1st Edition

The Landscapes of W. H. Auden’s Interwar Poetry Roots and Routes

By Ladislav Vít Copyright 2022
    168 Pages
    by Routledge

    168 Pages
    by Routledge

    This is the first book-length study foregrounding Auden’s sense of place as a means for enhancing our grasp of this crucial twentieth-century poet.

    Proposing that Auden had a remarkable spatial sensibility, this book concentrates on his treatment of his homeland England, as well as the North Pennines and Iceland, both of which served as his ‘good’ places, ‘holy’ grounds and sources of topophilic sentiment. The readings draw on the scholarship of humanistic geography, tracing patterns of mental constructs which emerge from spatial experience. In a scholarly but engaging way, this book argues that focusing on Auden’s poetics of place as it emerged and evolved can be instrumental to our understanding of this influential poet not only in relation to his epoch but also to the Anglophone poetic tradition. Precisely because of his stature, these elaborations on Auden’s preoccupation with places, escapism, borders and local identity promise to enrich our understanding of the cultural and intellectual climate of the interwar period, when established notions of local places and cultures were beginning to be contested by internationalisation.

    This study will be of interest to both academics and students in the field of Anglophone literary studies while also appealing to those attracted to Auden’s poetry, interwar culture and the literary representation of space.


    1 The Map of Auden’s Mythical Geography

    2 My ‘Great Good Place’ in the Pennines

    3 ‘My Tutrix’: England in Auden’s Poetry

    4 My Dream Exile on an Island with a Halo

    5 Roots, Routes and Landscapes


    Ladislav Vít studied at Charles University, Prague, and now works at the University of Pardubice, Czech Republic. His research interests lie with British interwar writing, literary topography and the poetics of place. His major focus is on W. H. Auden’s spatial responsiveness from the perspective of cultural and humanistic geography. His publications include ‘Landscape as a Benchmark: Poetics of Place as a Critical Tool in W. H. Auden’s Prose’ (2018), ‘Poetry and Place in Auden’s Letters from Iceland’ (2016) and ‘Feet on the Ground: Landscape in Auden’s Late Poetry’ (2014). He is the co-founder and executive editor of the scholarly journal American and British Studies Annual, published since 2008.

    "So often characterized as a poet of modernity, W. H. Auden emerges from Ladislav Vít’s study as a figure intimately informed by older continuities, irradiated by the long nineteenth century. Vít reads the poetry through the seemingly niche ideas of place and landscape, deftly showing how the poet’s positions and imaginative maneuvers are instructive for our broader understanding of his work; and because Auden is so significant, this has broader consequences for how we understand the period." Justin Quinn, University of West Bohemia


    "Landscapes dominate much of Auden’s poetry. They have traditionally been read biographically and symbolically. None of this is wrong. Yet there is greater potential in these non-human protagonists of Auden’s writings. Ladislav Vit’s study grants landscape discursive power and views Auden’s topographies as forms of poetic landguage that help shape the complex messages of Auden’s poems and their discussions of a sense of place especially in the challenging interwar years." Rainer Emig, author of W.H. Auden: Towards a Postmodern Poetics


    "This is a work of extraordinary range, subtlety, and depth. It combines sophisticated modern critical method with sympathetic attention to linguistic, biographical, and historical detail to provide a deep and illuminating reading of the landscapes of Auden's poetry, life, and memory. Readers with a lifelong interest in Auden's landscapes will find new discoveries in this book, and any reader interested in what can be accomplished through learning and sophistication will find new models for reading." Edward Mendelson, Columbia University