CFP: [American] 2008 Robinson Jeffers Association Conference

full name / name of organization: 
Robert Kafka
contact email: 


     In recent years issues touching on language and the environment have
been very much at the center of eco-literary critical discourse. Some
critics have emphasized the "appropriating" quality of language and have
attempted to peel away or expose the embedded humanist designs of
language expressed in nature discourse. In addition to critics, writers
have also sensed this issue. Edward Abbey sought the “monstrous and
inhuman spectacle” of nature free from the “personification of
nature . . . the tendency I wish to suppress in myself.” In sum using
Jeffers’s terms, Abbey wished to avoid representation that was dream
clothed or dirty with fears and wishes. Both Jeffers and Abbey hoped to
avoid wishful intrusions onto the space of nature. Abbey feared that his
interest in a “kind of poetry” found in “simple fact” would be rejected
because “the book deals too much with appearances."

     Jeffers as well was concerned with imposing linguistic myths and
structures, calling them the “phantom rulers of humanity.” He displays
real concern regarding the act of "writing nature," and he claims, in one
poem, to "hate [his] verses" and every line that even tries to
depict "one grass blade's curve." In another poem, in an attempt to craft
a response equal to the beauty of the place, he announces that the scene
is a place "for no story." Language would do nothing, Jeffers says, but
distort the beauty that was there. In a contrary manner, Leslie Silko, a
Native American author, states that stories are "all we have." She
specifically indicates that the world's environmental, social and
political troubles are due to not getting the Native American story
straight. Recent discussions of environmental justice theory (Buell) have
indicated â€" oddly without critique or concern â€" that environmental
discourse from "the margin" is more consciously anthropocentric.

     What are the crucial issues for the artist regarding constructing
nature with language? How much was Jeffers aware of and disturbed by his
medium? Do authors, as Buell suggests, like Jeffers and Abbey, find
themselves troubled by the intersection of language and the world, where
writers like Silko see this as necessary and indistinguishable? And if
so, what are the socio-cultural implications?

     These are not meant to limit the kinds of questions about language
and nature that are possible. And, of course, as always, other topics are
always welcome for proposals.

     Send abstracts/papers to: Rob Kafka, Secretary/Treasurer of the
Association, at Deadline for submissions:
December 15, 2007. Send questions to: Peter Quigley, President, RJA at We welcome and encourage engagement before formal

 From the Literary Calls for Papers Mailing List
             more information at
Received on Sun Sep 02 2007 - 14:51:00 EDT