Faulkner's Sexualities

Faulkner's Sexualities

Annette Trefzer
Ann J. Abadie
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 224
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    Faulkner's Sexualities
    Book Description:

    William Faulkner grew up and began his writing career during a time of great cultural upheaval, especially in the realm of sexuality, where every normative notion of identity and relationship was being re-examined. Not only does Faulkner explore multiple versions of sexuality throughout his work, but he also studies the sexual dimension of various social, economic, and aesthetic concerns.In Faulkner's Sexualities, contributors query Faulkner's life and fiction in terms of sexual identity, sexual politics, and the ways in which such concerns affect his aesthetics. Given the frequent play with sexual norms and practices, how does Faulkner's fiction constitute the sexual subject in relation to the dynamics of the body, language, and culture? In what ways does Faulkner participate in discourses of masculinity and femininity, desire and reproduction, heterosexuality and homosexuality? In what ways are these discourses bound up with representations of race and ethnicity, modernity and ideology, region and nation? In what ways do his texts touch on questions concerning the racialization of categories of gender within colonial and dominant metropolitan discourses and power relations? Is there a Southern sexuality? This volume wrestles with these questions and relates them to theories of race, gender, and sexuality.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-561-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xviii)
    Annette Trefzer

    Every decade scholarship on William Faulkner concentrates with renewed energy on the topic of sex and gender in his work, and every time, the conversation shifts. At the twelfth annual Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference in 1985 on “Faulkner and Women,” critics heatedly debated whether or not Faulkner portrayed his female characters with sympathy or misogyny.¹ What, they wondered, did Faulkner think and say about women, and where in Faulkner’s fiction do we find a woman who is feminineandsmart? In the 1994 volumeFaulkner and Gender, the discussion shifted from feminism to gender studies.² At stake were the difference...

  4. Note on the Conference
    (pp. xix-2)
  5. Unhistoricizing Faulkner
    (pp. 3-20)
    Catherine Gunther Kodat

    For more than twenty-five years, historical modes of analysis have dominated literary study in the United States, and Faulkner studies have been no exception. Indeed, one could say that Faulkner scholars have been in the vanguard of the historicist movement, which is generally seen as having replaced excessively formalist New Criticism, hastily universalizing mythical readings, and rigidly allegorical “psychoanalytic” approaches with long-overdue attention to the economic, social, and political conditions under which authors and their texts come into being. Fredric Jameson’s 1981 command to “always historicize!” was followed just two years later by Eric J. Sundquist’s influentialFaulkner: The House...

  6. The Artful and Crafty Ones of the French Quarter: Male Homosexuality and Faulkner’s Early Prose Writings
    (pp. 21-37)
    Gary Richards

    In literary representations as well as broader cultural understandings, no Southern city and few U.S. cities have been more closely associated with male homosexuality than New Orleans. In some cases—and especially in contemporary texts such as John Rechy’sCity of Night, John Kennedy Toole’sA Confederacy of Dunces, Poppy Z. Brite’sExquisite Corpse, Christopher Rice’sA Density of Souls, and Jim Grimsley’sBoulevard—representations of the city’s gay subcultures are overt, and these authors’ stances toward these enclaves need little deciphering. In contrast, William Faulkner’s early prose writings of the 1920s present a more challenging site of exploration, since...

  7. “And You Too, Sister, Sister?”: Lesbian Sexuality, Absalom, Absalom!, and the Reconstruction of the Southern Family
    (pp. 38-53)
    Jaime Harker

    InConfessions of a Failed Southern Lady, Florence King recounts her sexual adventures and misadventures in the late 1950s, under her grandmother’s iron curtain of Southern ladyhood. After various transgressions—including fooling around with frat boys and an affair with a married man—Florence arrives in Oxford, Mississippi, and embarks on a torrid lesbian affair with the languid Cajun Bres. Florence ruminates on the appeal of Bres’s earthy Southern sexuality:

    I was still not used to the Deep South’s exquisite balance between hatred and hospitality. Making love in a ground-floor bedroom in Mississippi reminded me ofThe Lady—Or the...

