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The Plural of UsPoetry and Community in Auden and Others$
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Bonnie Costello

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780691172811

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691172811.001.0001

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Song of My Selves

Song of My Selves

(p.34) 3 Song of My Selves
The Plural of Us

Bonnie Costello

Princeton University Press

This chapter begins with a discussion of the plurality of the self. Auden viewed the plurality of the self as an inevitable condition of being and consciousness, and a check to narrow subjectivity and repressive will, rather than a flaw to be overcome. The Double Man (1941) does not decide questions but poses them. Its major poem, “New Year Letter,” offers a dialogue between poetry and prose and between his own words and those he has read. The epigraph cites Montaigne (by way of Charles Williams): “We are, I know not how, double in ourselves, so that what we believe we disbelieve, and cannot rid ourselves of what we condemn.” In many ways, Auden is a modern-day Montaigne, looking at his society by engaging in a dialogue with and about himself—not in the form of idealizing self-love, but rather humble and skeptical self-regard. The remainder of the chapter provides a reading of The Orators.

Keywords:   W. H. Auden, plurality, self, poetry, poems, The Orators, Montaigne

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