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Faulkner and the Ecology of the South

Faulkner and the Ecology of the South

Copyright Date: 2005
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    Faulkner and the Ecology of the South
    Book Description:

    In 1952, Faulkner noted the exceptional nature of the South when he characterized it as "the only really authentic region in the United States, because a deep indestructible bond still exists between man and his environment."

    The essays collected inFaulkner and the Ecology of the Southexplore Faulkner's environmental imagination, seeking what Ann Fisher-Wirth calls the "ecological counter-melody" of his texts. "Ecology" was not a term in common use outside the sciences in Faulkner's time. However, the word "environment" seems to have held deep meaning for Faulkner. Often he repeated his abiding interest in "man in conflict with himself, with his fellow man, or with his time and place, his environment."

    Eco-criticism has led to a renewed interest among literary scholars for what in this volume Cecelia Tichi calls, "humanness within congeries of habitats and en-vironments." Philip Weinstein draws on Pierre Bourdieu's notion of habitus. Eric Anderson argues that Faulkner's fiction has much to do with ecology in the sense that his work often examines the ways in which human communities interact with the natural world, and François Pitavy sees Faulkner's wilderness as unnatural in the ways it represents reflections of man's longings and frustrations. Throughout these essays, scholars illuminate in fresh ways the precarious ecosystem of Yoknapatawpha County.

    Joseph R. Urgo, Oxford, Mississippi, is chair of the English department at the University of Mississippi. His books includeFaulkner's Apocrypha, Novel Frames: Literature as Guide to Race, Sex, and History in American Culture, andIn the Age of Distraction, all published by University Press of Mississippi. Ann J. Abadie, Oxford, is associate director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi. She has coeditedFaulkner and His Contemporaries,Faulkner and War,Faulkner and Postmodernism, andFaulkner at 100: Retrospect and Prospect, among other Faulkner volumes, all published by University Press of Mississippi.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-064-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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

    By ecology we do not exclude the natural world, though what we have in mind is more akin to the idea of a human ecology, the interaction of humans with their environment—made and found, communities as well as habitats. While Faulkner would often discount the importance or the centrality of the South because it was simply what he knew best, the fact remains that he did know it and the way he knew it is inextricable from the world he imagined in his fiction. To the terminologically weary, the nominative, ecocriticism, may be no more than theoretical dressing on...

  4. A Note on the Conference
    (pp. xxiii-2)
  5. “Old Man”: Shackles, Chains, and Water Water Everywhere
    (pp. 3-14)
    Cecelia Tichi

    The ecological Faulkner occupies the very world from which his postwar “rescuers” thought they had extricated him—a world of social realism and sociocultural critique, which is to say, an ecological world. To locate this Faulkner, one begins with a critical study that has been insufficiently appreciated by many Faulknerians. It is Lawrence Schwartz’sCreating Faulkner’s Reputation(1988), which shows that in the postwar moment, an alliance of Southern Agrarians, notably Robert Penn Warren and Allan Tate, together with northeastern critics, deliberately redeemed Faulkner from his pre-World War II reputation as a writer mired in obscurantism, violence, and incoherence.¹


  6. The Land’s Turn
    (pp. 15-29)
    Philip Weinstein

    Faulkner and Ecology: the topic may seem a bit willful, an attempt to align “our man” with some contemporary non-Faulknerian preoccupation. The more I reflected, however, the more appropriate this topic became. Not only because Faulkner’s brooding imagination appears, itself, to be ecologically oriented, but also because “ecology” is hardly a recent concern. Probably derived from the Greek termoikonomia—home management, or “economy”—“ecology” involves the traffic between particular (“home-based”) needs and the larger, always limited, resources available for meeting those needs. Like economy, ecology assumes scarcity, and therefore a reasoned deployment of limited social goods and natural resources....

  7. Environed Blood: Ecology and Violence in The Sound and the Fury and Sanctuary
    (pp. 30-46)
    Eric Gary Anderson

    Few readers of Faulkner would contest the observation that his fiction contains moments of gruesome, horrific violence. Few would question the rightness of the Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference’s 1996 theme, “Faulkner and the Natural World.” And few would deny that blood flows in many directions in his body of work, touching on issues of lineage, kinship, race, miscegenation, disposition, crime, and punishment.¹ But when it comes to linking these three Faulknerian givens, few have made much headway. I propose that blood, environing, and violencedowork together, ecologically, in his fiction, and that these interrelationships in all their traumatic intensity...

