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I Précis I Heidi Hanrahan University of North Carolina, Greensboro Firchow, Peter Edgerly. W. H. Auden: Contexts for Poetry. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2002. 274 pp. $46.50 In his preface, Firchow argues that some of Auden's most important works can be better understood "against the backdrop of his own intellectual development and the troubled history of his time." His book, therefore, will work to "contextualize" the poet, taking the criticism of the last twenty-five years "a step further" as he combines intellectual and social history with biography and textual analysis. The Auden that emerges once this contextualization has taken place is, Firchow argues, "a multiple man, attempting to compress a whole world of identities into a single person and lifetime." Firchow is chiefly concerned with these multitudes of identities and what he calls Auden's search for wholeness as he seeks to reconcile the individual with society. Subsequent chapters examine Auden in different roles and identities. The introduction looks at Auden as a teacher, trying to come to terms with who he is through a "series of attempts to remake himself to fit a new, and, presumably, truer conception of who he thought he really was." Later chapters examine the political Auden, whose early works, including Paid on Both Sides, were deeply concerned with social and psychological issues. Firchow also discusses The Orators and the poet as the possible leader of an "Auden Group" of like-minded artists. Chapter three examines Auden's later disillusionment with the social and political power of poetry, as evidenced in "Spain" and "Musée de Beaux Arts." Also of note are Firchow's discussion of Yeats and Auden as two political poets, more alike than critics often acknowledge, and his reading of Auden as an American poet, influenced by and influential to other Americans. Finally, the book presents a view of Auden's last years in Austria, arguing that he tried to be a "healer and bridge-builder" between Anglosaxondom and Germanspeaking countries. Jenkins, Alice and Juliet John, eds. Rereading Victorian Fiction. New York: Palgrave, 2002. xvi + 218 pp. Paper $21.95 The paperback edition of this collection of fourteen essays, first published in 2000, encourages readers to continue to relax our totalizing definitions of Vic110 BOOK REVIEWS torian literature. The essays present an eclecticism of critical approaches and canons, as the editors hope to make a contribution to the ongoing "revisionist project." Essays of note include new readings of classic works: Daniel Karlin's discussion of Eliot's discourse on hands and handwork in Middlemarch and Bernard Beatty's examination of a symbolic language based on clothing in Great Expectations. Other essays focus on lesser-known works, including Trefor Thomas's reading of G.M.W. Reynolds's The Mysteries of London, which he argues can be read in light of current critical concerns. Other chapters further complicate our definitions of canon and history. Jacqueline M. Labbe reads children's religious literature, noting how the Trinity becomes feminized in order to make it more comforting to children. Susan Rowland's essay on In the Red Kitchen, a twentieth century novel, argues that it can also be read as a Victorian novel. Above all, Jenkins and John emphasize that their book presents "a collection of voices committed to the process of debate and dialogue which will help to ensure that the reputation of Victorian fiction is protected from the deadening, mythologizing weight of historical distance." Kermode, Frank. Romantic Image. London: Routledge, 2002. χ + 211 pp. Paper $12.95 New to this reprint of his 1957 classic is an epilogue in which Kermode admits his book might be now, almost fifty years after its publication, a bit obsolete. Wondering if he is being too pessimistic, though, he concludes that the readers who have kept his book alive are "preserving the idea of criticism as a civilized and civilizing force." It is worth recalling what Kermode sets about doing in Romantic Image. He looks at two assumptions he feels are of relevance to modern poetry and criticism: first, "the image is the 'primary pigment' of poetry," and, second, "the poet who uses it is by that very fact differentiated from other men...


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