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Faulkner and the Craft of Fiction

Faulkner and the Craft of Fiction

Beth Dyer Biron
Cleanth Brooks
Robert W. Hamblin
Christopher A. LaLonde
John T. Matthews
William E. H. Meyer
Richard C. Moreland
Judith L. Sensibar
Donald M. Kartiganer
Philip M. Weinstein
Copyright Date: 1989
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    Faulkner and the Craft of Fiction
    Book Description:

    In 1944, William Faulkner wrote to Malcolm Cowley, "I'm telling the same story over and over which is myself and the world. That's all a writer ever does, he tells his own biography in a thousand different terms."

    With these words, Faulkner suggests that what changes in the course of his prolific novel-writing career is not so much the content but the style, "the thousand different terms" of his fiction. The essays inFaulkner and the Craft of Fiction, first presented at the 1987 Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference at the University of Mississippi, focus on Faulkner's narrative inventiveness, on how Faulkner, like his character Benjy inThe Sound and the Fury, relentlessly kept "trying to say."

    The contributors, authorities on Faulkner's narrative, offer a wide variety of critical approaches to Faulkner's fiction-writing process. Cleanth Brooks, for example, applies the strategies of New Criticism to Faulkner's rendering of the heroic and pastoral modes; Judith L. Sensibar attempts to locate biographical sources for repeated Faulknerian paradigms; and Philip M. Weinstein draws on the theories of the Marxist Althusser and the French psychoanalyst Lacan. The topics examined are similarly wide-ranging.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-813-1
    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)
    Doreen Fowler

    In 1944 William Faulkner wrote to Malcolm Cowley, “I’m telling the same story over and over which is myself and the world. That’s all a writer ever does, he tells his own biography in a thousand different terms.”¹ With these words, Faulkner suggests that what changes in the course of his prolific novel-writing career is not so much the content but the style, the “different terms” of his fiction. With each successive novel, Faulkner strove to develop new “terms,” new forms for his fictions. Thus, there is no single representative Faulknerian style. Rather, his technique is protean. Constantly experimenting, never...

  4. A Note on the Conference
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  5. Faulkner: Master of the Heroic and the Pastoral Modes
    (pp. 1-20)
    Cleanth Brooks

    Some years ago that brilliant if sometimes eccentric British literary critic, the late William Empson, reformulated the concept of pastoral poetry. It was not essentially an affair of shepherds watching their flocks and singing love lays to pretty shepherdesses or bemoaning hopeless loves or celebrating the simple joys of their carefree life. The essence of the pastoral was a matter of perspective. In the pastoral, the poet and the readers for whom he wrote stood at a more sophisticated social and intellectual level from that occupied by the unsophisticated people written about. Our more complicated affairs were mirrored thus in...

  6. Faulkner’s Art of Repetition
    (pp. 21-47)
    Donald M. Kartiganer

    What does it mean to repeat something?

    A great deal, if not the bulk, of modern thought and literature revolves around that question. Within the ranges of repetition we have discovered the way of our knowing as well as the impossibility of knowing; the name of our bondage to what has already been as well as the name of our release—indeed, an invitation, in the face of aimless recurrence, to will the world. Repetition is our disease, our compulsion to reenact endlessly old, forgotten desires, and our cure, compulsion redeemed into dialogue, in which we revise the past, retrieving...

  7. Compulsive and Revisionary Repetition: Faulkner’s “Barn Burning” and the Craft of Writing Difference
    (pp. 48-70)
    Richard C. Moreland

    While reading the typescript ofThe Mansion, Faulkner’s Random House editor, Albert Erskine, kept finding “discrepancies and contradictions” between the earlier, already published novels of Faulkner’s Snopes trilogy and this typescript of the last, in which Faulkner retold some of the same stories about some of the same events and characters, but retold them differently. As Erskine reported these discrepancies and contradictions to Faulkner, Faulkner became somewhat impatient with his editor’s worrying so much about what Faulkner thought would pose problems only for readers he tended to call “academical gumshoes.” He agreed to correct some such discrepancies, but eventually decided...

  8. Faulkner’s Narrative Frames
    (pp. 71-91)
    John T. Matthews

    Why doesn’t Quentin Compson stay dead? If on June 2, 1910, Quentin concludes his last day on earth and commits suicide by the age of twenty—a fact confirmed by his family’s later remarks inThe Sound and the Furyand a fact foundational to the meaning ofAbsalom, Absalom!, then how do we explain Quentin’s appearance as the narrator, now in his early twenties, of three short stories published in the 1930s? Usual explanations about authorial license remain perfectly acceptable; of course Faulkner is free to imagine alternative lives for his characters, or even to reject the need for...

