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By Richard R. Bozorth

The 1st full-length attention of Auden as a gay poet, this quantity exhibits that Auden's profession used to be tied to a strategy of homosexual self-interrogation remarkable in smooth poetry and argues that he was once pushed by way of a robust craving to realize the mental, political, and moral implications of same-sex hope. Auden's theories approximately poetry within the Thirties and after mirrored an extreme problem with tips on how to write publicly as a gay poet. That fight used to be made appear in his love poetry, which Bozorth argues constitutes one of those "erotic autobiography" exploring the specific demanding situations of gay love.Bozorth's process is manifold, reading the poet's engagements with avant-garde poetics, homosexual way of life, psychoanalysis, leftist politics, and theology. This booklet proposes that from his early fascination with undercover agent and trickster figures to his later theories of poetry as an I-Thou relation, Auden considered poetry as a fictional yet primal erotic come upon with the reader.

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In three decades of poems, Auden produced what amounts to a biography of this relationship, from his initial “Vision of Eros,” through the collapse of their “marriage,” to long-term love and companionship without sexual fidelity. Together, his concerns with the “I-Thou” relation in love and in lyric, and with the infidelity of poetic language to fact, suggest that by the 1950s and 60s Auden saw all poetry as a kind of virtual lovers’ discourse. Addressed—often ambiguously—to Kallman and to others, his later love poems interpellate every reader as the beloved, seeking to honor the multiple, conflicting responsibilities of erotic experience.

As will be obvious to some readers, the argument of this book implies that some of the most urgent issues in queer studies today have a longer history then we tend to realize. Not least among these are questions about sexual identity and about identity politics that have become acute since the rise of queer theory in the 1990s. 13 Analogously, Auden’s poetry is obsessed from early on in his career with an array of contradictions that fracture homosexual identity. As we shall see in chapter 1, the figure of the secret agent is the emblem in Auden’s early poetry of these contradictions at the level of the subject: wary of opponents, victimized by his own side, he disintegrates into enemy forces of desire and prohibition, implying that the closet does not mask an essential homosexual self so much as show it for a delusion.

If Auden is “cruising the reader,” it is not very hopefully—the fate he imagines is a double bind of disastrous discovery and self-induced failure. Spender later recalled that as an undergraduate, Auden sometimes “gave the impression of playing an intellectual game with himself and with others”—a quality he connects with Auden’s early poems (World 49). His comment that “in the long run [Auden] was rather isolated” implicitly reads such detachment as self-destructive. Still, if coding bears witness to the constraints of the closet, the spy is also an empowering mask for the closeted poet precisely because he stays so overtly undercover.

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