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Durham University

Department of English Studies


Academic Staff

Publication details for Dr Abbie Garrington

Garrington, Abbie (2016). Early Auden. In Oxford Handbooks Online: Scholarly Research Reviews. Oxford University Press.

Author(s) from Durham


W. H. Auden’s early work is marked by preoccupation with the hero figure, both the literary greats with whom Auden establishes poetic conversations and the interwar Truly Strong Man, whom the poet explores for his power and exposes as a figure half-dreamt by a nation in search of itself. Tracing Auden’s heroes in his “early” work (completed between 1922 and 1939), this article delves into questions of literary tradition and inheritance, visionary landscapes, and posthumous reputations. Critics have often cited 1939 as a “watershed,” marking Auden’s poetic maturity as well as his departure from England’s shores. Yet few have understood the pre-1939 work by considering the juvenilia and seeking its links to the more accomplished work of the 1930s. Considering Auden’s work alone, and in collaboration with Christopher Isherwood, this article uses the hero figure to examine Auden’s attitudes toward the business of writing during his formative years.

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