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AUDEN PERSONAL/HISTORICAL CONTEXT

W.H Auden (1907 1973) Born in York, England The youngest of three sons of a professor of public health and a nurse Both his parents loved books and his two grandfathers were ministers of the Anglican church The Midlands industrial landscape of Audens boyhood became the background of much of his poetry Machinery, mining and metallurgy fascinated him, however, the themes of personal relationships, love, hatred, family conflicts, alienation and psychosomatic illness preoccupied his earlier work In 1925, Auden entered Christ Church, Oxford o There he formed a group with Stephen, Cecil Day Lewis and Christopher Isherwood known as the Auden circle o They collaborated on poetry and enjoyed similar interests In the 1930s, he moved by contemporary politics and travelled widely to Germany, Scotland, Iceland, Spain, China. However, he became sceptical about the power of poetry to affect mens political destinies He said You can write an anti-war poem, but you dont stop Hitler In 1934 he married Erika Mann, daughter of the great writer, Thomas Mann o It was more of a marriage of convenience arranged so that Miss Mann would have British nationality and would not be stateless when the Nazis cancelled her German citizenship In 1939 he took up permanent residence in the United States and became an American citizen in 1946 He thereby lost his chance of becoming laureate poet of his native country The idea of choice and free will, the spiritual predicament of modern man, became the central concerns of his thinking that led to his recommitment to Christianity and the AngloCatholic Church he had earlier repudiated. From 1956 1961 he was elected Professor of Poetry in Oxford He died in the Austrian capital at the age of 66 Audens literary talents were universally acclaimed and recognized They were also diverse essayist, playwright, librettist, teacher, editor, translator, poet. He was often called the greatest living poet of the English language and one of the most prolific He was a social poet concerned, erudite, sincere, cynical not a personal, intense, emotive poet who touches the heart

HISTORICAL CONTEXT OF THE 1930S ONWARDS


1930 o o 1931 o o 1932 o o o 1933 o o o o o 1934 o o o o 1935 o o o 1936 o o o o o o 1937 o o o o 1938 o o 1939 o o Britain, U.S, Japan, France, Italy sign a naval disarmament treaty Nazis gain in elections Spain becomes a republic with overthrow of King Alfonso XIII German industrialists finance 800,000 strong Nazi Party Nazis lead in German elections with 230 Reichstag seats Famine in USSR Japanese aggression in Manchuria Hitler appointed German chancellor, gets dictatorial powers Reichstag fire in Berlin, Nazi terror begins Germany and Japan withdraw from League of Nations Attempted assassination of Roosevelt USSR recognized by the US Chancellor Dollfuss assassinated by the Nazis Hitler becomes fuhrer USSR admitted into League of Nations Mao Zedong begins Long March north with 100000 soldiers Saar incorporated into Germany after plebiscite Nazis repudiate Versailles Treaty Mussolini invades Ethiopia with League of Nations invoking sanctions Germans occupy Rhineland Italy annexes Ethiopia Rome-Berlin Axis proclaimed Spanish civil war begins War between Japan and China begins Japan and Germany sign anti-Comintern pact joined by Italy in 1937 Hitler repudiates war guilt clause of Versailles Treaty, continues to build German power Italy withdraws from League of Nations US gunboat sunk by the Japanese Japan invades China, conquering most of the coastal area Hitler marches into Austria, political and geographical union of Germany and Austria proclaimed Munich Pact Britain, France and Italy agree to let Germany partition Czechoslovakia Germany invades Poland occupies Bohemia and Moravia, renounces pact with England and concludes 10-year non-aggression pact with USSR WW2 begins