The Bleak Philosophy of Northern Ridges”: Examining the Early Landscapes of W. H. Auden, 1922–1928.
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The juvenilia of the poet W. H. Auden has largely been subject to a climate of critical neglect. Despite representing an innovative and influential period of the poet’s career in which the nucleic form of the poet’s unique ways of addressing notions of landscape and locality might be discerned, there has been little scholarly analysis of these early poems and their place within the poet’s literary canon. The same may be said for the poet’s landscape works: in a critical field where the modern, cosmopolitan Auden tends to predominate, there has been little recent scholarly consideration of Auden as a ‘landscape’ poet. This thesis seeks to supplement and develop the critical literatures relevant to the poet’s earliest works, arguing that it is only via the analysis of landscape and locality in Auden’s earliest poetry that much later landscape works can be fully understood. Drawing on the work of Auden scholars Katharine Bucknell, John Fuller and Tony Sharpe, alongside key concepts in the study of literary landscapes such as Pierre Nora’s Lieux de Memoire, this thesis will consider the four dominant themes present in the poet’s juvenilia: mortality, northernness, nation and the journey. In doing so, it will trace the development of the poet’s own influences, the manner in which they alter and augment to become the trademark Audenesque, and what these focal points mean in terms of contextualising Auden’s developing sense of landscape. The fundamental aim of this study is to make an original and innovative contribution to the scholarship of the poet W. H. Auden, the study of Modernist literatures and further consideration of Auden as a ‘landscape poet’. Furthermore, and what is perhaps most applicable about this research, is that it provides a framework for effecting a more comprehensive analysis of any literary text by utilising authorial juvenilia.
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