Robinson Jeffers, Dimensions of a Poet

By Robert Brophy | Go to book overview

A REVIEW OF JEFFERS SCHOLARSHIP

CRITICAL STUDIES

Most serious scholarship on Jeffers began appearing in the 1960s, very shortly after the poet's death. Radcliffe Squires's seminal The Loyalties of Robinson Jeffers (U of Michigan P) had been published in 1956, examining the poet's philosophical concerns and predecessors, Nietzsche and Schopenhauer, Lucretius and Spengler, and reviewing contemporary criticism with a search through Jeffers's poems for principal themes. This work was extended in Mercedes Monjian's monograph Robinson Jeffers: A Study in Inhumanism (U of Pittsburgh P, 1958), and was completed in Arthur Coffin's key Robinson Jeffers: Poet of Inhumanism (U of Wisconsin P, 1971).

Previously, Lawrence Clark Powell's general overview, Rob- inson Jeffers: The Man and His Work (Los Angeles: Primavera P, 1934) and Rudolph Gilbert's somewhat uncritical but appreciative Shine, Perishing Republic: Robinson Jeffers and the Tragic Sense in Modern Poetry (Boston: Bruce Humphries, 1936) had been the only references available. Powell's provided an overview of biography, themes, poetics, and philosophical base; Gilbert's attempted to place Jeffers in the Western literary tradition.

In 1962, the year of the poet's death, Frederic Carpenter's Rob- inson Jeffers (New York: Twayne) expanded on and updated Powell. This work was followed shortly by Brother Antoninus/ William Everson's Robinson Jeffers: Fragments of an Older Fury (Berkeley: Oyez P, 1973), which brought bothjungian and Freudian insights to the poet. Everson's clarifying essay, “Archetype West,” in Regional Perspectives (American Library Association) followed in 1973. In the same year, Robert Brophy's Robinson Jeffers: Myth, Ritual, and Symbol in His Narrative Poems (Cleveland: Case Western Reserve UP) probed Jeffers's use of biblical, Greek, Roman, and Mediterranean fertility-god myths in his narrative poems.

Shortly thereafter, Bill Hotchkiss published his Jeffers: The Si- vaistic Vision (Auburn, CA:: Blue Oak P, 1975), a re-examination

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