Faulkner's Narrative Poetics: Style as Vision

Faulkner's Narrative Poetics: Style as Vision

Faulkner's Narrative Poetics: Style as Vision

Faulkner's Narrative Poetics: Style as Vision

Synopsis

The remarkable French thinker Simone Weil is one of the leading intellectual and spiritual figures of the twentieth century. A legendary essayist, political philosopher and member of the French resistance, her literary output belied her tragically short life. Most of her work was published posthumously, to widespread acclaim. Always concerned with the nature of individual freedom, Weil explores in"Oppression and Liberty" its political and social implications. Analysing the causes of oppression, its mechanisms and forms, she questions revolutionary responsesand presents a prophetic view of a way forward. If, as she noted elsewhere, 'the future is made of the same stuff as the present', then there will always be a need to continue to listen to Simone Weil. to listen to Simone Weil.

Excerpt

In a paradox that William Faulkner himself would appreciate, his work has been best understood--but also misunderstood-- among his European admirers. Gustaf Hellström of the Swedish Academy spoke for many of them in awarding Faulkner the Nobel Prize in 1950 when he remarked that

side by side with Joyce and perhaps even more so--Faulkner is the great experimentalist among twentieth-century novelists. . . . [This] desire to experiment is shown in his mastery, unrivaled among modern British and American novelists, of the richness of the English language, a richness derived from its different linguistic elements and the periodic changes in style--from the spirit of the Elizabethans down to the scanty but expressive vocabulary of the Negroes of the Southern states.

Such comments may strike us now as commonplace, for anyone who has heard Faulkner reading his work--whether in person or on the recordings he made which now comprise an essential portion of his legacy--is astonished to learn that he does not even read syntactically, seems not to perceive his sentences as part of a customary grammar. Instead there is the persistent destruction of traditional speech rhythms so as to allow for new linguistic patterns, patterns based not on traditional phraseology but newly established through repetitive images and clusters of thought. Our trained habits of reading are rendered insufficient; his new grammatical alloys require that we attend to his very sentences in new ways. It follows that such experimentation with grammar and sentences extends to the arrangements of his novels; everything about his fictional strategies seems designed to demolish our worn anticipations. As I Lay Dying fractures the novel into fiftynine discrete segments. The Wild Palms demands that we trace concordances between two narratives rather than the sequence of events in either one of them. Requiem for a Nun, despite its typographical arrangements as a play and Camus's attempted staging in Paris is, as Faulkner always said it was, a novel which in Faulkner's usual way . . .

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