'Your thoughts make shape like snow': Louis MacNeice on Stephen Spender

Brown, Richard Danson (2002). 'Your thoughts make shape like snow': Louis MacNeice on Stephen Spender. Twentieth-Century Literature, 48(3) pp. 292–323.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/3176030

URL: http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0041-462X%2820022...


The notion that the Left Wing writers of the 1930s formed an homogenous clique of interchangeable, mutually aggrandising talents has become one of the clichés of twentieth-century literary history. Roy Campbell’s satirical figure, ‘joint MacSpaunday’, typifies such accounts. Campbell’s amalgamation of MacNeice, Spender, Auden and Day-Lewis into a single careerist, cowardly poetaster has often been recycled as a convenient shorthand for ‘the Auden group’. Yet as influential studies of the period and the writers have shown, such accounts misrepresent the complex affiliations which existed between men like Louis MacNeice and Stephen Spender. This essay focuses on MacNeice and Spender during the early 1930s to explore two related issues: firstly, how MacNeice’s reading of Spender’s Poems (1933) shaped his own breakthrough volume, Poems (1935); secondly, how the observation of this relationship can help to refine understanding of MacNeice’s poetics at this pivotal stage in his career.

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