Encyclopedia of Literary Modernism

By Paul Poplawski | Go to book overview
Save to active project


Faulkner, William (1897–1962)

William Faulkner is best known as a novelist who exposes the U.S. South’s racial and gendered conflicts within a fictional framework which simultaneously embodies strong links with international modernism. In many of his works Faulkner makes use of a variety of literary modernist techniques. The formal experimentation within Faulkner’s novels can also be tied in with his interest in modernist art and cinema. Also, the radical aesthetic innovations which characterize Faulkner’s own works have become a potent influence upon the international literary and cultural scene, particularly in Latin America.

Faulkner was born at a crucial point within U.S. history. The legacy of the defeat of the South in the Civil War was still recent enough to be strongly ingrained within the consciousness of many Southerners. The ongoing racial divisions between blacks and whites were strongly apparent within the Mississippi in which Faulkner grew up, thereby further contributing towards the sense of a region divided both against the North and within itself. At the same time, the early decades of the twentieth century witnessed a period of economic and social modernization which was also affected by the advent of World War I. It is in this turbulent context that Faulkner developed as a modernist writer, exploring the traumas experienced by his community within narrative forms which redefine traditional modes of perceiving reality.

Faulkner’s early influences included novelists such as Balzac, Dickens, and French symbolist poetry. The assimilation of a wide range of writers whose work derived from diverse cultures laid important groundwork for Faulkner. His first significant published work was The Marble Faun (1924), a long poem written in octosyllabic couplets which owes much to the influence of the French poet Verlaine and also reveals echoes of Keats’ Ode on a Grecian Urn. The poem focuses upon a marble faun who realizes that his status as an object of art ensures his immortality. However, this self-conscious knowledge of static artistic form is also a cause of pain, because it means that he can never experience the transitory joys and sorrows which constitute man’s brief existence. Despite the derivative nature of the poem, there are already signs of tension here between a romantic and a modernist aesthetic in Faulkner’s implicit critique of the very pastoral form he employs.

A vital influence on Faulkner’s development as a modernist came when he traveled to Europe in 1925 and encountered the avant-garde artistic milieu of Paris (see France). During his time there, Faulkner was particularly struck by the new modes of visual representation he saw at the various art galleries he visited, and one might trace some of his later fictional techniques


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Encyclopedia of Literary Modernism


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 516

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?