ABSTRACT

With a focus on W. H. Auden’s evasions of pedantry, this chapter reads his elegies for their weaving of performative irreverence and ethical arguments. Arguing that the critique of W. B. Yeats’s vanity in Auden’s elegy for Yeats complicates Auden’s early critiques of ideology, and nuances the arguments against forgetting in Auden’s elegies for Freud and Ernst Toller. Further, I claim that a call for making visible the unseen—dismantling the politicized hierarchies of what can and cannot be put on display—in these poems drives social critiques and a protest against the formalization of love.