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

4.4 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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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

"The Age of Anxiety (1947), perhaps the finest of them all, tests Auden's ideas within the experience of modernity."--Lachlan MacKinnon, Times Literary Supplement

"[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 Back Cover

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

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


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Product Details

  • Series: W.H. Auden: Critical Editions
  • Hardcover: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; Ant Cri edition (February 27, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 069113815X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691138152
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 0.9 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #510,603 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've been a fan of literature and poetry since my teens, and somehow I always seemed to occasionally read about some great 'poem' called "The Age of Anxiety" by W.H. Auden--one of those works I always meant to get around reading, but never quite got to it... probably because of the scarce availability of the thing! Early 2015 was the first time I even saw a copy of the work, and that was right here on amazon.com! Happily, I found a relatively inexpensive, used old hardcover edition (with the same red & off-white cover seen here, except without the house picture accompanying the Random House book-publishers logo). I was surprised to learn this is actually a book-length poem, or to be more exact, an "eclogue" featuring four characters who take turns in speaking. More like drama, then, than "a poem", and containing different sections, including a section perhaps as well-known as the book itself, on "The Seven Ages" of Man. All that being said, this book made me an Auden fan after at least a decade of ambivalence and indifference towards the man whose famous elegiac poems especially always seemed to turn up in poetry anthologies. THIS ENTIRE BOOK / POEM / DRAMA CONSISTS OF ALLITERATIVE VERSE. (Example of alliterative verse: "Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers...") This is astounding not only because it has been so rarely done, but even less commonly SUCCESSFULLY done, and yet AUDEN DOES IT HERE SUCCESSFULLY FROM THE START TO THE FINISH OF THIS 138-PAGE WORK! This is a deep, truthful, beautiful, insightful work. Stranger and more unusual (in a good way) than most of well-known literature and poetry, yet a classic amongst classics all the same.Read more ›
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