2017 RJA Conference Program

The 23rd Robinson Jeffers Association Annual Conference
Occidental College, Los Angeles, California
February 24-26, 2017
“Robinson Jeffers and the Modern Metropolis: Los Angeles and Beyond”

On Friday and Saturday, the conference will take place on the Occidental Campus in the Braun and Jeffers rooms and Gallery of the Academic Commons/Library. The Friday 3:30 panel will be in JSC Morrison Lounge and the Saturday keynote will be in Choi Auditorium, a few minutes walk across the quad.

The Sunday morning business meeting and presentation will take place at El Alisal, 200 E Ave 43, Highland Park (about 10 mins from campus).

Directions & Parking

See Directions and campus map. Conference locations on campus map are Academic Commons/Library [5]; Johnson Student Center (JSC) Morrison Lounge [15] and Choi Auditorium [2].

Parking on campus is free. Enter the campus via Alumni Ave, the main entrance, then turn right into the parking lot and find general parking. Street parking is also available on Campus Road, the road encircling the campus. You can then walk into campus. Upon arriving at the Central Quad [126], JSC Morrison is to the left and the Library is to the right.

Schedule of Events

Friday, February 24

3:30p Blackness and Nature: Artists in Conversation | JSC Morrison Lounge
Keynote speaker poet Camille T. Dungy and writers Zinzi Clemmons and Douglas Kearney treat Blackness as an entry-way to rethinking nature and its relationship to poetry. By treating Blackness as a mode aesthetic and practical experimentation, this panel evokes a wide range of poets concerned with nature, even if they are not labeled “nature poets.” (more information) Panel is open to the public, no registration necessary.

4:30 – 7:00 Registration Open | Braun Room, Library

5:00 Opening Reception | Braun Room, Library
Held in the Braun Fine Books Room of Occidental College Library, the evening features the opening of the exhibition “Preserving Jeffers’ Legacy” in the adjacent Gallery and the opportunity for a guided tour of Occidental’s Jeffers Collection.

Saturday, February 25
8:30a Continental Breakfast | Braun Room, Library

8:30 Registration Open | Braun Room, Library

9:00 RJA President’s Welcome and Opening Remarks | Jeffers Room, Library
Geneva Gano, Texas State University, San Marcos

9:15 Session I: The Terrible Arrogant Cities | Jeffers Room, Library

The Terrible Arrogant Cities: The Origins of Robinson Jeffers’ Anti-Urbanism
Whitney Hoth, Fanshawe College, London, Ontario
Robinson Jeffers is a key figure in the intellectual history of anti-urbanism. In its early-modern phase, in the decades immediately preceding and after World War I, anti-urbanism was a dominant and broadly shared orientation of artists and intellectuals, and understanding Jeffers’ position in this tradition provides important context for understanding his unique achievement as a critic of expanding urbanism.

Robinson Jeffers and Italian Futurism: ‘Nature’ vs. ‘City’ as Contrasting Symbols of Cultural Decadence and Renewal
Brett Colasacco, University of Chicago
This paper investigates how “nature” and “city” figure as symbols of cultural decadence and renewal in the writings of Robinson Jeffers and F. T. Marinetti, founder and leader of Italian Futurism—an aesthetic movement roughly contemporaneous with Jeffers’ career and arguably the earliest significant example of what would eventually come to be known as “modernism” in early-to-mid-20th-century Anglo-American and continental European literature. More generally, then, the paper proposes a reconsideration of the relationship between Jeffers’ work and that of his modernist/avant-garde peers.

10:15 Session II: “What Are Cities For?”: Reflections on a Theme | Jeffers Room, Library
Our goal in this session is to examine Jeffers’ ideas concerning city life through an open discussion of five poems: The Broken Balance, The Coast Road, Now Returned Home, The Purse-Seine, and What Are Cities For? Panelists: Geneva Gano, Rob Kafka, James Karman. The selected poems are linked to and can be read at online poetry sites.

