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Inventing the Language to Tell ItRobinson Jeffers and the Biology of Consciousness$
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George Hart

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780823254897

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823254897.001.0001

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The Strain in the Skull

The Strain in the Skull

Biopoetics and the Biology of Consciousness

(p.39) The Strain in the Skull
Inventing the Language to Tell It

George Hart

Fordham University Press

This chapter discusses Jeffers’s first full-scale attempts at comprehending the material basis of consciousness in the brain. During his most fertile period, roughly 1924 through 1928, Jeffers engaged with the issue of consciousness in long poems such as “Tamar” and “The Women at Point Sur,” drawing on his training in science and medicine to produce accurate depictions of the physiological underpinnings of mind. Its central argument is that Jeffers’s initial engagement with consciousness did not resolve the dilemma of the conflict between materialism and mysticism, but it did establish the ground for a biopoetics, an evolutionary basis for language and consciousness, through radical experimentation with narrative poetry. In some of his most powerful work, Jeffers stages a conflict between physics, which offers an escape from consciousness in its concept of entropy, and biology, which demonstrates that life becomes more complex over time through evolution.

Keywords:   Biology, physics, experimentalism, evolution, entropy

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