W.H. Auden at Work: The Craft of Revision explores revision in the poetry of W.H. Auden, focusing on Auden’s early sonnet sequences, “A Voyage,” and “Sonnets from China.” It enumerates in great detail the substantial changes Auden made to those sequences over the course of thirty years. Auden’s observations are an amalgam of abstract philosophizing on the nature of humanity, its restlessness and tendency to create conflict, as well as a meticulous catalogue of sensory details garnered from his observations and interviews. Alexis Levitin and Joshua Kulseth place the original versions of the poems alongside their revisions, and thoroughly dissecting the changes which were wrought, commenting upon each in terms of grammar and syntax—leaving the narrativistic changes relatively untouched.
Alexis Levitin is professor emeritus of English at SUNY Plattsburgh.
Joshua Kulseth is lecturer at Clemson University.
Introduction: Brief Comments on this Unexpected Book, Alexis Levitin
Introduction, Joshua Kulseth
Chapter Two: London to Hongkong—A Voyage
Chapter Three: Sonnets from China
About the Authors
“Auden's revisions have long provoked critical responses that almost always misinterpreted them. Alexis Levitin and Joshua Kulseth’s book is not only the most judicious and intensive study of Auden's revisions but is the only one that began with Auden's cooperation and encouragement. This book is a unique and indispensable contribution to literary studies.”
“W.H. Auden at Work: The Craft of Revision, by Alexis Levitin, is an elegant, intriguing tour de force of Auden’s deft and brilliant hand at revision. Equally intriguing is the story of how this book came to be – the unlikely collaboration of its authors and their shared deep, even obsessive, abiding love for Auden and his work. Levitin and Kulseth “make it new” all over again and drive home with precise, thoroughly forensic detail the utter relevance of Auden and the enduring lessons on craft that he dispensed. Kulseth unabashedly details in his introduction ‘a record of [his] wonder at these poems, in the hopes that [we] too might wonder …’ Indeed ‘wonder’ is the operative word, and of profound magnitude, in light of this extraordinary, painstakingly researched and wholly necessary volume.”