11:15 Keynote: The View From Hawk Tower Today: A Contemporary Environmental Poet Reflects on What Robinson Jeffers Has Meant to Her |Choi Auditorium, Johnson Hall
Camille T. Dungy, author of four collections of poetry, most recently Trophic Cascade, and editor of Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry, will read from her own work and speak to some of the the ways that the legacy of Robinson Jeffers has influenced her environmental world view. (more information)
This talk is open to the public, no registration necessary.

12:15p Box Lunch @ Sycamore Glen
Participants may order a box lunch ($15, reserve in advance) and gather on campus at Sycamore Glen, one of Oxy’s outdoor picnic and event areas. Folks may relax and talk, organize a poetry reading or walk Oxy’s beautiful campus, designed by Myron Hunt.

1:30 Session III: Jeffers and the Anthropocene | Jeffers Room, Library
Robert Zaller, Drexel University
Jeffers and the Anthropocene will examine Jeffers’ evolving conception of humanity, with specific reference to social interaction, the relation of humanity to the natural and cosmic order, and the question of its ultimate ecological impact on the planet.

2:30 Session IV: Jeffers’ At the Fall of an Age | Jeffers Room, Library
Jeffers as Mythmaker
Kevin Batton, Independent Scholar
While several of Jeffers’ dramas and narratives adapt Greek myths, At the Fall of an Age is his only such poem not adapted from a classical literary model; it therefore stands as the purest example of Jeffers’ own tragic sensibility. This paper will pick at the knot of sources and references Jeffers has combined to compose this story of the death of Helen.

Spurning the Polis: A Braid for Helen
Mick McAllister, Independent Scholar
At the Fall of an Age is a tapestry of Jeffers’ themes. a story woven with threads of two primary colors, the red of Helen of Sparta and the blue of democratic Athens. Understanding it requires examining Jeffers’ rejection of the polis and drawing together the scattered skein of his references in his work to Helen, “halo’ed in spears.”

Joining the panel discussion will be Greek classics scholar Debra Freas, Associate Professor of Comparative Studies of Literature and Culture, Occidental College.

At the Fall of An Age can be read online at AllPoetry.com

Refreshments /Announcements | Braun Room, Library

4:00 Session V: Inspired by Jeffers | Jeffers Room, Library

My Name is Una
Lili Bita, Poet and Actress
My Name is Una will feature a reading of selected correspondence from different periods of Una’s life with Robinson Jeffers, with an emphasis on the major aspects of their long relationship and of Jeffers’ career.

Inspired by Jeffers: Ward Ritchie, Lawrence Clark Powell, Occidental College
Helena de Lemos, Special Collections Instruction & Research Librarian, Occidental College
Serendipity led Ward Ritchie ’28 to discover the poetry of Robinson Jeffers while a student at Occidental College; his enthusiasm was immediately shared with Lawrence Clark Powell and Gordon Newell, his college best friends. This talk will reveal how this spark at Occidental College, combined with fierce support from admirers of Jeffers in San Francisco led to the creation of the Jeffers Collection.

Jeffers and Print Culture
Jocelyn Webb Pedersen, Book Artist and Assistant Professor Letterpress Printing, Occidental College
Professor Pedersen and her students of the Spring 2017 Letterpress Printing class are designing and producing a keepsake book for the conference which they will present as part of a talk about Jeffers-inspired fine press printing.

Sunday, February 26 | El Alisal, 200 E Ave 43, Highland Park
8:30a RJA Annual Business Meeting
RJA members are invited to participate in the annual business meeting.
Continental Breakfast

9:45 Influencing Jeffers: Charles Lummis and Arroyo Seco Arts Culture
According to Ward Ritchie’s A Southland Bohemia: the Arroyo Seco Colony as the Century Begins, when Jeffers and his family arrived in 1903, Northeast Los Angeles was a thriving cultural community led by Charles Fletcher Lummis whose historic home El Alisal was being built with rocks from the Los Angeles River. This special event will include a talk by Dr. Jeremiah Axelrod, history professor and director of the Institute for the Study of Los Angeles at Occidental College, and a tour of El Alisal.

11:45 Closing Remarks
Dale Ann Stieber, RJA Executive Director


Travel & Accommodations

*Program subject to change
Subject to change, 2/20/2017