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The Age of AudenPostwar Poetry and the American Scene$
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Aidan Wasley

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780691136790

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691136790.001.0001

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The Gay Apprentice

The Gay Apprentice

Ashbery, Auden, and a Portrait of the Artist as a Young Critic

(p.109) 3 The Gay Apprentice
The Age of Auden

Aidan Wasley

Princeton University Press

This chapter discusses Auden's influence on John Ashbery. By looking at the development of Ashbery's career through the prism of his early apprenticeship to Auden, and by taking Ashbery's claims about his own poetics seriously, it challenges some familiar critical presumptions about Ashbery, prompted by a few basic questions: What are we to make of the disparity between how Ashbery sees himself and how he is seen? What is the responsibility of critics toward authorial claims of self-knowledge and intention? Is there something to be learned by listening to this poet and his poems, rather than reading through or against them? What does it mean to read Ashbery as a self-conscious inheritor of Auden's civic tradition, rather than heir to the various Romantic traditions with which he is customarily linked? In the end, the goal is less to reject prior understandings of Ashbery than to augment and complicate them, and suggest that in doing so, we discover a poet who is even richer—both more familiar and more strange, more conventional and more radical—than we may have seen.

Keywords:   John Ashbery, W. H. Auden, American poets, American poetry

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