In this study of W. H. Auden's On This Island (1937), I seek to contribute to critical debate in Auden studies regarding the “two worlds” widely recognized as crucial to the ontology of Auden's early verse. I argue that Auden's interwar poems should be read against the literary and philosophical tradition of the “point of epiphany,” an archetypal figuration that Northrop Frye identifies as the point at which the natural and apocalyptic worlds come into alignment. Auden depicts fallen, entropied natural landscapes as symptomatic of his contemporary humanitarian crisis, while deploying eschatological rhetoric and iconography to present an interwar world bathed in apocalyptic futurity. As I discuss in my analysis of “Look, stranger, on this island, now,” Auden's poem of revelation catalyzes an intersubjective transference of epiphanic insight, exemplifying the phenomenological models of reception theorized by critics of consciousness such as Hans Robert Jauss. Through this readerly epiphany, we come to apprehend the critical conditions of the present and become acutely aware of time's passage toward an apocalyptic future.

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