Faulkner in Cultural Context

Faulkner in Cultural Context

Faulkner in Cultural Context

Faulkner in Cultural Context

Excerpt

I'm inclined to think that my material, the South, is not very important to me. I just happen to know it, and dont have time in one life to learn another one and write at the same time.

WILLIAM FAULKNER

The topic of the 22nd annual Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha conference -- "Faulkner in Cultural Context" -- encapsulates the changes of the last decade in the way we read Faulkner. Clearly there has been a major shift in focus, one that has led us to incorporate into our interpretations of Faulkner's texts the various contexts that surround them -- the historical, political, economical, social, ideological, and aesthetic conditions that were contemporary with Faulkner's creation of those texts -- as well as those contexts that are contemporary with our reading of them: this latter concern a natural consequence of the conviction that no one, neither author nor critic, is free from the contextual impact. From a mode of criticism in which the text was regarded as autonomous, a uniquely transcendent form of utterance somehow remote from contextual implication -- a mode of criticism which received its most significant American impetus in the South during Faulkner's lifetime -- we have moved to an acknowledgment of context: the situation of any created text as both a product of, and a contributor to, the circumstances of its time and place.

What Faulkner once referred to as his "material, the South," can possess the most substantive kind of reality -- the materiality of war and peace, wealth and poverty, race and sexual identity -- and yet it is ultimately cultural in the sense that that reality must be understood in terms of an entire way of life: a complex of beliefs, fears, values, prejudices, aesthetic tastes: a cluster of meanings which make up the cultural language of a society. That . . .

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