The University of Wisconsin Press

Literature and Criticism


Robinson Jeffers
Poet of Inhumanism
Arthur B. Coffin

Modern man’s alienation from the world and his quest for identity were problems of real concern to Robinson Jeffers. In his major poetry, which extended from the mid-1920s to the early 1960s, Jeffers searched determinedly for a satisfactory statement of contemporary man’s relationship with himself, his culture, and the world of nature. Arthur B. Coffin, demonstrating a solid knowledge of the texts and other source materials, examines the ideological framework of this search and analyzes the way in which it found expression in the poet’s works. With this publication, Jeffers’ poems become more meaningful and the genesis of his concepts less obscure.


Coffin successfully shows that the ideas of Nietzsche were the dominant influence on Jeffers’ thinking, refuting the thesis that the poet was affected most by Schopenhauer’s philosophy. Similarly, the ideas of such “cynical” historicists as Vico, Spengler, and Flinders Petrie had their effect on Jeffers’ work; these historians, together with Nietzsche, influenced his response to classical literature. And it is here, with a discussion of themes in classical literature, particularly those of Lucretius, that Coffin completes his analysis, demonstrating how elements of Lucretian thought, which had been present in Jeffers’ verse from the beginning, served to bring the other ideas together and to shape the attitude which Jeffers, after long examination, termed inhumanism.


Scholars familiar with the range of Jeffers’ verse will welcome this work as a notable contribution to studies on the poet; students of contemporary literature and the history of ideas will find Robinson Jeffers: Poet of Inhumanism both perceptive and engaging.


Arthur B. Coffin is assistant professor of English at Washington State University.


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January 1971
LC: 74-021767 PS
324 pp.   6 x 9
ISBN-10: 0-299-05840-9
ISBN-13: 978-0-299-05840-1
Cloth $32.50 s

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