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W. H. Auden Hardcover – September 14, 1998

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

When British poet Fuller published his Reader's Guide to W.H. Auden (LJ 5/15/70), it was widely praised for its scholarship, organization, and completeness. Fuller, a professor of English at Oxford, knew then that further Auden discoveries were yet to be made; hence this masterfly latest work. Like the earlier book, this is an essential source for understanding so much that is Auden: Anglo-Saxon and Old English influences, allusions, form, and interpretation. An invaluable update, it includes not only Auden's collected and some uncollected poetry beginning in the late 1920s but also his plays, libretti, and (of substantial interest to Auden aficionados) some unused draft material. Fuller's commentary is erudite but also practical in revealing Auden as a complex, demanding poet and human being. Recommended for public and academic libraries.?Robert Kelly, Fort Wayne Community Schs., IN
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"Nobody who wants a richer understanding of this great but often willful poet can dispense with Fuller's assistance."--Frank Kermode, The New Republic

"The entries--this is a work of reference--are marvels of wit, tact, learning, and connoisseurship. Some articles seem definitive. . . . Fuller's commentary bears a family resemblance to scientific, lyrical compendia such as Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy. The odd detail dances in amber sunbeams, translucent, and symbolic."--Tom D'Evelyn, Boston Book Review

"W. H. Auden: A Commentary is a meticulous labor of love and scholarship."--Roger Kimball, The New Criterion

"Auden's criticism is exceptional in its depth and breadth. He thoughtfully comments on almost all the plays as well as the sonnets. . . . Readers will admire Kirsch's Auden. It is quite possible that they will like him, too."--Joseph Sullivan, The World and I --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (September 14, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691004196
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691004198
  • Product Dimensions: 2 x 6.8 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,832,721 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
W. H. Auden's work is in a way a challenge to the reader. Many times (Specially in the so called english Auden) it happens that you don't really know what the poem is about or why you like it. As Mr. Fuller says sometimes "Auden's merit lies in his vagueness". The Oxford professor Mr. John Fuller has written a highly accurate work in which he comments every single work published and unpublished by Auden. He states in his prologue that this is not a book for reading "in the normal way", meaning that "W. H. Auden: A Commentary" is a book just as a dictionnary is: A book in which you look for some information but you don't read from the first page until the last as you do it with a novel for instance. I actually don't think Mr. Fuller's opinion to be in this case too fair. In spite of the evident, permanent and necessary reference to Auden's work I beleive the tone and mood of his own comments make this book readable not only as an information book but also as a work in itself. The very word "Commentary" moves to think in a work written in order to illuminate another text. But Mr. Fuller builds his commentary from a wide range of "starting points". Sometimes is Auden's meter, sometimes the structural likness with other poetic form (As the "Sagas" - a nordic poetic form completely unknown to me) or just a philosophical or psychological concept used by Auden in a quite hidden way or lastly Mr. Fuller's own perplexity like in his comment to the poem "The Wanderer". Mr. Fuller's comments never exceed a couple of pages, but there he develops his own way of reading the poem and give us the chance to see this simple fact in action: How does a man read.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you want to better understand the poetry of W. H. Auden, and you want to buy only one book of Auden criticism, buy this one. (If you want to get a second and third, buy Mendelson's _Early Auden_ and _Later Auden_.) Fuller succinctly but comprehensively explains every poem Auden ever published. Fuller's treatment pays careful attention to poetic form, literary allusions, contemporary sources, and the development of Auden's poetic sensibilities, including his subsequent revisions of many poems. This is not to say that Fuller's commentary is the last word on any one poem, but he consistently enlightening in his comments, even for readers who are already very familiar with Auden's poetry.

One difficult decision that Fuller evidently had to make early on was how to organize his work. He might have organized it any number of ways, but he opted to order his book according to each volume of poetry Auden published. Originally, that was the right decision. Most early readers of Auden bought his books as they appeared, and since each volume originally stood as an aesthetic whole, Fuller's choice made perfect sense. However, now that a new generation of Auden readers (myself included) is reading Auden through anthologies and through his _Selected Poems_ and _Collected Poems_ (edited by Mendelson), Fuller's commentary can be difficult to use, partly because he does not usually use the titles that Auden later appended to many of his earlier poems. However, that minor inconvenience is more than compensated for by the extensive index.

One of Fuller's best qualities is his lucid prose. One does not have to be a trained literary critic to understand Fuller's writing, which is generally forthright and clear.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Anyone, approaching Auden's poetry for the first time, meets many difficulties interpreting a language full of symbols and allusions, sometimes obscurely prophetic.
Fuller's book is like a candle in a dark room. The light is dim perhaps, not sufficient to define all the details, but such to allow you to see which direction has to be taken to find other sources of light. In my opinion a must have for whoever likes Auden and really wants to enjoy his poetry.
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