William Faulkner: The Making of a Modernist

William Faulkner: The Making of a Modernist

William Faulkner: The Making of a Modernist

William Faulkner: The Making of a Modernist

Synopsis

Dan Singal, author of "The War Within: From Victorian to Modernist Thought in the South" brings a professional lifetime of researching, thinking and writing about the intellectual culture of the South to bear on the life and works of William Faulkner. Singal offers readers a bold and sweeping interpretation of Faulkner that is carefully wrought and persuasive. 8 illustrations.

Excerpt

One thing alone can be said with assurance about William Faulkner: modern scholarship has not neglected him. Evidence of flush times in Faulkner criticism can be found everywhere -- one recent Faulkner bibliography contains almost six hundred pages of entries, Faulkner conferences are held with increasing frequency, and the flood of doctoral dissertations continues unabated. "In the past few years," claims Arthur F. Kinney, "critical work on Faulkner has exceeded that of any other author in English save Shakespeare." All this attention would surely have amused Faulkner himself, who went through most of his career virtually ignored by academic writers. At present, though, we may be reaching the point of surfeit. Why, then, another book on Faulkner?

Curiously, amid all that has been published on Faulkner, one subject remains largely unexplored -- the structure and nature of his thought. To the extent that critics have dealt with the content of his mind, they have usually thrown up their hands in despair, unable to detect any thread of intellectual consistency. "I mean this quite literally," an exasperated Walter J. Slatoff announces, "both the form and meanings of his works are governed much less by any controlling ideas, or themes, or dramatic or aesthetic considerations than by a succession of temperamental impulses and responses." Joseph Gold likewise finds that Faulkner's beliefs "defy analysis." Such has been the general verdict of Faulkner scholarship until recently. It has depicted Faulkner as an untutored denizen of the backwoods -- the "country man" or "farmer" that he constantly proclaimed himself -- whose thinking did not really go beyond conventional pieties such as courage, pride, and honor and whose sheer genius enabled him to produce great literature devoid of any acquaintance with the cultural currents of his time. Faulkner for his part did everything he could to foster this conception. "I'm not even an educated man," he once protested in an interview. "I didn't like school and I quit about the sixth grade. So . . .

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