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Lectures on Shakespeare (W.H. Auden:…
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Lectures on Shakespeare (W.H. Auden: Critical Editions) (édition 2002)

par W. H. Auden, Arthur C. Kirsch (Directeur de publication)

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"W. H. Auden, poet and critic, will conduct a course on Shakespeare at the New School for Social Research beginning Wednesday. Mr. Auden has announced that in his course . . . he proposes to read all Shakespeare's plays in chronological order." The New York Times reported this item on September 27, 1946, giving notice of a rare opportunity to hear one of the century's great poets comment on one of the greatest poets of all time. Published here for the first time, these lectures now make Auden's thoughts on Shakespeare available widely. Painstakingly reconstructed by Arthur Kirsch from the notes of students who attended, primarily Alan Ansen, who became Auden's secretary and friend, the lectures afford remarkable insights into Shakespeare's plays as well as the sonnets. A remarkable lecturer, Auden could inspire his listeners to great feats of recall and dictation. Consequently, the poet's unique voice, often down to the precise details of his phrasing, speaks clearly and eloquently throughout this volume. In these lectures, we hear Auden alluding to authors from Homer, Dante, and St. Augustine to Kierkegaard, Ibsen, and T. S. Eliot, drawing upon the full range of European literature and opera, and referring to the day's newspapers and magazines, movies and cartoons. The result is an extended instance of the "live conversation" that Auden believed criticism to be. Notably a conversation between Auden's capacious thought and the work of Shakespeare, these lectures are also a prelude to many ideas developed in Auden's later prose--a prose in which, one critic has remarked, "all the artists of the past are alive and talking among themselves." Reflecting the twentieth-century poet's lifelong engagement with the crowning masterpieces of English literature, these lectures add immeasurably to both our understanding of Auden and our appreciation of Shakespeare.… (plus d'informations)
Membre:penpiano
Titre:Lectures on Shakespeare (W.H. Auden: Critical Editions)
Auteurs:W. H. Auden
Autres auteurs:Arthur C. Kirsch (Directeur de publication)
Info:Princeton University Press (2002), Edition: New Ed, Paperback, 488 pages
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Lectures on Shakespeare (W.H. Auden: Critical Editions) par W. H. Auden

