Transformative Poetry: A Case Study of W.H. Auden's Musée des Beaux Arts And General Conclusions

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Abstract

This article situates Auden’s poem Musée des Beaux Arts in the process of his conversion to Christianity. The author argues for the layered intertextuality of the poem, in which allusions to Bruegel’s Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, The Census at Jerusalem, and The Massacre of the Innocents can be recognised. Moreover, Philippe de Champaigne’s Presentation in the Temple and Peter Paul Rubens’s The Martyrdom of St Livinus (in the same museum in Brussels) seem also
to have influenced the poem. Finally, there is reason to suppose that John Singer Sargent’s Crashed Aeroplane influenced Auden. In an analysis of the structure of the poem, the author argues that there is a clear structure hidden under the surface of day-to-day language. He connects this hidden structure with Auden’s poem The Hidden Law, and suggests that Auden wished to claim that even though we cannot understand suffering, it has a hidden meaning known only to
God. This hidden meaning connects our suffering with the self-emptying of Christ, a connection which the author demonstrates is in fact also made in Musée des Beaux Arts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-97
Number of pages16
JournalPerichoresis: The Theological Journal of Emanuel University
Volume14
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2016

Keywords

  • Wystan Hugh Auden, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, theology, theology and literature, suffering

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