Aleksander Sedzielarz is a student in the PhD program in Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Growing up in the Midwest, he dreamed daily of seeing the mountains of the western states and the Pacific Ocean. After high school, he joined Americorps National Civilian Community Corps, and as luck would have it, he was stationed in Garrapatos Canyon for a three month period on a trailbuilding project for the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District. Almost every weekend he would make a trip to the Monterey Public Library, and it was there that he discovered Robinson Jeffers. Strange as it may sound, the enormous impression that his work made on him led to an application to Occidental College, where he majored in English and Comparative Literary Studies. After more than a decade of traveling and living around the U.S. and abroad, Sedzielarz has finally made his way back to the Midwest.
Aleksander Sedzielarz joined RJA in 2010 and gave a paper titled “‘The Coal to Break into Fire’: The Poetics of Science and Myth in Roan Stallion” at the 17th annual conference in Long Beach. What follows is his description of a Spring 2012 course proposal at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.
1301W Reading Culture: Theory and Practice – What is a Poet?: Robinson Jeffers, Intentionality, Authorship and the Politics of Culture
This course will follow the poems of Robinson Jeffers as public objects. Our approach to Jeffers’ poetry evolves from seminal late 20th century critiques of intentionality and authorship expressed by Barthes, Wimsatt and Beardsley, Foucault and others, that upon being written and circulated, the work of an author is transformed, written into being, with its own autonomous life, reception and destiny. We will trace the way that the texts of the 20th century poet Robinson Jeffers have circulated and accumulated meaning in the decades following their publication.
Our investigation will probe the ways that the poet, in Jeffers’ words, “builds his monuments mockingly” and the course will consist of a simultaneous analysis of both the internal mechanics and the external consequences of Jeffers’ poetic project in relation to this idea. First, we will analyze the interiority of these texts – closely reading form and sense, learning the devices of syntax and prosody that drive the poems – and then we will read Jeffers’ poems in a diachronic context to map the way that literary texts catalyze social and political growth. In the course of the latter, cultural investigative work, we will examine the evolution of critical responses to Jeffers’ poetry with regards to the changing economy of the poetic, within this we will attempt to trace the way Jeffers’ inheres in political issues of capital, war and the environment, as well as the numerous ways in which his poems were a cause of controversy. Corollary questions, such as interdependent trends of inspiration, imitation and cannibalization in literary circles will be a concern throughout, and we will conclude by exploring the ways that emerging encyclopedic and social network media of the internet transform ideas of “literature” and “biography.”