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Faulkner's Inheritance

Faulkner's Inheritance

Copyright Date: 2007
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    Faulkner's Inheritance
    Book Description:

    Essays by Susan V. Donaldson, Lael Gold, Adam Gussow, Martin Kreiswirth, Jay Parini, Noel Polk, Judith L. Sensibar, Jon Smith, and Priscilla Wald

    William Faulkner once said that the writer "collects his material all his life from everything he reads, from everything he listens to, everything he sees, and he stores that away in sort of a filing cabinet . . . in my case it's not anything near as neat as a filing case; it's more like a junk box." Faulkner tended to be quite casual about his influences. For example, he referred to the South as "not very important to me. I just happen to know it, and don't have time in one life to learn another one and write at the same time." His Christian background, according to him, was simply another tool he might pick up on one of his visits to "the lumber room" that would help him tell a story.

    Sometimes he claimed he never read James Joyce'sUlyssesor had never heard of Thomas Mann--writers he would elsewhere declare as "the two great men in my time." Sometimes he expressed annoyance at readers who found esoteric theory in his fiction, when all he wanted them to find was Faulkner: "I have never read [Freud]. Neither did Shakespeare. I doubt if Melville did either, and I'm sure Moby-Dick didn't."

    Nevertheless, Faulkner's life was rich in what he did, saw, and read, and he seems to have remembered all of it and put it to use in his fiction.Faulkner's Inheritanceis a collection of essays that examines the influences on Faulkner's fiction, including his own family history, Jim Crow laws, contemporary fashion, popular culture, and literature.

    Joseph R. Urgo is dean of the faculty at Hamilton College. Ann J. Abadie is associate director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-164-4
    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-xvi)
    Joseph R. Urgo

    What Faulkner inherited, in terms of probate, was not much. The Falkner family was not a wealthy clan and, as families go, was in a period of social decline when baby William entered the world. What he inherited in terms of what came to him from his civilization, of what he assumed was his to shape and mold and to leave behind, was indeed much. Critical attention for the past seventy years or so has examined with increasing scrutiny the matters Faulkner seemed to feel, in his gut, were his to bequeath to future readers, and for them to contemplate...

  4. A Note on the Conference
    (pp. xvii-2)
  5. Making “Something Which Did Not Exist Before”: What Faulkner Gave Himself
    (pp. 3-17)
    Noel Polk

    In the opening pages of Willa Cather’sMy ÁntoniaJim Burden describes his “interminable journey across the great midland plain of North America.”¹ He’s moving from his native Virginia to Nebraska to live with his grandparents, accompanied by a cowboy chaperone, Jake Marpole, who gives him a “Life of Jesse James,” which, even while writing many years after the experience, Jim remembers as “one of the most satisfactory books I have ever read” (4)—a curious and revealing confession from a lawyer, classically trained in the writings of Virgil, whom he hopes to emulate: like virgil, Jim wants “to be...

  6. Estelle and William Faulkner’s Imaginative Collaboration (c. 1919–1925)
    (pp. 18-34)
    Judith L. Sensibar

    This essay is drawn from my forthcoming book. It is about William Faulkner and three of the most important women in his life: Caroline Barr and Maud Falkner, who cared for him from his birth until their deaths in 1940 and 1960 respectively, and his wife, Estelle Oldham, whom he’d played with since early childhood and who lived with him from 1929 until his death in 1962 . Its focus is the writer’s relationships with these three complex, talented, and articulate women and the roles family and societal relationships play in the development of Faulkner’s creative imagination. It is the...

  7. Atomic Faulkner
    (pp. 35-52)
    Priscilla Wald

    The world that William Faulkner addressed from Stockholm, Sweden, on 10 December 1950, when he accepted the Nobel Prize for Literature, was only beginning to learn what it would mean to live with the technologies of modern warfare, from gas chambers to atomic weapons, and Faulkner centered his remarks on that challenge. The prize had propelled him into a public role he had neither expected, nor particularly coveted. He had, in fact, practically to be dragged to the event by his friends and family. But the speech he gave shows that he had entered fully into the occasion, and he...

