied. In an expansive preface and through rigorous textual notes, editor and Auden scholar Alan Jacobs outlines the circumstances of the poem's composition, traces the relations between psychology and religious belief as they play out in the text, and firmly situates the work in its historical moment. . . . It can only be hoped that this handsome new edition brings The Age of Anxiety to a new 'pitiful handful'. Those lucky few will discover in its pages one of the last century's great, and greatly neglected, poems."--Geordie Williamson, Australian

"This new edition contains an elegant, unostentatious commentary by Alan Jacobs, an American professor whose previous books include a cultural history of Original Sin."--Richard Davenport-Hines, The Spectator

"Elegantly printed, [The Age of Anxiety] is graced by [Alan] Jacobs's essay-length introduction, which traces the poem's evolution from the time Auden moved from Europe to the US in 1939 to its publication both in Britain (1947) and the US (1948)."--Choice

"This new edition of Auden's The Age of Anxiety under review here provides a timely occasion for the reconceptualization of the structures of the collective imagination in the era of global violence and viral media spectacle. Benefiting from Alan Jacob's revealing and comprehensive prefactory note, the volume invites concerted theoretical effort toward the configuration of a post-apocalyptic poetics."--Nigel Mcloughlin, ABC Studies

From the Inside Flap

"Fascinating and hair-raising."--Leonard Bernstein

"[One of] Auden's outstanding American works."--Stephen Spender

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By ben j on December 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I have been a fan of Auden for a couple of years now, but had never had the heart to try and tackle any of his longer poems, until now! I don't think 'Age of Anxiety' is a place to start for those who have never encountered Auden before, but, if you, like me, have gobbled up some of his shorter fare and are hungry for something epic, look no further!
Firstly, having it in a separate codex from an anthology aids the 'i can do this!' factor, and a really quite handsome edition makes the experience additonally pleasurable. However, by far the greatest help, and what made the poem accessible to me for the first time was the guidance of Dr. Jacobs throughout. In both his introduction and his frequently extremely helpful end-notes, passages which I could barely make heads or tails of (that is, since I lack Auden's insanely broad erudition) turned into thought-provoking reflections.

About the poem itself -- Since anxiety is timeless (Cf. the Psalms), this reader found many of the character's reflections perspicuous, but then on a second level -- the poem revealed something about the zeitgeist in the years following WWII that I had never gotten a taste of before (I was born in 1986), and having tasted feel like I know something much more deeply about that era. Also: interesting to see which questions, once at large in a culture, are no longer around; i got the sense that we (this generation) are in even worse shape since few even pose such questions anymore, even though the conditions which prompted the questioning (the strangeness of a late-Industrial world) are still ever-present.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Wesley Hill on December 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is an elegant new critical edition of Auden's final book-length poem, published originally in 1947 and winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1948. The typesetting, pages, binding, and dustjacket are beautifully produced, and the extensive new introduction and detailed annotations convey their formidable scholarship with a light touch. This republication is intended "to aid those who would like to read the poem rather than sagely cite its title." That comment (from the introduction) indicates something of the poem's status -- its title, at least, is frequently invoked -- but also, perhaps, the ease with which many readers, fixated on the title alone, may miss the resolution (if that's the best word for it) that two of its protagonists find in their final soliloquies.

The poem is largely set in a bar on Third Avenue in New York City during the Second World War, and it unfolds as the conversation of four of the bar's patrons, Quant, Malin, Rosetta, and Emble. Each character (based on a Jungian type) is given a prose introduction. For example, Emble is said to suffer "from that anxiety about himself and his future which haunts, like a bad smell, the minds of most young men, though most of them are under the illusion that their lack of confidence is a unique and shameful fear which, if confessed, would make them an object of derision to their normal contemporaries." And following this stage-setting, the poem explores its themes by way of the private thoughts and dialogue of these four conversation partners.

Any resolution the poem offers isn't straightforward or uncomplicated. But the poem does suggest, as the editor says, echoing Eliot's "Burnt Norton," that at least two of its characters "find only one still point.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Davis on December 9, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
After reading this poem about 5 years ago in an edition virtually without commentary, my only take-aways were a few resonant lines. This new edition compares favorably to Arthur Kirsch's 2003 edition of Auden's Sea and the Mirror in its mind-opening, context-setting commentary. Without this type of introductory material, I would have remained as lost as on my first reading, frankly. Without taking away from the mystery of the poem itself, the editorial material allowed me to enter into the haunting zeitgeist that the poem traces through what is, as Auden calls it, a spinning, formal, Baroque presentation. There is enough of a context set (would I have had an inkling of the whole Zohar thing? not a chance) to allow someone like me to begin to ask questions like "did Auden's choice of format succeed?" (my answer: sometimes) without feeling like a fool for being naturally outgunned in what is an intentionally up-hill reading.

The poem itself opened itself, with help, substantially more in this reading for me, particularly Malin's lines. In the middle of the second reading, I felt like the communication of idea, feeling, characterization, even "poetic argument" came through more clearly than most any entire piece of prose commentary on the time. I couldn't help but keep parallel thoughts of Sartre and Milosz and their similarly clear communication in the happiness and sadness of the second world war ending. As a casual reader, it is of inestimable value to have an edition like this that can open up a poem and make it possible for it to be pleasurable reading rather than just a bourgeois achievement to fill the shelves.
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