Obsessive Images was first published in 1960. Minnesota Archive Editions uses digital technology to make long-unavailable books once again accessible, and are published unaltered from the original University of Minnesota Press editions.
As Mark Schorer comments, this is "the last, unfinished work of a distinguished, well loved critic, poet, and professor." After the death of Joseph Warren Beach, his colleague and friend William Van O'Connor, professor of English at the University of Minnesota, prepared the unfinished manuscript of this work for publication and wrote the foreword.
The work is primarily a study of certain words, phrases, and images that turn up with unusual frequency in modern American poetry, especially that of the decades of the 1930's and 1940's, and which are used in unusual senses, to carry special symbolisms, or to imply peculiar philosophical attitudes. Since the study is concerned with such recurring images and themes, many poets of distinction, in whose work they are not to be found, are left out, but Professor Beach also discusses the significance of the absence of these poets.
Students and critics will gain insight through this work into the characteristic attitudes of a generation of poets. The book is, moreover, a delight to read, reflecting, as it does, Mr. Beach's own love for the study of poetry. As Professor O'Connor points out, the tone is much more personal than that of Mr. Beach's other books.