Oedipal and Prodigal Returns in Alejo Carpentier and William Faulkner(*)

By Handley, George B. | The Mississippi Quarterly, Summer 1999 | Go to article overview

Oedipal and Prodigal Returns in Alejo Carpentier and William Faulkner(*)


Handley, George B., The Mississippi Quarterly


Though my Flight never pass the incoming tide of this inland sea beyond the loud reefs of the final Bahamas, I am satisfied if my hand gave voice to one people's grief

--Derek Walcott ("The Schooner Flight")(1)

Postslavery Returns

IN THE WAKE OF SLAVERY, MANY NATIONS OF PLANTATION America were forced to make the difficult transition from an agriculturally based economy undergirded by a paternalistic plantation family model, to an industrialized economy sustained by liberalist ideologies. In the Spanish-American War of 1898, the U.S. exacerbated its own postslavery contradictions by bringing to the recently emancipated territories of Cuba and Puerto Rico, among others, the neo-colonial strategy of absentee ownership along with new notions of egalitarianism.(2) The war's much-trumpeted liberalist rhetoric often disguised liberalism's marriage to older paternalistic ideologies; this allowed the U.S. to effect the consolidation of an "American" nationality by denying the South's broader relationship to slavery elsewhere in the Americas and by pretending to treat slavery's symptoms beyond U.S. borders. Among a variety of remaining legacies, our practice of literary criticism has yet to recover fully from the effects of this pretense to national innocence; we will continue to be complicitous with U.S. imperialism unless we begin to read across the various national lines of slavery and produce, as this article aims to, hemispheric readings of slavery's legacies.

It is important to remember that paternalism was not solely an ideology of the plantocracy nor was liberalism strictly an import from the North, which brought increasing technological innovations. The plantocracy itself was riddled internally by a contradiction regarding history's relevance to legitimacy; it was caught between the dream of ascendency and that of descendency, the dream of an economic rise from obscure origins and that of status determined by origin. The landed plantocracy in the Americas was, in essence, a class that sought to combine European models of aristocracy with the New World ideal of the rise of the individual.

As a result of modernization, the ideologies of the plantocracy escaped dissolution because they were integrated into the very institutional fabric of postslavery societies, and those contradictions were heightened. The paternalism of the landed classes was threatened during slavery from both ends, by bourgeois liberalism and by proletarian socialism. Once slavery was abolished, these classes found themselves in more direct competition with, and in many cases losing to, these two sectors. Consequently, they surrendered their "organic view of society and the idea that men were responsible for each other, while they retained the worst of their traditions, most notably, their ever deepening arrogance and contempt for the laboring classes and darker races."(3) The symbolic justification of the hierarchical, feudal, and paternalistic structures of the plantation family shifted from a private genealogy of the biological family to that of a public populist affiliation. The landed classes became in many cases wage earners, subject to the volatile economic changes of the early twentieth century with no genealogical hold on their own status and security. This, in turn, contributed to the growth of what Doris Sommer has called the "corporate nation," which represented "a father-figure of national proportions" to which these classes forfeited their authority.(4)

Much early twentieth-century literature represents the failure of the generative impulse with stories of childless couples, orphans, and other family crises because modernization presented the challenging task, according to Edward Said, of finding "new and different ways of conceiving of human relationships" in order to "substitute for those ties that connect members of the same family across generations."(5) That process of substitution brought to the fore "institutions, associations, and communities whose social existence was not in fact guaranteed by biology but by affiliation" (p. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Oedipal and Prodigal Returns in Alejo Carpentier and William Faulkner(*)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.