  9. A Trap Most Magnificently Sprung: The Last Chapter of Light in August
    (pp. 92-104)
    Christopher A. LaLonde

    I begin with a joke in order to make an initial connection between my beginning of this paper and William Faulkner’s close ofLight in August. I am concerned with closure. Given the structural complexity ofLight in August, a novel where the two major characters never meet, it is apparent that the issue of closure is centrally important. More specifically, the reader must deal with the open-endedness of Lena Grove’s strand of the novel. A few words on strand are necessary: I am not referring to a length of string or thread; rather, the word as I am using...

  10. Faulkner’s Patriotic Failure: Southern Lyricism versus American Hypervision
    (pp. 105-123)
    William E. H. Meyer Jr.

    One gets more than a little weary, in readingFaulkner in the University, of the writer’s insistence that his productions are always failures—“it ain’t good enough”¹—until one realizes that the author is operating with a system of ultimate values wherein “failure” is the highest metaphysical or aesthetic “truth.” Whether we read how Hightower “failed his wife” or “failed himself,” or whether we read howThe Sound and the Furywas “the most gallant, the most magnificent failure,” or whether we observe Faulkner’s critique of Thomas Wolfe’s “splendid magnficent bust” for “trying to put the whole history of the...

  11. “Drowsing Maidenhead Symbol’s Self”: Faulkner and the Fictions of Love
    (pp. 124-147)
    Judith L. Sensibar

    Obsessed, mad Labove. His name prefigures his ludicrous “final disaster” at the hands and by the words of the sixteen-year-old girl he fictionalizes as “the drowsing maidenheadsymbol’sself.”¹ Faulkner clearly and humorously marks the immense disparity between Labove’s fiction and Eula’s reality. When Labove tries to rape her, Eula effortlessly slams him to the floor. Standing “over [above] him, breathing deep but not panting and not even dishevelled,” she drawls, “Stop pawing me. . . . You old headless horseman Ichabod Crane” (122). Labove’s dismal failure in love is comic, but the fictions that feed his desire are similar...

  12. Carcassonne in Mississippi: Faulkner’s Geography of the Imagination
    (pp. 148-171)
    Robert W. Hamblin

    Here in Oxford, where the stately courthouse looms over the town square, “tall as cloud, solid as rock, dominating all” (RFN40);¹ where the Confederate statue faces exactly the way Faulkner says it does in the fiction, “not toward the north and the enemy, but toward the south, toward (if anything) his own rear” (RFN240); and where even the most dedicated formalistic or mythopoeic critic slips easily into conversations about “Dilsey’s cabin” or “Benjy’s yard” or “Gavin Stevens’s law office,” it is impossible to escape or deny the local influences upon Faulkner’s work. Still, as we all know, it...

  13. “Thinking I Was I Was Not Who Was Not Was Not Who”: The Vertigo of Faulknerian Identity
    (pp. 172-193)
    Philip M. Weinstein

    The title is dizzying, and I expect during the next hour to be off-balance in a number of ways: off-balance in my moves back and forth between character, text, context, reader, and writer; off-center in my attempt to decenter our notions of identity itself; off-base in my shift from the “legitimate” scrutiny of Faulkner’s work to less sanctioned considerations of ideology, psychoanalysis, and what we in this room are doing when we go to conferences like this one and listen to scholarly papers for five or six days. These are all issues of identity, I hope to show, and thinking...

  14. Word without a Word: How the French Translations of Faulkner’s Texts Don’t Always Fit What They’re Trying to Say At
    (pp. 194-210)
    Beth Dyer Biron

    The French literary world has long been proud to note that it recognized William Faulkner as a major talent nearly ten years before his work began to receive critical acclaim in the United States. As early as 1930, a student at Princeton University, James Burnham, called to the attention of his French professor, Maurice-Edgar Coindreau, the works of a little-known novelist from Mississippi. As Coindreau relates, “As I Lay Dyinghad just been published. I had not read fifty pages of this admirable book before my mind was made up. The French nation had to become acquainted with an artist...

  15. Appendix Faulkner Stamp Ceremony Program
    (pp. 211-220)
  16. Contributors
    (pp. 221-223)
  17. Index
    (pp. 224-226)