Faulkner and Whiteness

Faulkner and Whiteness

Aliyyah I. Abdur-Rahman
Deborah Barker
John N. Duvall
Betina Entzminger
Taylor Hagood
Chuck Jackson
Peter Lurie
Alfred J. López
Jay Watson
Edited by Jay Watson
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Faulkner and Whiteness
    Book Description:

    William Faulkner wrote during a tumultuous period in southern racial consciousness, between the years of the enactment of Jim Crow and the beginnings of the civil rights movement in the South. Throughout the writer's career racial paradigms were in flux, and these shifting notions are reflected in Faulkner's prose. Faulkner's fiction contains frequent questions about the ways in which white Americans view themselves with regard to race along with challenges to the racial codes and standards of the region, and complex portrayals of the interactions between blacks and whites. Throughout his work Faulkner contests white identity-its performance by whites and those passing for white, its role in shaping the South, and its assumption of normative identity in opposition to nonwhite "Others." This is true even in novels without a strong visible African American presence, such as As I Lay Dying, The Hamlet, The Town, and The Mansion.Faulkner and Whiteness explores the ways in which Faulkner's fiction addresses and de-stabilizes the concept of whiteness in American culture. Collectively, the essays argue that whiteness, as part of the Nobel Laureate's consistent querying of racial dynamics, is a central element. This anthology places Faulkner's oeuvre-and scholarly views of it-in the contexts of its contemporary literature and academic trends exploring race and texts.

    eISBN: 978-1-61703-021-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. INTRODUCTION Situating Whiteness in Faulkner Studies, Situating Faulkner in Whiteness Studies
    (pp. vii-2)

    Why whiteness? The emergence of critical whiteness studies over the last decade and a half has engendered its share of skepticism. After all, in a society whose central legal, social, and political institutions are still controlled largely by whites, and whose resources and privileges still fall disproportionately to them, what do we accomplish by—once again—putting whites in the proverbial spotlight? Richard Dyer, one of the most influential voices in whiteness studies, has labeled this “the green light problem”: “Writing about whiteness gives white people the go-ahead to write and talk about what in any case we have always...

  4. NEGOTIATING THE MARBLE BONDS OF WHITENESS Hybridity and Imperial Impulse in Faulkner
    (pp. 3-18)

    Finding links between Faulkner the young romantic poet and Faulkner the adult modernist fiction writer has proven difficult; the exuberant but melancholy singer of nymphs and fauns seems, at most, perhaps reborn as a sardonic aspect of the mature writer’s complex and multifaceted ego, a narrative persona adopted primarily to make fun of itself.¹ Judith L. Sensibar has shown how indispensable Faulkner’s early work is in completing the composite picture of his career, and H. Edward Richardson and Gary Lee Stonum trace paths that lead from the Arcadian world of Faulkner’s early imagination to the tortured modern landscape of his...

  5. GENEALOGIES OF WHITE DEVIANCE The Eugenic Family Studies, Buck v. Bell, and William Faulkner, 1926–1931
    (pp. 19-55)

    The historian C. Vann Woodward once suggested that “[a] Hemingway hero with a grandfather is inconceivable” (31). Woodward was indirectly alluding to what he considered to be the absence of a thick historical awareness in Hemingway, Dreiser, Anderson, and numerous other American writers of their generation. As a counterexample to this ahistoricist tendency in American letters, he pointed to “Southern novelists” who fashion their characters “as an inextricable part of a living history and community” (37), and above all to William Faulkner. For Woodward, the presence of grandfathers, and of “uncles, aunts, cousins, and in-laws” (31) in the work of...

    (pp. 56-74)

    I should clarify from the outset that I am not a Faulknerian by any stretch, and so am not interested in producing a reading of Faulkner’s novels that “solves” their many ambivalences and inconsistencies, their hints and feints toward a critique of race, class, and gender as repressed but active discourses at work in the Jim Crow South. Such an analysis would lie beyond not only this essay but also my own expertise. Rather, I wish to use a particular character in a particular novel—the defrocked minister Gail Hightower, fromLight in August—as a way of opening an...

