Parable thinking in W. Faulner's novel "A fable"
Development of a writer. W. Faulkner’s aesthetic views. Parable as a genre. Form and content of parables. General characteristic of the novel. Allegoric character of the novel. Christian symbolism in the novel. The figure of Christ in the novel.
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Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine
Skovoroda Kharkiv National Pedagogical University
Department of Foreign Philology
Parable thinking in W. FAULNER's novel “A FABLE”
by Yana Kolomiets
student of the Department
of Foreign Philology
5 E/Sp group
Kharkiv - 2010
PART I. W.FAULKNER AND HIS CREATIVE ACTIVITIES
1.1 Development of a writer
1.2 W. Faulkner's aesthetic views
PART II. FEATURES OF A PARABLE
2.1 Parable as a genre
2.2 Form and content of parables
PART III. W. FAULKNER'S “A FABLE” AS AN PIECE OF PARABLE THINKING
3.1 General characteristic of the novel
3.2 Allegoric character of the novel
3.3 Christian symbolism in the novel
3.4 The figure of Christ in the novel
PART IV. Methodological reccomendations FOR TEACHING FAULKNER'S CREATIVE WRITING
American literature, to which Faulkner belongs, is comparatively new. Yet among many writers that it includes, there are those whose works present special interest for literary criticism. William Faulkner is, undoubtedly, one of the most significant and outstanding representatives of American literature. More than simply a renowned Mississippi writer, the Nobel Prize-winning novelist and short story writer is acclaimed throughout the world as one of the twentieth century's greatest writers. Among his greatest works are the novels all set in the same small Southern county - novels that include Absalom, Absalom!, As I Lay Dying, Light in August, and above all, A Fable- that would one day be recognized among the greatest novels ever written by an American.
A Fable occupies a curious position among Faulkner's works. Written during the period of his greatest acclaim, the first major novel he produced after receiving the Nobel Prize in 1950, it appeared at a time when critics were undoubtedly most disposed to heap praise upon him for the slimmest of reasons. A Fable was awarded the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award in 1955, but was considered a failure by practically all the reviewers and many of the influential critics; few commentators have since found reasons to alter their opinions.
Since Faulkner's literary career his works had been studied well and many critic works were published. But there still there are some “white spots” in these studies, and the novel A Fable is one of them. Actually it is not studied properly. In critical reviews not much attention is paid to parable thinking in this novel that is very important for direct comprehension of the philosophical ideas and concepts presented here.
Thus, the topicality of the research consists in the fact that at present parable as a genre attracts more attention of the researchers as a strong aesthetic and philosophical phenomenon.
Undertaking our research, we formulated our aim as discovery and the analysis of the parable thinking in Faulkner's novel.
The aim determines the concrete tasks of the diploma paper:
· to consider Faulkner's life and its connection with his creative activities, as it is necessary for the understanding of the novel;
· to highlight the main features of parable, its peculiarities and the differences between parable and novel;
· to single out the parable thinking in the novel.
The object of the research is W. Faulkner's writings and parable as a literary genre.
The subject of the research is the novel A Fable and features of parable thinking in it.
Realization of the tasks has been accomplished with the help of the following methods:
· historical-sociological method which means historical and sociological conditions of the writing;
· biographical method of the research to consider Faulkner's life and its connection with his creative works;
· descriptive method which involved gathering information about the writer's life and creative activities, examining it deeply and thoroughly and for analyzing the text proper;
· method of text interpretation to study the novel properly, to single out the parable thinking in it.
Scientific novelty consists in the fact that the phenomenon of parable thinking in this novel has been studied for the first time.
Practical value of the research is that the results can be used during the lessons of English literature at school or seminars on World literature at higher educational establishments.
PART I. W. FAULKNER AND HIS CREATIVE ACTIVITIES
1.1 Development of a writer
William Cuthbert Faulkner was born on September 25, 1897, in New Albany, Mississippi, the first of four sons born to Murry and Maud Butler Falkner. He was named after his great-grandfather, William Clark Falkner, the Old Colonel, who had been killed eight years earlier in a duel with his former business partner in the streets of Ripley, Mississippi. A lawyer, politician, planter, businessman, Civil War colonel, railroad financier, and finally, a best-selling writer of the novel The White Rose of Memphis, the Old Colonel, even in death, loomed as a larger-than-life model of personal and professional success for his male descendants.
A few days before William's fifth birthday, the Falkners moved to Oxford, Mississippi, at the urging of Murry's father, John Wesley Thompson Falkner. Called the Young Colonel out of homage to his father rather than to actual military service, the younger Falkner had abruptly decided to sell the railroad begun by his father. Disappointed that he would not inherit the railroad, Murry took a series of jobs in Oxford, most of them with the help of his father. The elder Falkner, meanwhile, founded the First National Bank of Oxford in 1910.
