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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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Configuring the California Sublime

Configuring the California Sublime

(p.150) 4 Configuring the California Sublime
Robinson Jeffers and the American Sublime
Stanford University Press

This chapter discusses Jeffers' devotion to constructing a California sublime, and to working out its wider implications for human experience. Jeffers' revaluation of the Kantian sublime was heavily influenced by Romantic models, mediated through a Darwinian revolution that had swept away the lingering pieties of Transcendentalism, and finally based on his long immersion in the topography and weathers of the central California coast. His first response to Big Sur was tinged with the bathos of Muir and his acolytes, and his retrospective account of it as a ground of idyl or saga in the Foreword to the Selected Poetry showed, similarly, the retreat from history that was so large a part of the nineteenth-century construction of the American west as an unspoiled Eden. Only gradually did he cast off these spectacles and see his landscape not as a passive ground for heroic action, but as a charged, dynamic field that subsumed its human actors in the wider span of natural and divine value.

Keywords:   Robinson Jeffers, sublime, human experience, Selected Poetry, Big Sur

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