Between Couch and Piano: Psychoanalysis, Music, Art and Neuroscience

By Gilbert J. Rose | Go to book overview

Chapter 4

The music of time in Faulkner'sLight in August

Jean-Paul Sartre (1951:180-181) wrote that “The novelist's aesthetic always sends us back to his metaphysic…. And it is obvious that Faulkner's is a metaphysic of time.” He went on to state that, like other great contemporary writers-Proust, Joyce, Dos Passos, Gide and Virginia Woolf-Faulkner tries to mutilate time; his technique arrests motion in time and reaches real time by negating clock time. The nature of this “real time” and how his technique attains it are matters we will examine in this chapter.

Faulkner's style has perplexed, fascinated and infuriated critics from the beginning. One of the principal complaints registered against him has to do “with his 'perverse' maneuvering of syntax, his reckless disregard of grammatical 'decency', and the exorbitant demands he has made upon the reader's attention” (Hoffman, 1951:28). Some have been troubled by the fact that by combining contradictory elements in oxymoron he makes logical resolution impossible, and his synesthetic images make precise sense localization impossible. It has been charged that although these devices are admirably suited for depicting inner mental states, they enable him to deliberately hold elements in suspension. Some claim that this avoidance of “commitment” seriously limits his stature (Slatoff, 1963).

Aiken (1960) described Faulkner's style as “strangely fluid and slippery and heavily mannered prose” (p. 135) with passion for over-elaborate sentence structure: “trailing clauses, one after another, shadowily in apposition…parenthesis after parenthesis, the parenthesis itself often containing one or more parentheses” (p. 137). He went on to point out that these constituted in a curious and inevitable way “an elaborate method of deliberately withheld meaning of progressive and…delayed disclosure” (p. 138). Aiken

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