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This article is taken from PN Review 58, Volume 14 Number 2, November - December 1987.

Robinson Jeffers: American Romantic Colin Falck


It was a world before and after the
God of Love
.
D.H. Lawrence, St. Mawr


ROBINSON JEFFERS'S current neglect tells us more about the present state of our literary fashions than about any of the real strengths or weaknesses of his work. Such literary movements as Franco-American post-structuralist theory, or the wave of ingenious simile-mongering which recently overtook British verse, or the general "post-modernist" tendency for literature to be about language, or about itself, rather than about the world we live in, might be seen as symptoms of the same evasion of reality - the same loss of spiritual nerve - which Jeffers (sometimes crudely, over-insistently, and with a surfeit of misanthropic bombast) attacked throughout his career. It may be a measure of the spiritual void at the heart of our culture, and a confirmation of some of his direst insights, that he should by now have come to be almost entirely ignored.

A great deal was at one time made of what Jeffers himself called his "inhumanism", and earlier critics have spoken of his "disgust with the human species in toto" (Alfred Kazin), or of "the idée fixe which runs through all of Jeffers's volumes: Life is horrible" (Louis Untermeyer). He has been called a classical pessimist or a "classical Freudian" (R.P. Blackmur). Yet there is nothing in Jeffers's work of the business-like gloom of Hobbes or Freud, and his outcries against man's follies and pettinesses might be ...


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