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Robinson Jeffers and the American Sublime$
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Robert Zaller

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780804775632

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804775632.001.0001

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Post Mortem

Post Mortem

(p.359) Post Mortem
Robinson Jeffers and the American Sublime
Stanford University Press

This chapter argues that Jeffers' project of the sublime embraced both experience and existence in a single vision. Many streams fed into it, including Kantian idealism, its Emersonian variant, and the Nietzschean response to it; the Romantic construction of the sublime; and the romance of the American West as depicted by several generations of painters, photographers, and explorers, and epitomized in the grand natural formations of the Pacific coast and its ranges. At the same time, the picture was complicated by the philosophic pessimism of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, the challenges posed by Darwinism, entropy, and the cosmological implications of the new physics and astronomy. All these elements were annealed in the crucible of the Great War, whose devastation added a new and grotesque dimension to the sublime that seemed to mock all received value, not to say any attempt at cultural synthesis.

Keywords:   Robinson Jeffers, sublime, Kant, Emerson, Nietzsche, American West, Darwinism, physics, astronomy, Great War

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