  8. William Faulkner, Peter Matthiessen, and the Environmental Imagination
    (pp. 47-60)
    Ann Fisher-Wirth

    For years after first reading William Faulkner’sAbsalom, Absalom!, I remembered the novel as beginning with wistaria, and remembered the wistaria as somehow encapsulating it— just as, for me,The Sound and the Furyis incarnate in the odor of honeysuckle; orThe Bear, in the enormous tick on the inside of Old Ben’s leg; orLight in August, in the insects that cease their clamor as Joe Christmas passes by. And so let us begin with wistaria. Ordinarily, in reading, one focuses on human interactions; insofar as one envisions the natural world, it is only as a backdrop for...

  9. The Enemy Within: Faulkner’s Snopes Trilogy
    (pp. 61-80)
    Michael Wainwright

    Ecology is the study of plants, or of animals, or of peoples and institutions, in relation to environment. For example, I live in the village of Shepperton, England; the counties of Surrey, Middlesex, and Berkshire form my accustomed environment of which the River Thames is an important constituent. Many organisms thrive in and about the river but one species in particular has stimulated scientific interest in recent years, the Chinese mitten crab.⁴ This nonindigenous crustacean has proved to be surprisingly resilient in its new surroundings. In Darwinian terms, the crab is ecologically fitted to the temperate environment offered by the...

  10. Is Faulkner Green? The Wilderness as Aporia
    (pp. 81-97)
    François Pitavy

    The discourse on ecology has taken such space in various ways of contemporary life, it has developed such new critical tools and even put on such different colors that, to try to reflect soundly on Faulkner and ecology, more precisely on the question of whether Faulkner can be drafted into something like ecological thinking, it is safe to go back to basics, that is, etymology:oikos-logos, the discourse onoikos, household, or, in a wider meaning, habitat, environment. The definition of Ernst Haeckael, the German scientist and disciple of Darwin who coined the word in 1866, merely elaborates on etymology...

  11. The Ecology of Uncle Ike: Teaching Go Down, Moses with Janisse Ray’s Ecology of a Cracker Childhood
    (pp. 98-114)
    Thomas L. McHaney

    It is easy to judge Isaac McCaslin inGo Down, Mosesharshly for his insensitivity to ongoing human affairs. As with so many of Faulkner’s characters, Ike’s development of empathy snags on the barbs of the past. He rejects not just a material inheritance but the ability to share with other humans the common joys and sorrows of day-to-day existence. Faulkner critics who had studied all of Faulkner’s fiction and also dealt with Faulkner’s entire novel, not just “The Bear,” essentially settled this point long ago. In 1959, Olga Vickery observed that rituals of initiation or transformation are pervasive in...

  12. Visceral Faulkner: Fiction and the Tug of the Organic World
    (pp. 115-132)
    Scott Slovic

    In Spring 2003, we were having an unusual spell of humidity in normally bone-dry northern Nevada, the high desert. A tropical squall in Mexico had pushed hot, humid air up into Arizona and all the way up through the northern part of the Great Basin Desert, where I live. I thought about turning on a fan in my study, in order to write in comfort, and then I thought, “No, a bit of sweat will help get me in the mood to think about Faulkner, the South, and the physical senses.” I worked without a fan, sweat trickling onto my...

  13. McCrady’s La-FAY-ette County
    (pp. 133-152)
    Jeanne de la Houssaye

    These are the words of John McCrady, who sought inspiration from, and set much of his work in Oxford, Mississippi, and the surrounding countryside, places that served the same purpose for William Faulkner. Faulkner was fourteen when McCrady was born in Canton, Mississippi; sixteen years later, McCrady’s family moved to Oxford. By then Faulkner was thirty. Their paths rarely crossed—although they did cross, and I’ll get to that later. What links the two artists are their Mississippi roots: the Yoknapatawpha County described by Faulkner and the La-FAY-ette County depicted by McCrady. When I spell La-FAY-ette, I spell it as...

  14. Collecting Faulkner
    (pp. 153-167)
    Seth Berner

    So . . . you fell in love with William Faulkner in tenth grade, you think you finally understand what his books are about, and you are going to reward yourself by buying yourself a collection of Faulkner. Fortunately, the first piece of advice for one setting out to collect Faulkner is easier to understand than the texts themselves. Unfortunately, that advice is: don’t bother. Unless you have almost unlimited funds and unlimited storage space, trying to collect Faulkner will only cause you nightmares.

    For instance, takeThe Sound and the Fury. Actually, I should say totryto take...

  15. Contributors
    (pp. 168-170)
  16. Index
    (pp. 171-173)