William Faulkner: Seeing Through the South

Overview

This comprehensive account of Faulkner's literary career features an exploration of his novels and key short stories, including The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, Absalom, Absalom!, and many more. Drawing on psychoanalytic, post-structuralist, feminist, and post-colonial theory, it offers an imaginative topography of Faulkner's efforts to reckon with his Southern past, to acknowledge its modernization, and to develop his own modernist method.
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Overview

This comprehensive account of Faulkner's literary career features an exploration of his novels and key short stories, including The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, Absalom, Absalom!, and many more. Drawing on psychoanalytic, post-structuralist, feminist, and post-colonial theory, it offers an imaginative topography of Faulkner's efforts to reckon with his Southern past, to acknowledge its modernization, and to develop his own modernist method.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"It is largely due to this diversity of approaches and Matthews'ability to accessibly convey his formidable learning that his bookachieves its dual aims: introducing Faulkner to first-timers whilemodifying an established critical tradition for the sake of alarger reading audience . . . seeing Through the South is a bold,many-sided, and at times surprising book-qualities that are notoften combined in the typical introductory volume and are bolsteredby Matthews' enthusiasm for his subject and his subtle engagementwith Faulkner's daunting critical heritage." (Notes andQueries, 1 June 2011)

Matthews has produced the best book on Faulkner this year."(American Literary Scholarship, 2010)

"Matthews faces the crisis of Faulkner scholarship-with itscardboard Faulkners and its truncated canon-by giving us a moreexpansive, more relevant, and, frankly, more interesting Faulkner.His readings of the novels, particularly Sanctuary; If I ForgetThee; Jerusalem; Go Down, Moses; The Sound and the Fury; Absalom!Absalom!; and the Snopes trilogy, are simply indispensable.Beautifully written and obviously the product of long years ofscholarship, these readings affirm the "complex mixtures" that makeFaulkner one of America's greatest novelist."(Black Hills StateUniversity)"John T. Matthews's William Faulkner: Seeing throughthe South is the rare book that will prove vital and engagingboth for readers new to Faulkner's writing and for scholars longdevoted to it." (The Journal of American Studies, 2010)"

[A] compelling and richly engaging book [that] skilfully opensways into Faulkner’s writing for new readers andreinvigorates for his wider audience a sense of what we might talkabout when we talk about Faulkner today … For all the relaxedmanner of Matthews’s address—his witty analogies,comfortable idiom, pleasurable clarifications, jokes and almostunforgiveable puns—his book speaks urgently to modernreaders." (Review of English Studies, 2009)

"The present excellent book deals with the cohesiveness ofFaulkner’s work as an evolving project … Matthews is amaster of literary theory without being mastered by it, and he hasgifts as a close reader ... Highly recommended." (CHOICE,October 2009)

"John T. Matthews' lucid critical biography examines Faulkner'swriterly persona and his rich fiction as developing organically outof precise aesthetic and social preoccupations best illustratedthrough a variety of methodologies … Matthews has previouslyexplored modernist, post-structuralist, materialist and Marxistways of reading Faulkner, and this critical suppleness benefits andsupports student readers." (Times Literary Supplement, April2009)

"John T. Matthews describes his monograph William Faulkner:Seeing Through the South (Blackwell) as an introduction toFaulkner's work, but he also attempts something still greater: topresent Faulkner's entire imaginative career as a distinctivelycoherent project and to read all nineteen novels and a number ofthe best short stories as inter-related episodes in a vastchronicle of the world becoming modern, a record of theindispensable rooting of Faulkner's imagination in the place hechose to live all his life, with an emphasis on how the US Southwas embedded in the history of global colonialism. Matthewssucceeds spectacularly on all counts. Organized according to themesrather than chronology, the book ranges among Faulkner's works anddraws unexpected conclusions about them doing so in some of themost energetic, well-crafted, and moving prose I have heard speakfrom the pages of scholarship. Here, for example, Matthews takes upFaulkner's prose style: At the outset we do need to establish howdense and rich Faulkner's language is, and how his circuitous,polysyllabic style is not just personal eccentricity, or a symptomof alcoholism, or artistic ineptitude, or even some resentfultorture of the reader, but an audacious bid to write like no oneever wrote before, and to do so because more than anything Faulknerwanted the reader to feel the world to be as intensely moving as hedid himself. That he strained language to its breaking pointconveys less a reluctance to communicate anything than a desperatedetermination to communicate everything. Matthews treats DrusillaHawk of The Unvanquished as seriously as he does Thomas Sutpen, andThat Evening Sun? as worthy of the same sustained attentionlavished on The Sound and the Fury. His book reverberates withauthority born of intense close readings of Faulkner and hiscritics, and his very title promises fresh readings. Faulkner, heargues, did see through the lens offered by his native land, and healso saw through the shams offered by various institutions in themodern world. Faulkner's political fable in The Mansion, forexample, expresses the shortcomings of US Cold Warconflict-thinking on several counts. Not only does America'spreoccupation with the defense of personal liberty deafen it to theclaims of justice, but the assumption that freedom is synonymouswith free marketry ignores the numerous fatalities behindcapitalism's success story. Beyond this diagnostic insight,moreover, Faulkner manages to suggest longings for more authenticfreedom, in which liberty and justice need not conflict, where thediscrepancy between the idle rich and the imprisoned worker neednot end in murderous confrontation. Page after highly quotablepage, Matthews has produced the best book on Faulkner this year."—John T. Matthews, Professor of English Boston University

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Product Details

Meet the Author

John T. Matthews is Professor of English at BostonUniversity. Author of The Play of Faulkner’s Language(1982) and “The Sound and the Fury”: Faulkner andthe Lost Cause (1991), Matthews has also written numerousarticles on Faulkner. He was the 2006 recipient of BostonUniversity Metcalf Award for Excellence in Teaching.

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Table of Contents

List of illustrations vi

Preface vii

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction: Seeing Through the South: Faulkner and the Life Work of Writing 1

1 An Artist Never Quite at Home: Faulkner's Apprehension of Modern Life 19

2 That Evening Son Go Down: The Plantation South at Twilight 77

3 Come Up: From Red Necks to Riches 124

4 The Planting of Men: The South and New World Colonialism 172

5 Seeing a South Beyond Yoknapatawpha 225

Notes 288

Bibliography 296

Index 302

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