Selected literary criticism of Louis MacNeice

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Clarendon Press, May 21, 1987 - Literary Criticism - 279 pages
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Although the poetry of Louis MacNeice (1907-1963) has long been available in collected editions, this is the first volume to bring together a selection of his equally accomplished literary criticism. Drawn from reviews, articles, drama criticism, and other publications, these fifty-six selections strike a balance between his earliest and his most mature work and canvas the full range of his interests, from classical writers to his own contemporaries, with essays on such prominent personal friends as W.B. Yeats, W.H. Auden, T.S. Eliot and Dylan Thomas. The volume also contains an introduction, notes, and a full bibliography of MacNeice's short prose (not limited to his literary criticism).

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Contents

The Destructive Element
4
A Full Moon in March
44
Subject in Modern Poetry December 1936
57
Copyright

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About the author (1987)

Born in Belfast and raised in Carrickfergus, MacNeice was the son of an Anglican clergyman who became a bishop. His education in English schools and Oxford University made him ill at ease with his Puritan upbringing, but it never caused him to lose his sense of northern Irish roots. At Oxford, MacNeice became friends with Stephen Spender and later, W. H. Auden, with whom he collaborated on "Letters from Iceland" (1937). After graduating with a double first, MacNeice accepted a lectureship in the classics at Birmingham University and, after the traumatic elopement of his first wife, at Bedford College of the University of London. He joined the BBC as scriptwriter and producer in 1941 and remained with it for the remainder of his career. He also did an admired translation of Aeschylus's "Agamemnon" and the well-known book "The Poetry of W. B. Yeats" (1941). MacNeice defended his own poetry and that of Auden, Spender, and C. Day Lewis in his book "Modern Poetry" (1938). There he called for an "impure poetry" that would react against the giants of the previous generation by embracing the partisanship that he missed in W. B. Yeats and involvement with life that he found lacking in T. S. Eliot, both of whom had otherwise influenced him. While engaged with personal and political issues of the 1930's, MacNeice maintained a more skeptical stance than many of his contemporaries. His best verse---such as "Valediction" or "Bagpipe Music"---brings wit and strong rhythms to bear on contemporary life and often harks back to scenes of his youth. After joining the BBC, he also wrote more than 150 scripts, of which a dozen radio dramas have been published. An autobiography, "The Strings Are False," was published posthumously in 1966. During his lifetime, MacNeice was overshadowed by Auden, but in recent years, reevaluation of his work has regarded him as a major literary figure.

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