William Faulkner: Two Decades of Criticism

William Faulkner: Two Decades of Criticism

William Faulkner: Two Decades of Criticism

William Faulkner: Two Decades of Criticism

Excerpt

In an essay published in Commentary (October, 1950), Leslie Fiedler expressed an understandable exasperation over the misconceptions with which critics have obscured the "actual" Faulkner.

It has taken me ten years of wary reading to distinguish the actual writer of The Sound and the Fury from a synthetic Faulkner, compounded of sub-Marxian stereotypes . . .; and I am aware that there is yet another pseudo-Faulkner, derived mostly from the potboiling Sanctuary, a more elaborate and chaotic Erskine Caldwell, revealing a world of barnyard sex and violence through a fog of highbrow rhetoric. The grain of regrettable truth in both these views is lost in their misleading emphases; and equally confusing are the less hysterical academic partial glimpses which make Faulkner primarily a historian of Southern culture, or a canny technician whose evocations of terror are secondary to Jamesian experiments with "point of view."

Criticism has certainly been busy offering us many versions of "that writin' man of Oxford." From the start, however, much of it has been largely blocked by certain concerns with "society," "naturalism," and "the human condition." The strange genius from Mississippi seemed often to violate preconceived standards of taste, or capriciously to disregard sober warnings from his critics. That he should deliberately have announced (in the Preface to the Modern Library edition of Sanctuary, 1932) his intention of exploiting the horrible and the obscene confirmed . . .

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