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Faulkner: Masks and Metaphors

Lothar Hönnighausen
Copyright Date: 1997
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    Book Description:

    that Faulkner was a "liar" not just in his writing but also in his life has troubled many critics. They have explained his numerous "false stories," particularly those about military honors he actually never earned and war wounds he never sustained, with psychopathological imposture-theories. The drawback of this approach is that it reduces and oversimplifies the complex psychological and aesthetic phenomenon of Faulkner's role-playing.

    Instead, this critical study by one of the most acclaimed international Faulkner scholars takes its cue from Nietzsche's concept of "truth as a mobile army of metaphors" and from Ricoeur's dynamic view of metaphor and treats the wearing of masks not as an ontological issue but as a matter of discourse.

    Honnighausen examines Faulkner's interviews and photographs for the fictions they perpetuate. Such Faulknerian role-playing he interprets as a mode of organizing experience and relates it to the crafting of the artist's various personae in his works. Mining metaphor as well as modern theories on social role-playing, Honnighausen examines unexplored aspects of image creation and image reception in such major Faulkner novels asThe Sound and the Fury,Light in August,A Fable, andAbsalom, Absalom!

    Lothar Honnighausen is a professor of English and director of the North American program at the University of Bonn. He is general editor ofTransatlantic Perspectivesand author ofWilliam Faulkner: The Art of Stylization in His Early Graphic and Literary Work.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-618-2
    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-xii)

    The pronouncement of the nineteenth century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche as transmitted through the deconstructive spirit of Jacques Derrida and the casual remark of the contemporary American poet Tom Whalen on a writer’s pleasure in role-playing mark the wide range of this book’s theme. It contains cognitive, ethical, and aesthetic aspects, centering on masks and metaphors and comprising the sociopsychic implications for Faulkner’s readers of his personae and his imagery. Nietzsche’s replacement of truth by metaphor accords well with his conviction that the modern artist can best be understood as a wearer of masks (“around every complex spirit a mask continually...

    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Preludes

    • ONE Role-Play in Photos, Letters, and Interviews
      (pp. 3-55)

      Authors furnish us with pictures of themselves, but these are, as the epigraph from Faulkner’sMosquitoesindicates, not nearly as clear as Melville’s remark would lead us to believe. Rather, they offer us, as both Melville’s and Faulkner’s examples illustrate, projections and distorted reflections of themselves. Noel Polk, inChildren of the Dark House, illustrates a comic aspect of the problem by recounting how Faulkner, in the 1952Omnibustelevision program about himself, says to the former editor of the OxfordEagle, “Do your story,” but then, putting on the mask of the writer as recluse, insists, “But no pictures”...

    • TWO Masks and Metaphors: On Theory
      (pp. 56-76)

      The examination of samples of Faulkner masks and role-play in the previous chapter allows us to attempt a preliminary survey of some recurrent features and suggests a study of theoretical underpinnings. So far the few critics who have dealt with Faulkner’s masks have tended to focus on the thematic aspects and on a small number of masks, often conceived of as complementary pairs, such as rustic and aesthete or dandy and bum (Grimwood 287; Blotner “Metafiction”; Lombardo). While one need not quarrel with these models per se, neither should they be relied on exclusively. A commendable alternative to both—the...

  6. Masks and Metaphors of the Artist

    • THREE The Artist as Visionary and as “Craftsman”: “Black Music,” “Carcassonne,” “Artist at Home,” Elmer, and Mosquitoes
      (pp. 79-110)

      The yearning for pagan sensuality shyly announcing itself in the context of Hawthorne’s Puritan culture emerges with Walter Pater and young Faulkner’s literary idol, Swinburne, as a dominant cultural force. Sensuous fauns and naked Pans side by side with attractive female and male bodies in emancipatory bathing scenes are among the chief inspirations of the international art nouveau movement.¹ It is, therefore, not surprising that fauns constitute a major motif in Aubrey Beardsley’s art nouveau drawings, whose impact is visible in Faulkner’sMarionettesillustrations as well as by his references to Beardsley not only inSoldiers’ Paybut also in...