When a young man William demonstrated artistic talent, drawing and writing poetry, but around the sixth grade he began to grow increasingly bored with his studies. His earliest literary efforts were romantic, conscientiously modeled on English poets such as Burns, Thomson, Housman, and Swinburne. While still in his youth, he also made the acquaintance of two individuals who would play an important role in his future: a childhood sweetheart, Estelle Oldham, and a literary mentor, Phil Stone.
William's other close acquaintance from this period arose from their mutual interest in poetry. When Stone read the young poet's work, he immediately recognized William's talent and set out to give Faulkner encouragement, advice and models for study [21, p.202-214].
Earlier, Faulkner had tried to join the U.S. Army Air Force, but he had been turned down because of his height. In his RAF application, he lied about numerous facts, including his birth date and birthplace, in an attempt to pass himself as British. He also spelled his name “Faulkner”, believing it looked more British, and in meeting with RAF officials he affected a British accent.
Though he had seen no combat in his wartime military service, upon returning to Oxford in December 1918, he allowed others to believe he had. He told many stories of his adventures in the RAF, most of which were highly exaggerated or patently untrue, including injuries that had left him in constant pain and with a silver plate in his head. His brief service in the RAF would also serve him in his written fiction, particularly in his first published novel, Soldiers' Pay, in 1926.
Back in Oxford, he first engaged in a footloose life, basking in the temporary glory of a war veteran. In 1919, he enrolled at the University of Mississippi in Oxford under a special provision for war veterans, even though he had never graduated from high school. In August, his first published poem, L'Apres-Midi d'un Faune, appeared in The New Republic. While a student at Ole Miss, he published poems and short stories in the campus newspaper, the Mississippian, and submitted artwork for the university yearbook. In the fall of 1920, Faulkner helped to found a dramatic club on campus called The Marionettes, for which he wrote a one-act play titled The Marionettes but which was never staged. After three semesters of study at Ole Miss, he dropped out in November 1920. Over the next few years, Faulkner wrote reviews, poems, and prose pieces for The Mississippian and had several odd jobs. At the recommendation of Stark Young, a novelist in Oxford, in 1921 he took a job in New York City as an assistant in a bookstore managed by Elizabeth Prall . His most notorious job during this period was his stint as postmaster in the university post office from the spring of 1922 to October 31, 1924. By all accounts, he was a terrible postmaster, spending much of his time reading or playing cards. When a postal inspector came to investigate, he agreed to resign. During this period, he also served as a scoutmaster for the Oxford Boy Scout troop, but he was asked to resign for “moral reasons” (probably drinking).
In 1924, his friend Phil Stone secured the publication of a volume of Faulkner's poetry The Marble Faun by the Four Seas Company. It was published in December 1924 in an edition of 1,000 copies, dedicated to his mother and with a preface by Stone .
In January 1925, Faulkner moved to New Orleans and fell in with a literary crowd which included Sherwood Anderson and centered around The Double Dealer, a literary magazine whose credits include the first published works of Hart Crane, Ernest Hemingway, Robert Penn Warren and Edmund Wilson. Faulkner published several essays and sketches in The Double Dealer and in the New Orleans Times-Picayune; the latter would later be collected under the title New Orleans Sketches. He wrote his first novel Soldiers' Pay, and on Anderson's advice sent it to the publisher Horace Liveright. After Liveright accepted the novel, Faulkner sailed from New Orleans to Europe, arriving in Italy on August 2. His principal residence during the next several months was near Paris, France, just around the corner from the Luxembourg Gardens, where he spent much of his time; his written description of the gardens would later be revised for the closing of his novel Sanctuary. While in France, he would sometimes go to the café that James Joyce would frequent, but the interminably shy Faulkner never dared speak to him. After visiting England he returned to the United States in December .
In February 1926, Soldiers' Pay was published by Boni and Liveright in an edition of 2,500 copies. Again in New Orleans, he began working on his second novel Mosquitoes, a satirical novel with characters based closely upon his literary milieu in New Orleans; set aboard a yacht in Lake Pontchartrain, the novel is today considered one of Faulkner's weakest. For his third novel, however, Faulkner considered some advice Anderson had given him that he should write about his native region. In doing so, he drew upon both regional geography and family history (particularly his great-grandfather's Civil War and post-war exploits) to create “Yocona” County, later renamed “Yoknapatawpha.” In a 1956 interview, Faulkner described the liberating effect the creation of his fictional county had for him as an artist: “Beginning with Sartoris I discovered that my own little postage stamp of native soil was worth writing about and that I would never live long enough to exhaust it, and by sublimating the actual into apocryphal I would have complete liberty to use whatever talent I might have to its absolute top” [37, p.165].
Faulkner may have been excited by his latest achievement, but his publisher was less thrilled: Liveright refused to publish the novel, which Faulkner had titled Flags in the Dust. Dejected, he began to shop the novel around to other publishers, but with similar results. In the meantime, believing his career as a writer all but over, he began to write a novel strictly for pleasure, with no regard, he said, for its eventual publication. The purged novel, trimmed by about a third, was published in January 1929 under the title Sartoris .
