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The Atom To Be Split collects new and selected essays by Robert Zaller on the work and career of Robinson Jeffers, whose prophetic verse, more than fifty years after his death, speaks increasingly to students of literature, history, science, and theology, as well as to readers concerned with the environmental and civilizational crises of our moment.
The opening essay of the book situates Jeffers in the context of the high Modernist generation, tracing the course of his reception from the deep impression he made on early critics as a poet not only of national stature but as one worthy of comparison with the great figures of world literature, through the controversies of his subsequent career and his growing rediscovery as an essential voice for our time. Subsequent essays include wide-ranging considerations of Jeffers' response to the critical social issues of his day, his engagement with historical and natural process, his place in philosophical tradition, the development of his distinctive aesthetic and moral stance, and his relationship to other significant literary figures including Thomas Hardy, Wallace Stevens, Pablo Neruda, Kenneth Rexroth, Czeslaw Milosz, and William Everson. The book concludes with fresh examinations of Jeffers' evolving concept of a divine cosmos and humanity's place in it, and the relevance of his vision for our own world.
Altogether, the essays in this volume refine and broaden the work of Zaller's previous studies of Jeffers, extending them in important new directions and offering a comprehensive perspective on Jeffers' unique and indispensable place in American literature.