  8. Faulkner, Marcuse, and Erotic Power
    (pp. 54-72)
    Michael Zeitlin

    Following the publication ofThe Portable Faulknerin 1946, and until his death in 1962, William Faulkner produced a series of essays, speeches, and public letters in which he addressed himself to a wide range of social and political topics. How Faulkner defined the major concerns of this period may cast a light upon the entire body of his fictional work, especially as it involves the exploration of an astonishing range of resolutely flesh-and-blood human beings, each struggling with the “problems of the human heart in conflict with itself” while standing in various attitudes of opposition to the power structures...

  9. Faulkner’s Sexualized City: Modernism, Commerce, and the (Textual) Body
    (pp. 73-93)
    Peter Lurie

    In a deleted passage from the middle of Faulkner’s second novel,Mosquitoes, a young girl named Jenny is corrected in her kissing style by another girl. Jenny’s partner in a barely illicit scene of what the other characters in the book call “petting,” an eighteen-year-old on her way to Yale, breaks off the kiss with distaste when she tells Jenny that her way of kissing is not “refined.” After some brief discussion, Jenny agrees to be tutored in a supposedly more elegant approach to the arts of love. The lesson apparently works. For, returning to her boyfriend later in the...

  10. “Must Have Been Love”: Sexualities’ Attachments in Faulkner
    (pp. 94-114)
    Deborah E. McDowell

    Years ago, George Kent made the passing observation that, while “there is considerable sexual activity in Faulkner”—as much, he said, as could be found in the Kinsey Report—there was “little sexuality, that is, if we define sexuality as that warm and unself-conscious endorsement of the role of the body in effecting transcendence of individual isolation.”² That was 1974, and much has changed in the interim. I doubt that any contemporary student of sexuality as a topic of academic inquiry could endorse Kent’s definition—indeed, many would likely find it quaint—for as is now axiomatic, sexuality is a...

  11. All Mixed Up: Female Sexuality and Race in The Sound and the Fury
    (pp. 115-130)
    Kristin Fujie

    This paper is part of a larger project that explores the interrelationship of gender and race in a selection of William Faulkner’s novels fromSoldiers’ Pay(1926) throughAbsalom, Absalom!(1936). My reevaluation of Faulkner’s career proposes that the author’s turn toward the issue of miscegenation in the thirties should be understood not as a moment of division, as Eric Sundquist has powerfully argued,¹ but of transformation, when race explodes within an established landscape of sexual anxiety that takes the female body as its troubled matrix. The motivation for this project has come from my repeated encounter with passages in...

  12. Faulkner’s Black Sexuality
    (pp. 131-147)
    John N. Duvall

    In the latter half of the 1990s, two prominent African Americans from the world of arts and entertainment made startling and basically identical claims about the President of the United States. On the eve of the 1996 presidential election in which William Jefferson Clinton won a second term by defeating Bob Dole, comedian Chris Rock made the following observation onSaturday Night Live: “So we got a big election coming up. Who’s gonna win? Bill or Bob? Bob or Bill? I like Clinton. Know why I like Clinton? Because he’s got real problems. He don’t got president problems. He got...

  13. Popeye’s Impersonal Temple
    (pp. 148-163)
    Michael Wainwright

    The setting is a basement nightclub in Liverpool, England. A giant glitter ball throws down spasmodic motes of light across a litter-strewn dance floor. Prospective dancers search for partners as “The Look of Love” begins to play from the sound system

    Him:[shyly]You dancin’?

    Her:[guardedly]I’m dancin’. You askin’?

    Him:[just as shyly]I’m askin’.

    Courtship, as the opening credits to the popular British television sitcomThe Liver Birdsindicates, can be awkward. Broadly speaking, this difficulty is transhistorical and transcultural, as prevalent in twentieth-century America as in twenty-first-century Britain. For, ninety years ago, the young William Faulkner (1897–1962) experienced this common difficulty...

  14. Temple Drake’s Rape and the Myth of the Willing Victim
    (pp. 164-183)
    Caroline Garnier

    William Faulkner worked onSanctuaryandAs I Lay Dyingwithin the same couple of years: He wroteSanctuaryin 1929, wrote and publishedAs I Lay Dyingin 1930, and then revisedSanctuaryto publish it in 1931.¹ This may explain why these two novels, written at a time when Faulkner was himself concerned with matters of marriage, sex, and procreation,² can be seen as two sides of the same coin: They present different aspects of a Southern sexual culture that juxtaposes and merges abuse and respect, perversion and morality, deviance and norm, sanity and insanity, and private and...

  15. Contributors
    (pp. 184-185)
  16. Index
    (pp. 186-191)