After The Sound and the Fury was published in October 1929, Faulkner had to turn his attention to making money. Earlier that year, he had written Sanctuary, a novel which Faulkner later claimed in an introduction he conceived “deliberately to make money”. The novel was immediately turned down by the publisher. Faulkner's need for income stemmed largely from his growing family. In April, Estelle Oldham had divorced Cornell Franklin, and in June she and Faulkner were married at or near College Hill Presbyterian Church. Estelle brought two children to the marriage. Faulkner, now working nights at a power plant, wrote As I Lay Dying, later claiming it was a “tour de force” and that he had written it “in six weeks, without changing a word” [41, p.310-316].
Though his hyperbolic claims about the novel were not entirely true, As I Lay Dying is nevertheless a masterfully written successor to The Sound and the Fury. As with the earlier work, the novel focuses on a family and is told stream-of-conscious style by different narrators, but rather than an aristocratic family, the focus here is on lower-class farm laborers from southern Yoknapatawpha County, the Bundrens, whose matriarch, Addie, has died and had asked to be buried in Jefferson, “a day's hard ride away” to the north. The novel would be published in October 1930.
That same year, his publisher had a change of heart about publishing Sanctuary and sent galley proofs to Faulkner for proofreading, but Faulkner decided, at considerable personal expense, to drastically revise the novel. The novel, which features the rape and kidnaping of an Ole Miss coed, Temple Drake, by a sinister bootlegger named Popeye, shocked and horrified readers, particularly in Oxford; published in February 1931, Sanctuary would be Faulkner's best-selling novel until The Wild Palms was published in 1939 .
In January 1931, Estelle gave birth to a daughter, Alabama. The child, born prematurely, would live only a few days. Faulkner's first collection of short stories, These 13, would be published in September and dedicated to “Estelle and Alabama”.
Soon after Alabama's death, Faulkner began writing a novel tentatively titled Dark House, which would feature a man of uncertain racial lineage who, as an orphaned child, was named Joe Christmas. In this Faulkner's first major exploration of race he examines the lives of outcasts in Yoknapatawpha County, including Joanna Burden, the granddaughter and sister of civil rights activists gunned down in the town square; Gail Hightower, so caught up in family pride and heritage that he ignores his own wife's decline into infidelity and eventual suicide; and Lena Grove, a (literally) barefoot and pregnant girl from Alabama whose journey to find the father of her child both opens and closes the novel. At the center of the novel is the orphan, the enigmatic Joe Christmas, who defies easy categorization into either race, white or black .
The year 1932 would mark the beginning of a new sometime profession for Faulkner, as screenwriter in Hollywood. During an extended trip to New York City the previous year, he had made a number of important contacts in Hollywood, including actress Tallulah Bankhead. In April 1932, Faulkner signed a six-week contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and in May Faulkner initiated what would be the first of many stints as screenwriter in Hollywood. In July, Faulkner met director Howard Hawks, with whom he shared a common passion for flying and hunting. Of the six screenplays for which Faulkner would receive on-screen credit, five would be for films directed by Hawks, the first of which was Today We Live (1933), based on Faulkner's short story Turn About [35, p.47-52].
Faulkner returned to Oxford in August after the sudden death of his father. With the addition of his mother to his growing number of dependents, Faulkner needed money. He returned to Hollywood in October with his mother and younger brother Dean, and sold Paramount the rights to film Sanctuary. The film, retitled The Story of Temple Drake, opened in May 1933, one month after the Memphis premiere of Today We Live which Faulkner attended. That spring also saw the publication of A Green Bough, Faulkner's second and last collection of poetry.
In June, Estelle gave birth to Faulkner's only surviving daughter, Jill. The following winter, Faulkner wrote to his publisher that he was working on a new novel whose working title, like Light in August before, was Dark House. “Roughly”, he wrote, “the theme is a man who outraged the land, and the land then turned and destroyed the man's family. Quentin Compson, of the “Sound & Fury”, tells it, or ties it together; he is the protagonist so that it is not complete apocrypha” [17, p.14-15].
In April 1934, Faulkner published a second collection of stories, Doctor Martino and Other Stories. That spring, he began a series of Civil War stories to be sold to The Saturday Evening Post. Faulkner would later revise and collect them together to form the novel The Unvanquished (1938). In March 1935, he published the non-Yoknapatawpha novel Pylon, which was inspired apparently by the death of Captain Merle Nelson during an air show on February 14, 1934, at the inauguration of an airport in New Orleans. A few months later, in November, his brother Dean was killed in a crash.
In December, Faulkner began another “tour of duty” in Hollywood working with Hawks, this time at 20th Century-Fox, where he met Meta Carpenter, Hawks' secretary and script girl, with whom Faulkner would have an affair. Late that month, Faulkner and collaborator Joel Sayre completed a screenplay for the film The Road to Glory, which would premiere in June 1936 .
