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

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The Age of Anxiety: A Baroque Eclogue (W. H. Auden: Critical Editions) + For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio (W. H. Auden: Critical Editions)
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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

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

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

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Amazon.com: 7 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
A much-appreciated guide for such an adventurous poem, thank you 5 Dec 2011
By ben j - Published on Amazon.com
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.

In the end, as a non-trained poetry reader, I was just about able to get a grasp of this beast of a poem (thanks to Jacobs' help), although I do get the sense that large thematic strains still eluded me, since I just can't hold as much in my brain as Auden could. But, as with many Auden poems, even if the full scope of the text is not quite in view, there are plenty of "nugget" take-away lines; that ability Auden has to sum up huge, chthonic concepts in single epigraph-like lines. A couple of my favorites: "The bruise of his boyhood is as blue still." , "He hoped for Her Heart but He overbid." , "the new barbarian../..does not emerge From fir forests; factories bred him." , "the ego is a dream / Till a neighbor's need by name create it."
I could go on. Auden is one of the few poets who is able to, in a line, capture the most personal pains and the most lofty philosophical dilemmas. It's staggering really. However, for the purposes of this review: I recommend the poem, but I *highly* recommend this edition.

(full disclosure: Dr. Jacobs was an old professor of mine (2008); his class on Auden was one of the highlights of my education. Also, Mr. Maynard, disappointed reviewer, though my text-critical chops are not developed enough to take you on, I am unable to let "his perhaps too narrowly literary background" stand; I think, if you'll look at the variety of things he writes for, you will find that Dr. Jacobs is the exact opposite of your description, in fact -- me and my friends have a running joke that any publication you pick-up, Jacobs has an article in it! So, readers, don't believe the ad hominem)
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
A beautiful new edition 5 Dec 2011
By Wesley Hill - Published on Amazon.com
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." Rosetta, without turning a blind eye to the suffering of her fellow Jews in Nazi Germany, riffs on Psalm 139: "Though I fly to Wall Street / Or Publisher's Row, or pass out, or / Submerge in music, or marry well, / Marooned on riches, He'll be right there / With His Eye upon me. Should I hide away / My secret sins in consulting rooms, / My fears are before Him; He'll find all, / Ignore nothing." And Malin, in a Christian idiom, concludes: "In our anguish we struggle / To elude Him, to lie to Him, yet His love observes / His appalling promise...." (Auden noted in a letter that Quant's "defence against the contemporary scene is to make it frivolous where Malin [and Rosetta as well] tries to see it sub specie aeternitate [from the perspective of eternity].")

The poem is as demanding and elusive as any I've encountered, resisting any and all facile interpretations, but this edition will make returning to it for rereading a pleasure.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Happy for a Second Reading 10 Dec 2011
By Timothy Davis - Published on Amazon.com
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.
time to think 25 Feb 2014
By Carolyn Boehne - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A book all need to read again and again...bring it out of the shadows where it has languished too long!
Good book 5 Dec 2012
By Stephen Breck Reid - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It was what I was looking for. This book describes the psychic world of post WWII Western culture. The introduction by Alan Jacobs is quite detailed and helpful.
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