Disincarnate Spirit

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


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


Creative Imagination Christian Doctrine Religious Orthodoxy Literary Pursuit Liberal Humanism 
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  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.
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    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.
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    W.H. Auden, A Certain World: A Commonplace Book (New York: The Viking Press, 1970), 333 (Auden’s emphasis).Google Scholar
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    Quoted in John Fuller, WH. Auden: A Commentary (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998), 371.Google Scholar
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    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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