Auden and the Muse of History with Susannah Young-ah Gottlieb
From The History of Literature Podcast with Jacke Wilson
For tens of thousands of years, human beings have been using fictional devices to shape their worlds and communicate with one another. Four thousand years ago they began writing down these stories, and a great flourishing of human achievement began. We know it today as literature, a term broad enough to encompass everything from ancient epic poetry to contemporary novels. How did literature develop? What forms has it taken? And what can we learn from engaging with these works today? Hosted by Jacke Wilson, an amateur scholar with a lifelong passion for literature, The History of Literature takes a fresh look at some of the most compelling examples of creative genius the world has ever known.
W.H. Auden (1907-1973) was one of the twentieth-century’s greatest poets—and also one of the most engaged. As he struggled to make sense of the rise of fascism, two world wars, and industrialized murder, his focus turned to the poet’s responsibility in the face of unthinkable horrors. How does a poet begin to address these subjects? In this episode, Jacke talks to Professor Susannah Young-ah Gottlieb, author of the new book Auden and the Muse of History, about Auden’s use of the past to help him come to grips with the present.
Susannah Young-ah Gottlieb is Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literary Studies, Northwestern University. She is the author of Regions of Sorrow: Anxiety and Messianism in Hannah Arendt and W.H. Auden (Stanford, 2003) and editor of Hannah Arendt: Reflections on Literature and Culture (Stanford, 2007).