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Just finished reading Twelfth Night, so I turned to this book to see if Auden would expand my understanding of the play. He did, but not in the way I expected. The central theme of the essay on Twelfth Night is that this is a pretty unpleasant play, which is something I was dwelling on when thinking of how Malvolio is treated. So Auden didn't tell me much that I didn't pick up on my own... which I take as a vote of confidence in my reading ability!
  BrianDewey | Oct 19, 2007 |
This Is the Reason the “Shakespeare” Myth Persists
W. H. Auden. Lectures on Shakespeare. 398pp, 6X9”, softcover. ISBN: 978-0-691-10282-1. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2019.
**
This is one of the worst books I have ever read. I am giving it two stars because it contains some research and it is not completely nonsensical. But it is worse than some of the books I would rate with a single star because while they do not pretend to convey logic, this is precisely what this collection attempts. I had to request this book when I saw it in the catalog because my current computational linguistics attribution project focuses on the “Shakespeare” canon, so I need to be aware of all recent studies on “Shakespeare”, so I can explain why the current attributions are wrong. The publisher’s summary stresses the status of the lecturer, Auden, emphasizing the validity of the content. However, a hint to the larger problem with this book lies in the note that Auden “draws on a lifetime of experience to take the measure of Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets”. What is needed in Shakespeare studies is research rather than life-experience; in other words, lectures who rely on their “experience” talk about love and friendship in “Shakespeare’s” plots by giving examples or philosophizing from their own lives. This type of digression fails to enrich students, who are much better served if they know nothing about the biography of their lecturer and instead focus on studying the biography of the covered author. These lectures at the New School were advertised in the New York Times; while this seems grand, it is actually very strange: scholarly lectures are never allowed entire articles in this venue, which focuses on newsworthy stories of death and the like disasters. If this paper covered Auden’s lectures, there must have been an unexplained reason for such attention, and it couldn’t have been because Auden was more informative than all the other professors across New York’s universities. The cover explains this as due to Auden’s status as “one of the century’s great poets” who was discussing “at length one of the greatest writers of all time.” While Shakespeare is more popular than most dramatists with audiences that continue attending showings of Hamlet and Othello, lectures on any dramatist are hardly capable of drawing a significant crowd. And Auden is not the author coming to mind as I contemplate “the century’s great poets”: in fact, I have never heard his name before, but this type of hyperbole is precisely how myths of great authors are born. The editor who “reconstructed” these lectures (as apparently, they were in need of new construction) has published about Auden previously, so he is used to building the myth of his grandeur.
A few random examples will demonstrate the type of digressive, incorrect, illogical and non-specific content you will find if you attempt reading these lectures. “Richard really wants to be loved for himself alone – not for his beauty, if he had it, or his cleverness, but for his essential self” (19). This sentence begins with a cliché that can be applied to any human in any time period without having read the play in question. This is followed by a strange anti-aesthetic conclusion that Richard is shy about attention drawn to his “beauty”, before the following phrase questions if he has any such “beauty”; but, if he is ugly, what would the alternative be to being loved for “himself” since beauty is not an option? And if “cleverness” is not part of his “essential self”, this statement appears to state Richard wants to be loved for his soul, but such desires are rare in Shakespearean tragedies where Hamlet and Othello are more concerned with revenge than with finding women who perceive the purity of their souls.
How about this segment: “Shakespeare, at this time, is interested in various technical problems. The first is the relation between prose and verse in the plays. In the early plays, the low or comic characters – Shylock as well as Launcelot Gobbo in The Merchant of Venice, for example – speak prose. An intellectual character like Falstaff speaks prose, in contrast to a passionate character like Hotspur, who speaks verse” (160). First, this paragraph begins by claiming Shakespeare was a literary theoretician who was writing philosophical pamphlets about the art of composition; this is false: Auden is “interested” in these problems, not Shakespeare, so this phrasing is nonsensical. Then, he names the “relation between prose and verse” as one of these “problems”; the quantity of verse versus prose was not a problem, but rather a characteristic in the style of these plays. The percentage of verse to prose declines over the decades that plays are published under the “Shakespeare” name as tastes for versification declined. I use a study that evaluates the details of these numbers in my own research, but I won’t digress further on this matter here. Auden appears to be familiar with this pattern when he says in one sentence the word “early” in relation to the quantity of verse, but he implies the difference is due only to the “comic” characters; this is erroneous as the ratio of comedies to tragedies does not change much over time. Additionally, he is making a value judgment against comedy by calling these characters “low”, when there are plenty of tragic characters across this canon with short lines that also speak in prose. It is also absurd to separate “intellectual” from “passionate” characters when all of “Shakespeare’s” most dramatic character leads must be both passionate and intelligent to deliver the brilliant to-be-or-not-to-be-type speeches.
I can write at least a paragraph of ridicule for every sentence in this book. When I have this many negative things to say about nearly every phrase in a book, it is not suitable for public consumption.
 
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"W. H. Auden, poet and critic, will conduct a course on Shakespeare at the New School for Social Research beginning Wednesday. Mr. Auden has announced that in his course . . . he proposes to read all Shakespeare's plays in chronological order." The New York Times reported this item on September 27, 1946, giving notice of a rare opportunity to hear one of the century's great poets comment on one of the greatest poets of all time. Published here for the first time, these lectures now make Auden's thoughts on Shakespeare available widely. Painstakingly reconstructed by Arthur Kirsch from the notes of students who attended, primarily Alan Ansen, who became Auden's secretary and friend, the lectures afford remarkable insights into Shakespeare's plays as well as the sonnets. A remarkable lecturer, Auden could inspire his listeners to great feats of recall and dictation. Consequently, the poet's unique voice, often down to the precise details of his phrasing, speaks clearly and eloquently throughout this volume. In these lectures, we hear Auden alluding to authors from Homer, Dante, and St. Augustine to Kierkegaard, Ibsen, and T. S. Eliot, drawing upon the full range of European literature and opera, and referring to the day's newspapers and magazines, movies and cartoons. The result is an extended instance of the "live conversation" that Auden believed criticism to be. Notably a conversation between Auden's capacious thought and the work of Shakespeare, these lectures are also a prelude to many ideas developed in Auden's later prose--a prose in which, one critic has remarked, "all the artists of the past are alive and talking among themselves." Reflecting the twentieth-century poet's lifelong engagement with the crowning masterpieces of English literature, these lectures add immeasurably to both our understanding of Auden and our appreciation of Shakespeare.

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