Today We Live (1933), starring Franchot Tone, Joan Crawford, and Robert Young, was Faulkner's first credited screenplay and the only one he wrote for the big screen based on his own published fiction.
Faulkner spent much of 1936 and the first eight months of 1937 in Hollywood, again working for 20th Century-Fox, receiving on-screen writing credit for Slave Ship (1937) and contributing to the story for Gunga Din (1939). In April, his mistress, Meta Carpenter, married Wolfgang Rebner and went with him to Germany. Back at Rowan Oak in September, Faulkner began working on a new novel, which would consist of two short novellas with two completely separate casts of characters appearing alternately throughout the book. Faulkner's title for the book was If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem, consisting of the novellas The Wild Palms and Old Man.
In February 1938, Random House published The Unvanquished, a novel consisting of seven stories, six of which had originally appeared in an earlier form in The Saturday Evening Post. A kind of “prequel” to Faulkner's first Yoknapatawpha novel, The Unvanquished tells the earlier history of the Sartoris family during and immediately after the Civil War, focusing especially on Bayard Sartoris, son of the legendary Colonel John Sartoris who, like Faulkner's real-life great-grandfather, was gunned down in the street by a former business partner.
While in New York in the fall of 1938, Faulkner began writing a short story, Barn Burning, which would be published in Harper's the following year. But Faulkner was not finished with the story. He had in mind a trilogy about the Snopes family, a lower-class rural laboring white family who, unlike the Compsons and Sartorises of other Faulkner novels, had little regard for southern tradition, heritage, or lineage. The Snopes, often regarded as Faulkner's metaphor for the rising “redneck” middle class in the South, more interested in avaricious commercial gain than honor or pride, were to be led in the trilogy by the enterprising Flem Snopes, who in the original story Barn Burning had appeared only briefly as the eldest son of Ab Snopes [41, p. 310-318].
In January 1939, Faulkner was elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters. That same month, If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem was published under the title The Wild Palms. In April 1940, the first book of the Snopes trilogy, The Hamlet, was published by Random House. Featuring a reworked version of Barn Burning and other stories Faulkner had published, including Spotted Horses, the novel follows Flem Snopes from being the poor son of a barn-burning sharecropper to his securing a storekeeper's job, as “fire insurance”, in the hamlet of Frenchman's Bend (in southeastern Yoknapatawpha County).
Throughout 1941, Faulkner spent much of his time writing and reworking stories into an episodic novel about the McCaslin family, several members of whom had appeared briefly in The Unvanquished. Though several stories that would comprise Go Down, Moses had been published separately, Faulkner revised extensively the parts that would comprise the novel, which spans more than 100 years in the history of Yoknapatawpha County.
Barn Burning was made into a short film as part of the The American Short Story Collection. Starring Tommy Lee Jones as Ab Snopes, Shawn Whittington as Sartie, and Jimmy Faulkner, William Faulkner's nephew, as Major De Spain, the video is excellent for classroom usage.
Sale of his novels, meanwhile, had slumped, so he returned to California in July 1942 to begin another stint at screen writing, this time for Warner Brothers, who insisted he sign for seven years, which he was told was “only a formality”.
The following year, he began to work intermittently on A Fable, a novel whose plot would revolve around a reincarnation of Christ during the First World War. It would take him more than ten years to complete it . Also in 1943, he was assigned to write the screenplay for Hemingway's novel To Have and Have Not, but because of an extended vacation, he did not begin work on it until February 1944. In August 1944, Faulkner began writing a screenplay adaptation of Raymond Chandler's detective novel The Big Sleep. It would premiere, also starring Bogart and Bacall, in August 1946. During this period, Faulkner also collaborated with Jean Renoir on his film The Southerner, but with no screen credit since it would violate his Warner Brothers contract. It would premiere in August 1945. The three films together would represent the pinnacle of Faulkner's screen writing career.
In March 1947, while continuing to work on his Christ fable, he wrote letters to the Oxford newspaper to support the preservation of the old courthouse on the town square, which some townspeople had proposed demolishing to build a larger one. In April, he agreed to meet in question-and-answer sessions with English classes at the University of Mississippi, but he invited controversy when his candid statement about Hemingway - “he has no courage, has never climbed out on a limb ... has never used a word where the reader might check his usage by a dictionary” [13, p.94] - was included in a press release about the sessions. When Hemingway read the remarks, he was hurt, moved even to write a letter answering the charge that he lacked “courage”, but when it grew too long, he asked a friend, Brigadier General C.T. Lanham to write and tell Faulkner only what he knew about Hemingway's heroism as a war correspondent. He wrote Hemingway apologizing and saying, “I hope it won't matter a damn to you. But if or whenever it does, please accept another squirm from yours truly” [13, p.95].
