Academic journal article The Southern Literary Journal

Auxiliary Faulkner: Six New Volumes 1976-1977

Academic journal article The Southern Literary Journal

Auxiliary Faulkner: Six New Volumes 1976-1977

Article excerpt

That the demand for more Faulkner-related volumes continues and that much of the response to the demand is of respectable quality reaffirm the stature of the subject. The books considered here all shed light on the man, his work, his imagination, and his milieu. In differing ways, "these Thirteen," William Faulkner and the twelve scholars contributing, offer an inventory of many of the author's literary resources, along with commentary--some authoritative, some speculative--about the relationship of those resources to what Faulkner called his "amazing gift." Faulkner's full realization of that "little patch" of Mississippi which was, as Sherwood Anderson suggested, "just as important as any other" was derived from "a whole complex web of influences and traditions, including what materials he could use, what literary techniques he could employ, and what attitudes would govern his relationship with his publishers, his critics, and his readers" (Meriwether, Fifty Years After, p. 176). As a group, these studies suggest again how much can be gained by carefully focused study and how much may be lost if the results of such study are not, or perhaps cannot be, readily and profitably related to the broader subject.

These six volumes address to advantage the intricate interrelationships in the "complex web of influences and traditions" that sustained the author at work. Louis D. Rubin, Jr., and Lewis P. Simpson discuss Faulkner's progress from the experiments of the early poetry to the emergence of the Yoknapatawpha novels; Lynn Gartrell Levins treats the heroic design of those novels and suggests their relationship to the European tradition, which is also the concern of Richard P. Adams's essay. Cleanth Brooks and James B. Meriwether discuss, in turn, Faulkner and Yeats and Faulkner and Sherwood Anderson, while Sally R. Page takes a wider view of Faulkner's reverence for the inherent good in mankind. In separate pieces Joseph Blotner, Floyd C. Watkins (Fifty Years After), and Malcolm Franklin (Bitterweeds) give fresh looks at Faulkner and his land, real and mythical. Myra Jehlen writes of the class structure in that land, while Calvin S. Brown provides the non-Southern, non-agrarian reader with necessary explanations of the provincial terms and folklore that flavor the Yoknapatawpha novels and stories. Supporting it all, we have Joseph Blotner's excellent volume of letters that form, as a properly chosen collection should, the outline of an autobiography that we might desire but that Faulkner would have declined to write.

In Faulkner: Fifty Years After The Marble Faun, George H. Wolfe has brought together eight essays originally presented at a symposium conducted at the University of Alabama in the fall of 1974, the fiftieth anniversary of the issue of Faulkner's first published book. Contributors to this compact volume come from the first rank of Faulkner scholars, and any collection of views from this group is of significant value to all who read their Faulkner seriously. The initial essay, "The Sole Owner and Proprietor," is appropriately the work of Joseph Blotner; it places Faulkner in his Yoknapatawpha element and discovers, again, how he nurtured his artistic "gift" as the Yoknapatawpha saga developed unevenly into an author's demon-lover. The essays that follow demonstrate how central to Faulkner scholarship the Blotner biography has already become as Richard Adams retraces classical threads in the warp of the novels and Louis Rubin examines Faulkner's "discovery" of his vocation. Floyd Watkins, in "Habet: Faulkner and the Ownership of Property," explores the three attitudes toward property manifest in Yoknapatawpha County: the impractical communal ownership yearned for by Ike McCaslin, the exploitative possession practiced by almost any Snopes, and the prudent management characteristic of the respectable yeomanry. Watkins's essay cautions us, as does Malcolm Franklin's Bitterweeds, that Faulkner's own attitudes in these matters are better read directly than drawn from the created characters of the fiction. …

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