  8. Plaintive Reiterations and Meaningless Strains: Faulkner’s Blues Understandings
    (pp. 53-81)
    Adam Gussow

    This occasion marks, as some of you know, my maiden voyage into the brave new world of Faulkner studies. It has been an unnerving journey. As historian Joel Williamson noted when he made his own debut here several years ago, “If one takes [Faulkner’s] work as a whole, it is difficult to make any assertion at all that will not justly bring down upon one’s head some of that vast band of dedicated, brilliant, and virtually lifelong professional Faulkner scholars.”¹ Nevertheless I intend to venture a number of assertions about Faulkner and the blues, doing my best to shed light...

  9. Faulkner, Metropolitan Fashion, and “The South”
    (pp. 82-100)
    Jon Smith

    While it is no doubt true that the South has long existed as the nation’s whipping boy or “abjected regional Other,” as Houston Baker and Dana Nelson put it in their introduction to a special issue ofAmerican Literaturea few years ago,¹ the upside to this national and arguably global act of projection is that for several decades the region has also existed as what marketing theorist Douglas B. Holt calls a “populist world.” In his 2004 bookHow Brands Become Icons, Holt asks readers to see brands as “historical entities whose meaning and value depends [sic] on how...

  10. Light in August, Faulkner’s Angels of History, and the Culture of Jim Crow
    (pp. 101-125)
    Susan V. Donaldson

    WhenLight in Augustfirst appeared in late 1932, it was widely—and perhaps surprisingly—hailed in a good many newspaper reviews as a socially conscious novel that fiercely condemned the most notorious and conspicuous failings of the U.S. South—lynching, racial oppression, injustice, religious fundamentalism, extreme poverty. One review in particular—in theChicago Daily News—was accompanied by a highly revealing caricature of the young novelist surrounded by the debris that historian George B. Tindall would catalogue decades later as the many telltale signs of “the Benighted south” so obsessively mused upon during the heyday of H. L....

  11. Faulkner’s Dark House: The Uncanny Inheritance of Race
    (pp. 126-140)
    Martin Kreiswirth

    From its inception, Sigmund Freud’s notion of the “uncanny” has been associated with literary representation. Indeed, in the opening of the 1919 essay on this subject Freud somewhat defensively notes that only rarely does the psychoanalyst, the self-conscious man of science, feel “impelled to investigate the subject of aesthetics.”¹ Yet, as the essay goes on to demonstrate, when reviewing “the things, persons, impressions, events and situations which are able to arouse in us a feeling of the uncanny” (226), Freud places the literary in a commanding position. He not only presents the major part of his argument by analyzing the...

  12. A Mammy Callie Legacy
    (pp. 141-159)
    Lael Gold

    Faulkner’s turn of phrase in a letter about his Mammy written just two weeks after her death (“She transferred to my father’s family the wealth of a devotion and loyalty whose match I have never seen.”)¹ suggests a value system similar to African cultures that measure wealth not only in material goods but in number and depth of human contacts as well. Along with the emotional sustenance described in this missive are other legacies passed on to Faulkner from his caretaker Caroline Barr and other blacks who populated his Mississippi childhood. What was African American in this white author’s upbringing...

  13. Afterword: In the House of Faulkner
    (pp. 160-170)
    Jay Parini

    I will examine inheritance in the broadest sense of that term, meditating on what it means to take something from the past, about how the past informs—quite literally—the present and future, and especially about what it means for a biographer to enter another life-house, so to speak, even though the owner of that house doesn’t especially want visitors.

    Let’s begin with the word itself, “inheritance.” It derives from the Latinheres(haero), meaning “to grasp”;herusis the master of a house, in that he has come to possess the land upon which the house sits. It also...

  14. Contributors
    (pp. 171-172)
  15. Index
    (pp. 173-178)