In January 1948, Faulkner put aside A Fable to write a novel he considered a detective story. The central character is Lucas Beauchamp, who had appeared as a key descendant of old Lucius Quintus Carothers McCaslin in Go Down, Moses, upon whose name his own was based. In the novel Beauchamp is accused of murdering a white man and must rely upon the wits of a teenage boy, Chick Mallison, to clear his name before the lynch mob arrives to do its job. In July, MGM purchased the film rights to the novel, and in October, Intruder in the Dust was published. In the spring of 1949, director Clarence Brown and a film crew descended upon Oxford, Mississippi, to film the novel on location, and while the townspeople eagerly welcomed the film-makers, even playing a number of extra and minor roles in the film, Faulkner was very reluctant to participate, though he may have helped to rework the final scene. In October 1949, the world premiere of Brown's Intruder in the Dust took place at the Lyric Theatre in Oxford. Faulkner attended at the insistence of his Aunt Alabama McLean .
In November, Faulkner published Knight's Gambit, a collection of detective stories including Tomorrow and Smoke. That same month, in Stockholm, fifteen of the eighteen members of the Swedish Academy voted to award the Nobel Prize for literature to Faulkner, but since a unanimous vote was required, the awarding of the prize was delayed by a year. The world premiere of the film version of Intruder in the Dust occurred at the Lyric Theatre in Oxford in 1949 .
In the summer of 1949, Faulkner had met Joan Williams, a young student and author of a prize-winning story. In 1950, he began collaboration with her on Requiem for a Nun, a part-prose, part-play sequel to Sanctuary. In narrative prose sections preceding each of the play's three acts, Faulkner details some of the early history of Jefferson, Yoknapatawpha County, and the state of Mississippi. His collaboration with Williams would eventually grow into a love affair.
In June 1950, Faulkner was awarded the Howells Medal for distinguished work in American fiction. In August, he published Collected Stories, the third and last collection of stories published by Faulkner. It includes forty-two of the forty-six stories published in magazines since 1930, excluding those which he had published or incorporated into The Unvanquished, The Hamlet, Go Down, Moses, and Knight's Gambit. Two months later, Faulkner received word that the Swedish Academy had voted to award him and Bertrand Russell as corecipients of the Nobel Prize for literature, Russell for 1950 and Faulkner for the previous year. At first he refused to go to Stockholm to receive the award, but pressured by the U.S. State Department, the Swedish Ambassador to the United States, and finally by his own family, he agreed to go [13, p.101-115].
On December 10, he delivered his acceptance speech to the academy in a voice so low and rapid that few could make out what he was saying, but when his words were published in the newspaper the following day, it was recognized for its brilliance; in later years, Faulkner's speech would be lauded as the best speech ever given at a Nobel ceremony. In it, Faulkner alluded to the impending Cold War and the constant fear, “a general and universal physical fear”, whose consequence was to make “the young man or woman writing today forgets the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat”. The artist, Faulkner said, must re-learn “the old verities and truths of the heart, the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed - love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice” [7, p.363]. He concludes on an optimistic note: “I decline to accept the end of man... I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet's, the writer's duty is to write about these things.... The poet's voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail” [7, p.364].
At Howard Hawks' request, Faulkner returned to Hollywood one last time in February 1951 to rework a script titled The Left Hand of God for 20th Century-Fox. The following month, he was awarded the National Book Award for Collected Stories, and in May, shortly after having delivered the commencement address at his daughter's high school graduation ceremony, French President Vincent Auriol bestowed the award of Legion of Honor upon Faulkner .
While in New York in January 1953, he adapted his story The Brooch for television while also working on A Fable and suffering bouts of back pain and alcoholism that required hospitalization. In March he was again hospitalized. The following month, Estelle suffered a hemorrhage and heart attack, so Faulkner returned to Oxford. He returned to New York in May, where he met Dylan Thomas. In June, he delivered an address to Jill's graduating class at Pine Manor Junior College. Following another hospitalization in September, Faulkner was horrified to find his sacrosanct privacy invaded by the publication of a two-part biographical article by Robert Coughlan in September and October's issues of Life magazine .
In November, Albert Camus' agent wrote Faulkner requesting permission to adapt Requiem for a Nun for the stage, to which Faulkner agreed. At the end of the month, he traveled to Egypt to assist Howard Hawks in the filming of Land of the Pharaohs, their last collaboration. For the next several months, he traveled throughout Europe. He returned to Oxford at the end of April 1954, after a six-month absence. That same month saw the publication of Mississippi, a mostly nonfiction article mingling history, his childhood, and his own work against the backdrop of his native state, in Holiday magazine; and The Faulkner Reader, an anthology which includes the complete text of The Sound and the Fury, three additional long stories (or “novellas”) - The Bear from Go Down, Moses, Old Man from The Wild Palms, and Spotted Horses from The Hamlet - as well as several other stories and novel excerpts. The three novellas would in 1958 be published together under the title Three Famous Short Novels. In August, after more than ten years of work, Faulkner finally published A Fable, dedicating it to Jill and Estelle. Later that month, Jill and Paul Summers were married in Oxford .
To keep track of the complex plot in A Fable, Faulkner wrote outlines of the novel's seven days on the wall in his office at Rowan Oak.
