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James Merrill and W.H. Auden
James Merrill and W.H. Auden
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This study offers a substantial analysis of the literary and personal relationship between two major twentieth-century poets.
James Merrill and W.H. Auden offers a substantial analysis of the literary and personal relationship between two major twentieth-century poets. As Gwiazda argues, Auden’s prominence in the post-World War II American poetry scene as a homosexual poet and critic makes his impact on Merrill particularly noteworthy. Merrill’s imaginary recreation of Auden in his occult verse trilogy The Changing Light at Sandover (1982) offers a powerful statement about the dynamics of poetic influence between gay male poets. Combining archival research, textual analysis, and aspects of queer theory, James Merrill and W.H. Auden examines Sandover‘s implications to the contentious issues of homosexual identity and self-representation.
Piotr K. Gwiazda is Assistant Professor of English at UMBC. His essays and reviews have appeared in Chicago Review, Contemporary Literature, PN Review, Postmodern Culture, the TLS, and elsewhere. He is the author of a book of poems, Gagarin Street (2005).
“[Gwiazda’s book] gives Merrill’s poetry the detailed and sensitive appreciation it deserves.”–Timothy Materer, Modernism/Modernity“Gwiazda adeptly tracks footprints in Sandover leading back to passages in Auden and argues that Merrill undermines Auden’s authority and acquires poetic atuhority of his own thorugh his ‘parodic manner of representation.’ At once suffused with feelings of love and admiration and animated by aggressive self-assertion, Sandover offers a scenario of poetic influence that deviates from customary models of queer tutelage.”–Frank J. Kearful, American Literary Scholarship“Taking Merrill’s interpretations of and influence from Auden, Gwiazda pursues a general project to articulate the nature of influence and reception in a specifically homosexual context. The result is compelling and is given added force by Gwiazda’s careful exploration of archival materials outlining Merrill’s ongoing reactions to Auden, in The Changing Light at Sandover in particular.”–James Gifford, The Year’s Work in English Studies“Gwiazda’s book thoroughly traces the historical and textual influence of Auden on Merrill, arguing that this poetic transmission was imagined by Merrill as a specifically ‘gay’ one. The presence of Bloom’s theory of influence hovers behind the text and Gwiazda attempts to keep this active while also entertaining the critiques that have been leveled at it by queer theorists and gay critics. The writing is elegant and the scholarship thorough. The particular combination of elements: poetic influence, Merrill and Auden’s historical positions as gay poets, and close attention to The Changing Light at Sandover, make this study a very original contribution to Merrill criticism.”–John Emil Vincent, Wesleyan University
Limits of Reticence: Auden, Merrill, and the Subject of Homosexuality * Wrestling with the Canon: Authority in The Changing Light at Sandover * Disincarnate Spirit: Auden in Afterlife * Possession: Metamorphosis Complete
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