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This article is taken from PN Review 95, Volume 20 Number 3, January - February 1994.

Undeservedly Forgotten: women poets and others in the 1930s Janet Montefiore

Some books are undeservedly forgotten; none are undeservedly remembered. W.H. AUDEN.


Women's poetry of the 1930s doesn't, according to the textbooks, exist at all. The earliest, comparatively informal accounts of the literature of the 1930S, by Virginia Woolf and George Orwell, defined it as the work of a small, educationally and socially homogeneous group of left -wing ex-public schoolboys, principally but not exclusively poets: Spender, Day Lewis, MacNeice, Isherwood, Orwell himself - and, overwhelmingly, Auden. Subsequent literary histories enlarged and modified this definition of 'thirties writing' to include the prose fictions of Greene and Waugh, the lesser stars published in New verse, the poets publishing in Julian Symons' Twentieth Century Verse, the surrealist writers of the late thirties, and even a few of the Marxist writers associated with Left Review such as Jack Lindsay or Randall Swingler, but the general outline remained the same. Almost all accounts agree that the significant work of the 1930S was produced by what Samuel Hynes has called the 'Auden Generation': that is 'the men and women' [in practice, the men] 'who were born between 1900 and 1914, were at school during the First World War, came to adulthood in the 1920s and to their early maturity in the Depression'. Robin Skelton's Penguin anthology Poetry of the Thirties, first published in 1964 and continuously reprinted thereafter, which has probably had at least as much influence on English readers' perceptions of the 1930S as any literary history, likewise defines its object as the ...


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