At the end of June 1954, Faulkner had accepted an invitation from the U.S. State Department to attend an international writers conference in San Paulo in August. Now an internationally known public figure, Faulkner no longer refused to appear in public in his own nation, and he usually accepted the increasing requests by the State Department to attend cultural events abroad. In addition, he also began to take a public stand as a moderate, if not liberal, southerner in the growing debate over school integration.
Though A Fable is generally considered one of Faulkner's weakest novels, in January 1955, it earned the National Book Award for Fiction and in May a Pulitzer Prize in fiction. In August, Faulkner began a three-month, seven-nation goodwill tour at the request of the State Department, traveling first to Japan, where at Nagano he participated in a seminar whose proceedings, along with two speeches he had delivered, were published as Faulkner at Nagano. Finally he returned to the United States in October, during which month Random House published Big Woods: The Hunting Stories, a collection of four previously published stories about hunting with five “interchapters” at the beginning and end of the book and between chapters to set or change the mood. He dedicated the book to his editor at Random House, Saxe Commins [13, p.22-29].
In November, Faulkner condemned segregation in an address before the Southern Historical Association in the Peabody Hotel in Memphis, where because of segregation much effort was needed for blacks to be admitted. The speech was published in the Memphis Commercial Appeal under the headline “A mixed audience hears Faulkner condemn the `shame' of segregation”. Though Faulkner opposed segregation, however, he opposed federal involvement in the issue, which resulted in his being understood by neither southern conservatives nor northern liberals. Faulkner's increasingly vocal stand on the issues of race drew fire from his fellow southerners, including anonymous threats and rejection by his own brother, John. Misunderstanding over Faulkner's views increased when in a February 1956 interview with a London Sunday Times correspondent he was quoted as saying that he would “fight for Mississippi against the United States, even if it meant going out into the street and shooting Negroes” .
In April 1956, black civil rights legend W.E.B. Du Bois challenged Faulkner to a debate on integration on the steps of the courthouse in Sumner, Mississippi, where the accused in the Emmett Till murder trial had been acquitted by an all-white jury. Faulkner declined in a telegram, stating “I do not believe there is a debatable point between us. We both agree in advance that the position you will take is right morally, legally, and ethically. If it is not evident to you that the position I take in asking for moderation and patience is right practically then we will both waste our breath in debate” [7, p.362].
In September, Camus' adaptation of Requiem for a Nun premiered at the Théâtre des Mathurins. That same month, Faulkner became involved in the Eisenhower administration's “People-to-People Program”, the aim of which was to promote American culture behind the Iron Curtain. At the end of September a steering committee consisting of Faulkner, John Steinbeck, and Donald Hall drew up several “resolutions”, including one supporting the liberation of Ezra Pound, but Faulkner would withdraw from the committee three months later.
From February to June 1957, Faulkner was writer-in-residence at the University of Virginia and agreed to a number of question-and-answer sessions with the students, faculty, and faculty spouses. Highlights of the taped sessions would be published in 1959 by Professors Joseph Blotner and Frederick Gwynn under the title “Faulkner in the University” .
In May 1957 Faulkner published The Town, the second volume of the “Snopes” trilogy. Picking up where The Hamlet left off, it depicts Flem Snopes' ruthless struggle to take over the town of Jefferson. Now dividing his time between Oxford and Charlottesville, from February to May 1958 he fulfilled his second term as writer-in-residence at Virginia. Also while living in Virginia, he began to relish fox-hunting, and he was invited to join the Farmington Hunt Club, an achievement he displayed proudly by posing for photographs and portraits in his pink membership coat. In December, Jill's second son, William, was born, and the following month saw the premiere of Requiem for a Nun on stage at the John Golden Theater in New York, making the United States the thirteenth nation in which the play had been produced .
Throughout 1960, Faulkner continued to divide his time between Oxford and Charlottesville. On October 16, Faulkner's mother, Maud Butler Falkner, died at the age of 88. A talented painter who had completed nearly 600 paintings after 1941, she had remained close to her eldest son throughout her life.
In January 1961, Faulkner willed all his manuscripts to the William Faulkner Foundation at the University of Virginia. In February, he accepted an invitation from General William Westmoreland to visit the military academy at West Point. In April, Faulkner went on a final trip abroad for the State Department, this time to Venezuela, where he was the guest of President Rómulo Betancourt. He spent the summer in Oxford, where in August he completed the manuscript for his nineteenth and final novel. Titled The Reivers, an archaic Scottish spelling of an old term for “thieves”, the novel is a light-hearted romp set at the turn of the century in which Boon Hogganbeck takes eleven-year-old Lucius “Loosh” Priest and a stowaway, Ned McCaslin, the Priest family's black coachman, on a joyride to a Memphis brothel in Loosh's grandfather's Winton Flyer automobile while “Boss” Priest is away at a funeral. Beginning the novel, subtitled A Reminiscence, with the phrase “Grandfather said…” Faulkner dedicated it to “Victoria, Mark, Paul, William, Burks”, his grandchildren by his two step-children and biological daughter. The novel, published in June 1962, would posthumously earn for Faulkner his second Pulitzer Prize for fiction [21, p.30-48].