    • FOUR The Artist as “Human Failure”: Mosquitoes, Flags in the Dust, The Town, and As I Lay Dying
      (pp. 111-134)

      Neither Fairchild, the “bewildered stenographer with a gift for people” (51), nor Gordon, the forbidding sculptor of the ideal, has the final word inMosquitoes. The novel concludes with Talliaferro, Faulkner’s recasting of T. S. Eliot’s Prufrock: “Old, old, an old man before I have lived at all … His hair was getting thin …” (347). Why should this modernist antihero, miserably impotent in love and art alike, have exercised such a fascination for Faulkner that we find features and traces of him not only in full-fledged poems such as “Love Song” inVision in Springand “We sit drinking...

  7. Metaphorizing and Role-Play in Narration and Reading

    • FIVE New Modes of Metaphor: The Sound and the Fury, Light in August, and A Fable
      (pp. 137-156)

      In chapters 3 and 4, images of the artist have confirmed the profound affinity between masks and metaphors suggested by the introductory chapters on role-playing in photographs, letters, and interviews and also posited by the theoretical chapter. The analogy between the role-playing artist and the reader, who participates in the metaphorizing process, lies in the fact that both engage in an act of the imagination whose object is nothing less than to negotiate the tension between identity and difference.

      As thisplayful transcendenceis subject to the different historical conditions of each period—those of the twentieth century have been...

    • SIX Metaphor and Narrative in Absalom, Absalom!
      (pp. 157-182)

      Absalom, Absalom!has been studied as much for its psychoanalytic prose poetry as for its sophisticated narration.¹ Among the several narrative voices in the novel Rosa Coldfield’s is easily the most poetic. However, critics have not been much impressed by Rosa’s richly metaphoric idiolect. They tend to find her rhetoric overblown and her metaphors mannered, and, consequently, her demonizing view of Thomas Sutpen distortive and in need of correction by more balanced narrators. In contrast, the following reflections on some examples of Rosa’s metaphorics assume that this patriotic poetaster of the antebellum South, together with her “spokesman,” Quentin, functions as...

    • SEVEN Faulkner and the Regionalist Context
      (pp. 183-222)

      In the past, the termregionalism, particularly in literary studies, has often been understood as denoting a short-lived, reactionary movement of the thirties. However, the study of a wider range of contemporary texts shows thatregionalis closely interrelated with the termnationaland occurs in a central debate (not just inThe Nationbut also inThe New Republicand in the African AmericanThe Messenger) on American identity and values at a time of fundamental crisis. The complexity of regionalism can be seen from the fact that it appears as often in the political and economic context of...

    • EIGHT Regionalism and Beyond: The Hamlet
      (pp. 223-262)

      One of the most bewildering perspectives thrown open by the newreceptionaesthetics is the complexity of the metaphoric experience in reading Faulkner’s novels. While this new approach leads to a better understanding of Faulkner’s fusion of regionalism and modernism, readers still have to be as flexible in their reactions to the widely varying metaphoric forms as the role-playing author. In addition to identifying with the artist as “countryman” and sharing with him the metaphoric implications of eyes “the color of a new axe blade” (756) and of a “sagging broken-backed cabin” (746), one should be able to catch the...

  8. Conclusion: Pastoral Portrait
    (pp. 263-278)

    As the investigation of Faulkner and the regionalist context has led us to that of his regionalist and modernist metaphors inThe Hamlet, the study of thetranscendencewithin these metaphors refers us to the similar transcendence occurring in his role-play as country gentleman and farmer. What makes the epigraph above relevant to the theme of “masks and metaphors” is not so much that it contains an obvious falsehood but that Faulkner should feel an urge to transcend or move beyond his status as a writer and assume another profession and mode of existence. The regionalist context helps us to...

  9. NOTES
    (pp. 279-288)
    (pp. 289-300)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 301-311)