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Disincarnate Spirit

Auden in Afterlife
  • Piotr K. Gwiazda
Chapter
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Part of the American Literature Readings in the 21st Century book series (ALTC)

Abstract

At the end of Edmund White’s novel The Farewell Symphony, the narrator—a young gay novelist—acquires an insight about his famous acquaintance Eddie: “Now I understand why Eddie had invented his dress-up party version of the afterlife with its amusing social introductions across the centuries and its continuing revelations. It was a normal way of keeping the dead alive. I remember that a graduate student researching a thesis interviewed Eddie about Auden and finally asked, rather peevishly, ‘Did Mr. Auden say that before or after he died?’”1

Keywords

Creative Imagination Christian Doctrine Religious Orthodoxy Literary Pursuit Liberal Humanism 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Edmund White, The Farewell Symphony (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997), 414.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    James Longenbach, Modern Poetry after Modernism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), 161.Google Scholar
  3. 8.
    This assertion takes one step further the statement Auden made in a Paris Review interview published in 1974 (another instance of the poet speaking from beyond the grave): “it’s a poet’s role to maintain the sacredness of language.” W.H. Auden, “The Art of Poetry XVII: W.H. Auden,” interview by Michael Newman, Paris Review 15, no. 57 (1974): 41.Google Scholar
  4. 11.
    I.A. Richards, Science and Poetry (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, Co., 1935), 29.Google Scholar
  5. 14.
    Alfred North Whitehead, Science and the Modern World. Lowell Lectures, 1925 (New York: Macmillan, 1946), 127.Google Scholar
  6. 15.
    Matthew Arnold, Poetry and Prose, ed. John Bryson (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1954), 654.Google Scholar
  7. 23.
    As Mendelson notes, Auden even contemplated writing an anonymous attack on the book, as he told Alan Ansen, from “the standpoint of a representative of the Homintern.” Edward Mendelson, Later Auden (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1999), 268.Google Scholar
  8. 24.
    W.H. Auden, foreword to An Armada of Thirty Whales, by Daniel G. Hoffman (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1954), unpaginated.Google Scholar
  9. 32.
    W.H. Auden, “Progress Is the Mother of Problems (G.K. Chesterton),” review of The Ancient Concept of Progress, by E.R. Dodds, New York Review of Books 20, no. 11 (June 28, 1973): 20.Google Scholar
  10. 33.
    W.H. Auden, A Certain World: A Commonplace Book (New York: The Viking Press, 1970), 333 (Auden’s emphasis).Google Scholar
  11. 34.
    W.H. Auden, Secondary Worlds (New York: Random House, 1968), 126.Google Scholar
  12. 35.
    Brian McHale, The Obligation toward the Difficult Whole: Postmodernist Long Poems (Tuscaloosa and London: University of Alabama Press, 2004), 24.Google Scholar
  13. 36.
    Other tides Merrill mentions in different conversations include Arthur Young’s Reflexive Universe: Evolution of Consciousness (1976),Google Scholar
  14. Lewis Thomas’s The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher (1974),Google Scholar
  15. and Julian Jaynes’s The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind (1976).Google Scholar
  16. 37.
    Isaac Asimov, The Intelligent Man’s Guide to Science (New York: Basic Books Inc. Publishers, 1960), 3.Google Scholar
  17. 38.
    Friedrich Nietzsche, Philosophy and Truth: Selections from Nietzsche’s Notebooks of the Early 1870s, ed. and trans. Daniel Breazdale (Atlantic Highlands: Humanities Press, 1990), 84.Google Scholar
  18. 40.
    Auden, The Complete Works of W.H. Auden: Prose, vol. 1: Prose and Travel Books in Prose and Verse, 1926–1938, ed. Edward Mendelson (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002), 386. The second statement quoted in Craft, Stravinsky: Chronicle of a Friendship, 259.Google Scholar
  19. 42.
    Yenser, The Consuming Myth, 272–73; Don Adams, James Merrill’s Poetic Quest (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1997), 106, 128; Materer, James Merrill’s Apocalypse, 111–12.Google Scholar
  20. 43.
    See Harry Hay, “A Separate People Whose Time Has Come,” in Gay Spirit: Myth and Meaning, ed. Mark Thompson (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1987), 279–91.Google Scholar
  21. 44.
    Toby Johnson, Gay Spirituality: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness (Los Angeles: Alyson, 2000), 7, 25.Google Scholar
  22. 46.
    Bruce Bawer, “A Summoning of Spirits: James Merrill and Sandover,” review of The Changing Light at Sandover, by James Merrill, New Criterion 2 (June 1984): 39–40; Vernon Shetley, After the Death of Poetry, 101; Denis Donoghue, “What the Ouija Board Said,” in A Reader’s Guide to James Merrill’s The Changing Light at Sandover, ed. Polito, 181; Michael Harrington, “Paradise or Disintegration,” in ibid., 205.Google Scholar
  23. 50.
    Lee Edelman, No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive (Durham: Duke University Press, 2004), 2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 56.
    Yenser, The Consuming Myth, 90; John Keats, The Poems of John Keats, ed. H.W. Garrod (London: Oxford University Press, 1955), 44.Google Scholar
  25. 58.
    Quoted in John Fuller, WH. Auden: A Commentary (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998), 371.Google Scholar
  26. 59.
    Judith Moffett writes: “If intelligence and thought are combatants, then a probing, analytical mind like Auden’s must be allied with Gabriel. Michael represents the sensitive, perceptive intelligence that does not investigate or evaluate ideas but ignores them or takes them in entire, the sort revealed in Merrill’s poetry as his own.” James Merrill: An Introduction to the Poetry (New York: Columbia University Press, 1984), 209.Google Scholar

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© Piotr K. Gwiazda 2007

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  • Piotr K. Gwiazda

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