In January of that year, Faulkner suffered another fall from a horse, forcing yet another hospital stay. In April, he again visited West Point with his wife, daughter, and son-in-law, and the following month in New York, fellow Mississippi writer Eudora Welty presented Faulkner with the Gold Medal for Fiction awarded by the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
On June 17, Faulkner was again injured by a fall from a horse. In constant pain now, he signaled something was wrong when he asked on July 5 to be taken to Wright's Sanatorium in Byhalia. Though he had been a patient there many times, he had always been taken there before against his will. His nephew, Jimmy, and Estelle accompanied him on the 65-mile trip to Byhalia, where he was admitted at 6 p.m. Less than eight hours later, at about 1:30 a.m. on July 6, 1962 - the Old Colonel's birthday - his heart stopped, and though the doctor on duty applied external heart massage for forty-five minutes, he could not resuscitate him. William Faulkner died of a heart attack at the age of 64. He was buried on July 7 at St. Peter's Cemetery in Oxford. As calls of condolence came upon the family from around the world and the press - including novelist William Styron, who covered the funeral for Life magazine - clamored for answers to their questions from family members, a family representative relayed to them a message from the family: “Until he's buried he belongs to the family. After that he belongs to the world”.
1.2 W. Faulkner's aesthetic views
Martin A. Bertman said that there is something he would call the metaphysical function of literature. It is often overlooked by critics, since, as an interpretive dimension, its importance relates only to great literature. Critical accessibility to great literature, however, is incomplete without its inclusion.
The great literary work's metaphysical function is to bring the reader to the periphery of his existence. The reader can contemplate the work, have a liberating emotion which puts a distance between himself and other emotions generated by the work. This emotion is the prerational basis for rational discrimination. It is the existential condition that provides the focus for all levels of such discriminations. It suggests the continued relevance of the great work, for those who have the capacity for appropriate discrimination.
Faulkner's writings by their greatness exemplify this. These writings, especially some of the novels, present an added characteristic, which Martin Bertman called William Faulkner's Thucydidean aesthetic.
Faulkner thinks to find the individual through history. Like Thucydides, he believes that an examination of the past conflicts of men will uncover for each man the “old verities”. Faulkner's literary pursuit of the meaning of the Civil War searches for the old verities and truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed - love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice”, as he said in his acceptance of the Noble Prize in 1946. His approach assumes the eternality of human nature; and, further, it elevates character, in transaction with chance, as the essential explanatory form of human meaning.
It is understandable that the modern mentality, heir both to evolutionary models and to relativistic theories, can easily misunderstand Faulkner's historical project cum literature. It may be seen as mere quaint moral mastication or, yet worse, be misunderstood as subject matter rather than as the method or vehicle of the subject matter [5, p.99-105].
William Faulkner in his speech at the Nobel Banquet at the City Hall in Stockholm in December 1950 said: “I feel that this award was not made to me as a man, but to my work - a life's work in the agony and sweat of the human spirit, not for glory and least of all for profit, but to create out of the materials of the human spirit something which did not exist before. So this award is only mine in trust. It will not be difficult to find a dedication for the money part of it commensurate with the purpose and significance of its origin. But I would like to do the same with the acclaim too, by using this moment as a pinnacle from which I might be listened to by the young men and women already dedicated to the same anguish and travail, among whom is already that one who will someday stand here where I am standing.
Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only the question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.
He must learn them again. He must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid; and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed - love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice.
Until he relearns these things, he will write as though he stood among and watched the end of man. I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure: that when the last dingdong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking. I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet's, the writer's duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet's voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail” [3, p.203-205].
In his novel A Fable Faulkner shows that his aesthetic views are closely connected with the politics. One instance is the moment when ethics trespasses on politics and the marshal incorporates ethics into his politics. The marshal's profound anguish, coming from the conflict between his ardent desire to save his son's life and his sense of obligation to execute him, proves that it originates exactly from the ethics that Marthe represents. On the night after meeting with Marthe, he even tries to persuade the Corporal to escape abroad, saying, “there is the earth. You will have half of it now” [14, p.291], and “I will take Polchek tomorrow, execute him with rote and fanfare” [14, p.292] as “the lamb which saved Isaac” [14, p.292], by the name of which he means his son.
Against the marshal's wishes, the Corporal chooses to be executed in order to show the adherents that he has not distorted his belief in his action. Therefore, even if prior to the talk with his son the marshal had bragged, “by destroying his life tomorrow morning, I will establish forever that he didn't even live in vain, let alone die so” [14, p.280], the marshal's failure to save his son's life means that he loses to him as much as Marthe loses to him in their confrontation concerning the Corporal's life. Besides that, Marthe's idea that the Corporal loses by death, which is predicated by her ethics, is eventually relativized by the Corporal's idea that he wins by death, while the Marshal, who understands that death means victory for his son, cannot realize his wish to save his son's life. All these above suggest that, despite the ultimate political utilization of the Corporal's mutiny and its failure, Marthe, the marshal and the Corporal all lose and win at the same time, with the political/ethical struggle over the execution suspended in undecidability.
