Mercedes Cunningham Monjian began her work on Jeffers for her master’s thesis in English literature (University of Pittsburgh, 1958).
Robinson Jeffers’ name has been so inseparably linked with California that it is difficult to think of his origins being elsewhere. Jeffers was both in 1887 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His father was a professor at Western Theological Seminary and a scholar of ancient languages who taught his son to read Greek before he started school. In 1902, Jeffers enrolled in the University of Western Pennsylvania, now the University of Pittsburgh, but his family moved to California soon thereafter, and he graduated from Occidental College at the age of eighteen.
Inhumanism was the label Jeffers first used in the preface to The Double Axe and Other Poems to explain the doctrine that permeates all of his poetry. Defining humanism as “a system of thinking in which man, his interests, and development, are made dominant, his addition of the negative prefix was his attempt to subdue human interests and development to something greater, contrasting them against the magnificent beauty and immense worth of the natural world.
In addition to discussing Jeffers’ life and philosophy, Monjian analyzes the form and style of his poetry, calling it “a singular style, slashing its way across the page with violence of image and a free, crashing rhythm.” She ends the book: “Whatever the future holds for this poet, our own age is still awed by the magnificent talent and effort of a burdened mind struggling to free humanity from the shackles of an impoverished self-love, and the myths to which he believes it gave birth.”