Faulkner in the Twenty-First Century: Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha, 2000

Faulkner in the Twenty-First Century: Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha, 2000

Faulkner in the Twenty-First Century: Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha, 2000

Faulkner in the Twenty-First Century: Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha, 2000

Synopsis

Where will the study of William Faulkner's writings take scholars in the new century? What critical roads remain unexplored?

Faulkner in the Twenty-first Century presents the thoughts of ten noted Faulkner scholars who spoke at the twenty-seventh annual Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference at the University of Mississippi. Theresa M. Towner attacks the traditional classification of Faulkner's works as "major" and "minor" and argues that this causes the neglect of other significant works and characters. Michael Kreyling uses photographs of Faulkner to analyze the interrelationships of Faulkner's texts with the politics and culture of Mississippi.

Barbara Ladd and Deborah Cohn invoke the relevance of Faulkner's works to "the other South," postcolonial Latin America. Also approaching Faulkner from a postcolonial perspective, Annette Trefzer looks at his contradictory treatment of Native Americans.

Within the tragic fates of such characters as Quentin Compson, Gail Hightower, and Rosa Coldfield, Leigh Ann Duck finds an inability to cope with painful memories. Patrick O'Donnell examines the use of the future tense and Faulkner's growing skepticism of history as a linear progression. To postmodern critics who denigrate "The Fire and the Hearth," Karl F. Zender offers a rebuttal. Walter Benn Michaels contends that in Faulkner's South, and indeed the United States as a whole, the question of racial identification tends to overpower all other issues. Faulkner's recurring interest in frontier life and values inspires Robert W. Hamblin's piece.

Robert W. Hamblin is a professor of English and the director of the Center for Faulkner Studies at Southeast Missouri State University. Ann J. Abadie is associate director at the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi.

Excerpt

With its number of consecutive annual meetings now totaling twentyseven, the Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference sponsored by the University of Mississippi is currently the longest running conference devoted to a single author. And with each successive meeting, as Donald Kartiganer observed in his opening remarks to those attending the 2000 conference, the inevitable question is raised: After all these years, is there anything more to be said about Faulkner and his works?

This question, understandably, is given heightened prominence at the beginning of a new millennium. Thus the organizers of the 2000 conference selected the program topic “Faulkner in the Twenty-First Century.” As the papers included in this volume demonstrate, the presenters at this year's conference clearly believe there is more to be said about Faulkner, and, in typical Faulknerian fashion, they believe that “more” involves looking backward as well as forward. Interestingly, the ten essays printed here are evenly divided on this score, with the first five representing promising current trends and the second five supplying fresh approaches to long-familiar Faulkner topics.

In the opening essay, “The Roster, the Chronicle, and the Critic, ” Theresa M. Towner examines the issue of canonicity. Towner encourages scholars in the twenty-first century to challenge the long-accepted classifications of Faulkner's characters and works as “major” and “minor.” Towner commends the innovative work of recent psychological, postmodernist, and race/class/gender critics but then faults them for unwisely imitating the earlier agrarians and formalists by limiting their attention to a virtually exclusive group of five novels—The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, Light in August, Absalom, Absalom!, and Go Down, Moses— from Faulkner's so-called major phase, 1929–1942. Citing such typically neglected or undervalued characters as Virgil Beard, Lucy Pate, Labove, Cecilia Farmer, Tobe Sutterfield, Samuel Beauchamp, Hawkshaw, and a plethora of Snopeses (to name only a few of her many examples), Towner calls for a closer examination of “the central marginality or marginal centrality … in Faulkner's novels.” This shift in approach would heighten readers' awareness of Faulkner's “ability to populate his fiction with such particularity, ” which, according to Towner, is “perhaps the greatest hallmark of his genius.”

Michael Kreyling's essay, “Faulkner in the Twenty-First Century: Boundaries of Meaning, Boundaries of Mississippi, ” considers the interactions of Faulkner's texts with the ever-evolving political and cultural . . .

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