Thus, the Corporal's temporary success in the complete suspension of warfare is the realization of Marthe's ethics in the form of politics; more exactly, it is the fulfillment of his design to obtaining the hegemony of ethics in a marshal-like forcible way. This is because, in actuality, the Corporal risks three thousand privates' lives to raise a mutiny for suspension of warfare, and this makes us acknowledge that in his mutinous action there does exist the element of the politics the marshal stands for. In other words, the Corporal's anti-war action rests in the chiasma of Marthe's ethics and the marshal's politics. That is to say, Marthe's ethics is certainly not represented as belonging to the women's exclusive sphere.
Ted Atkinson in his book “Faulkner and the Great Depression: Aesthetics, Ideology, and Cultural Politics” makes interdisciplinary analysis of Faulkner's aesthetic and ideological response to the anxieties that characterized the South and the nation during hard times, Atkinson makes a convincing argument for re-evaluating Faulkner's fiction between 1927 and 1941 in the context of dominant social and political debates going on at the time. Atkinson makes logical connections between history, biography, cultural theory, and close textual analysis of individual works to highlight Faulkner's insightful engagement with the cultural politics that defined the thirties .
While the particular focus of this book is the Great Depression, Atkinson's persuasive refutation of the claim that Faulkner's experimental fiction is detached from social, political, and economic realities invites others to further examine Faulkner's work as reflective and constitutive of the social milieu in which he lived and wrote. In charting the history of political debates over literary aesthetics, Atkinson investigates the reasons behind Faulkner's longstanding reputation as apolitical and “regionally challenged”. He provides a thorough overview both of the perceived schism between proponents of formalism and those of social realism, and of the recent theory illustrating the complex negotiation between them.
Atkinson presents interesting material showing the positive reception of Faulkner in the thirties by advocates of proletarianism, such as publications like New Masses, before launching into a careful analysis that effectively demonstrates how some of Faulkner's most modernist works defy the simplistic polarity between formalism and realism that according to Atkinson has blinded critics to the political Faulkner and prevented them from sufficiently seeing Faulkner “as a writer with his finger on the pulse of American cultural politics” [12, p.105-114].
By situating Faulkner in the context of the relationship between art and politics, Atkinson provides acute and lucid readings of Faulkner's fiction. He sees Mosquitoes as Faulkner's effort to deal with the changing role of the artist amidst a new rise in social consciousness in the thirties, and The Sound and the Fury as a representation of the inevitable relationship between literary and capitalist modes of production. Other texts, according to Atkinson, mediate some of the central economic and political concerns of the Depression era; he reads representations of rape, lynching, and mob violence in Sanctuary, Light in August, Absalom, Absalom!, and Dry September in the context of fascism and the popularity of Hollywood gangster movies during the thirties, and examines depictions of revolutionary sentiments in As I Lay Dying, Barn Burning, The Hamlet, and The Tall Men in the context of rural dissent, federal relief, the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933, and the social activism of groups like the STFU (Southern Tenant Farmers' Union) and the SCU (Share Cropper's Union) .
Finally Atkinson understands The Unvanquished as part of a broader trend in American popular culture in the thirties to view the Great Depression through the Civil War, and considers the figure of Granny both as a Southern matriarch and as a gangster figure. Constantly scrutinizing the relationship between text and context, Atkinson reads Faulkner's texts both as works of art and as cultural artifacts produced by and engaged with the multiple and often contradictory socio-cultural forces of the time.
While Atkinson offers interpretations of specific characters and texts, he resists decisive readings of what Faulkner's texts reveal about politics, ideology, and the nature of capitalism; rather, he claims to approach Faulkner's fiction and life “by accepting, rather than trying to resolve, the dialectical forces of contradiction” and “thus reading his texts in context as sites of intense ideological negotiation and political struggle” that give aesthetic expression to the Depression-era desire to navigate and order multiple voices. In my opinion, this methodology is paradoxically both strength and limitation. On the one hand, as Atkinson draws attention to the many competing visions of the American experience embedded in the interplay of ideas within and between Faulkner's texts, he is able to present Faulkner's “nuanced” and “complex” treatments of social relations that produce “a kind of realism cast aside in the utopian endeavors of social realism”. Such an approach allows Atkinson to grapple with modernism's simultaneous escape from and attachment to ideology, Faulkner's “ambivalent agrarianism”, and the conflict in Faulkner's work between the critique of a socioeconomic order rooted in capitalism and the defense of classical liberalism. On the other hand, Atkinson's approach leads him to tease out so many divergent voices from Faulkner's work that it comes somewhat at the expense of interrogating any one at great length.
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