Auden & identity: the individual versus the world

Lesson rationale

Following the First World War (1914–1918), people continued to experience global turmoil and disruption of social order. In this era, psychiatry and psychoanalysis emerged as a new way of making sense of things, a departure from religious doctrine. As a literary response to this myriad of change, W H Auden produced an innovative style of poetry, one that reflected complex states of mind, using expertly compressed language.

This series of activities gives students opportunities to explore the relationship between production and reception in poetic form. They will consider how Auden’s mastery of language contributes to the impact and longevity of his work. Students are also encouraged to consider the continued relevance of Auden’s themes and how this helps them understand context.

Key questions in this lesson:

  • How does Auden’s technical mastery of language contribute to the impact of his ideas?
  • In what ways is Auden’s poetry still relevant in today’s global landscape?
  • How does knowledge of Auden’s many influences, including his beliefs and broad education, contribute to our understanding of him as a writer?