  7. PASSING AS MISCEGENATION Whiteness and Homoeroticism in Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!
    (pp. 75-91)

    In Faulkner’sAbsalom, Absalom!two paired male relationships, that of Quentin and Shreve in the novel’s present and that of Henry and Charles in the novel’s past, couple the sexual taboos of homosexuality and miscegenation. I offer here a reading ofAbsalom, Absalom!similar to Deborah McDowell’s famous reading of Nella Larsen’sPassing. McDowell explores the connection between passing for white and passing for straight, arguing that the “more dangerous story—though not named explicitly—[is] of Irene’s awakening sexual desire for Clare” (xxvi). Corinne Blackmer points out that “[s]ince the term ‘passing’ carries the connotation of being accepted for...

  8. “A STRANGE NIGGER” Faulkner and the Minstrel Performance of Whiteness
    (pp. 92-106)

    Despite the assertions of many racist characters in Yoknapatawpha County, William Faulkner’s fiction repeatedly illustrates that race is not a simple matter of essence or biology but is always mediated by performance. Faulkner particularly makes visible an opening between racial and cultural identity through certain reflections on the racist construct “nigger.” During his year at Harvard, Quentin Compson comes to realize that “a nigger is not a person so much as a form of behavior” (Faulkner,The Sound86). InGo Down, Moses, we see a trickster Lucas Beauchamp who, when the need arises, can manipulate threats from the white...

  9. MOONSHINE AND MAGNOLIAS The Story of Temple Drake and The Birth of a Nation
    (pp. 107-146)

    The Story of Temple Drakeis well known today as a 0“scandalous” pre-Production Code film. However, before it was ever shown to a movie audience, the film was a sensation owing to the controversy surrounding its literary origin, William Faulkner’sSanctuary(1931).¹ Even in the pre-Code era, the Hayes Office demanded dramatic cuts in the film adaptation ofSanctuaryand stipulated that it could not bear the name of Faulkner’s (in)famous novel. The most lurid and horrific elements ofSanctuaryinclude the rape by corncob of the southern belle, Temple Drake, and the fiery lynching of Lee Goodwin, the accused...

  10. INSIDE AND OUTSIDE SOUTHERN WHITENESS Film Viewing, the Frame, and the Racing of Space in Yoknapatawpha
    (pp. 147-169)

    Cash Bundren is a lover of music. At the end ofAs I Lay Dying, hearing sound coming from the new Mrs. Bundren’s house in Jefferson, Cash comments that “[it] was playing in the house. It was one of them graphophones. It was natural as a music band” (235). Later he muses, “It’s a comfortable thing, music is” (235); and, inAs I Lay Dying’s last chapter, “I reckon it’s a good thing we aint got ere a one of them. I reckon I wouldn’t never get no work done a-tall for listening to it. I dont know if a...

    (pp. 170-188)

    Light in Augustwas originally about white people: Lena Grove, Gail Hightower, and Byron Bunch were at the center of William Faulkner’s initial conception of the novel. The murder and near decapitation of Joanna Burden was to be the event that tied these three characters together. Joe Christmas became the central character of the novel when it became evident to Faulkner that another element, an embodied racial signifier, was necessary to get at the heart of southern history. In Faulkner’s text, the brutal murder of a white woman, followed by the quick capture and lynching of a (reputed) black man,...

  12. AMERICAN EMERGENCIES Whiteness, the National Guard, and Light in August
    (pp. 189-206)

    Right before the National Guard emerges in William Faulkner’sLight in August(1932) as a bicycle-riding, uniformed Grim Reaper who packs a pistol and wields a butcher knife, the novel flashes forward so that the reader can meet Gavin Stevens, Jefferson’s “District Attorney, [who is] a Harvard graduate [and] a Phi Beta Kappa” (444). Stevens’s character serves two functions in the novel: to escort the exhausted Mrs. Hines and her delirious husband, the raving white supremacist old Doc Hines, to Jefferson’s train station, and to rehearse the story of Joe Christmas’s death in order to prepare the reader for its...

  13. NOTES
    (pp. 207-230)
    (pp. 231-246)
    (pp. 247-250)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 251-257)