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The Poet at the Teacher’s Desk: W.H. Auden on Education, Democracy and Humanity

Authors
  • Vít, Ladislav
Type
Published Article
Journal
Prague Journal of English Studies
Publisher
Walter de Gruyter GmbH
Publication Date
Jul 22, 2017
Volume
6
Issue
1
Pages
27–43
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1515/pjes-2017-0002
Source
De Gruyter
Keywords
License
Green

Abstract

In the 1930s W.H. Auden taught at several public schools in Britain while simultaneously embarking on his poetic career. Later in life, he lectured at various educational institutions and returned to Oxford, his alma mater, in the 1950s as Oxford Professor of Poetry. His experience of teaching allowed Auden to reflect upon the pitfalls of Britain’s interwar educational system and its social function. Therefore, this article diverts attention from the prevailing scholarly focus on Auden’s poetry to his critical prose in order to examine the poet’s concerns about the content, purpose and role of education in society, his views on the structure of the educational system and disquiet about the tension between the utilitarian and humanistic dimensions of the educational process. At a more general level, the paper points out the relation that Auden maintained existed between education, democracy, art and the “crystallizing” power of poetry.

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