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William Faulkner: Seeing Through the South

ISBN: 978-0-470-67240-2
320 pages
December 2011, Wiley-Blackwell
William Faulkner: Seeing Through the South (0470672404) cover image


Considered by many to be the most influential US novelist the world has known, William Faulkner's roots and his writing are planted in a single obscure county in the Deep South. A foremost international modernist, Faulkner's subjects and characters, ironically, are more readily associated with the history and sociology of the most backward state in the Union. He experimented endlessly with narrative structure, developing an unorthodox writing style. Yet his main goal was to reveal the truth of "the human heart in conflict with itself," ultimately defining human nature through the lens of his own Southern experience.

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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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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Author Information

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

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"It is largely due to this diversity of approaches and Matthews' ability to accessibly convey his formidable learning that his book achieves its dual aims: introducing Faulkner to first-timers while modifying an established critical tradition for the sake of a larger reading audience . . . seeing Through the South is a bold, many-sided, and at times surprising book-qualities that are not often combined in the typical introductory volume and are bolstered by Matthews' enthusiasm for his subject and his subtle engagement with Faulkner's daunting critical heritage." (Notes and Queries, 1 June 2011)

"Matthews faces the crisis of Faulkner scholarship-with its cardboard Faulkners and its truncated canon-by giving us a more expansive, more relevant, and, frankly, more interesting Faulkner. His readings of the novels, particularly Sanctuary; If I Forget Thee; 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 of scholarship, these readings affirm the "complex mixtures" that make Faulkner one of America's greatest novelist."(Black Hills State University)"John T. Matthews's William Faulkner: Seeing through the South is the rare book that will prove vital and engaging both for readers new to Faulkner's writing and for scholars long devoted to it." (The Journal of American Studies, 2010)"[A] compelling and richly engaging book [that] skilfully opens ways into Faulkner's writing for new readers and reinvigorates for his wider audience a sense of what we might talk about when we talk about Faulkner today.... For all the relaxed manner of Matthews's address—his witty analogies, comfortable idiom, pleasurable clarifications, jokes and almost unforgiveable puns—his book speaks urgently to modern readers." (Review of English Studies, 2009)

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

"John T. Matthews' lucid critical biography examines Faulkner's writerly persona and his rich fiction as developing organically out of precise aesthetic and social preoccupations best illustrated through a variety of methodologies.... Matthews has previously explored modernist, post-structuralist, materialist and Marxist ways of reading Faulkner, and this critical suppleness benefits and supports student readers." (Times Literary Supplement, April 2009)

John T. Matthews's William Faulkner: Seeing through the South is the rare book that will prove vital and engaging both for readers new to Faulkner's writing and for scholars long devoted to it." (The Journal of American Studies, 2010)

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