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Faulkner and Material Culture

Faulkner and Material Culture

Joseph R. Urgo
Ann J. Abadie
Charles S. Aiken
Katherine R. Henninger
T. J. Jackson Lears
Miles Orvell
Kevin Railey
D. Matthew Ramsey
Jay Watson
Patricia Yaeger
Copyright Date: 2007
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    Faulkner and Material Culture
    Book Description:

    Essays by Charles S. Aiken, Katherine R. Henninger, T. J. Jackson Lears, Miles Orvell, Kevin Railey, D. Matthew Ramsey, Joseph R. Urgo, Jay Watson, and Patricia Yaeger

    Photographs, lumber, airplanes, hand-hewn coffins--in every William Faulkner novel and short story worldly material abounds. The essays inFaulkner and Material Cultureprovide a fresh understanding of the things Faulkner brought from the world around him to the one he created.

    Charles S. Aiken surveys Faulkner's representation of terrain and concludes, contrary to established criticism, that to Faulkner, Yoknapatawpha was not a microcosm of the South but a very particular and quite specifically located place. Jay Watson works with literary theory, philosophy, the history of woodworking and furniture-making, and social and intellectual history to explore how Light in August is tied intimately to the region's logging and woodworking industries.

    Other essays in the volume include Kevin Railey's on the consumer goods that appear inFlags in the Dust. Miles Orvell discusses the Confederate Soldier monuments installed in small towns throughout the South and how such monuments enter Faulkner's work. Katherine Henninger analyzes Faulkner's fictional representation of photographs and the function of photography within his fiction, particularly inThe Sound and the Fury,Light in August, andAbsalom, Absalom!

    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: 978-1-60473-163-7
    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-xx)
    Joseph R. Urgo

    Readers of the volumes that issue from the annual Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference expect, every year, a new set of perspectives on some topic arising from or applied to our understanding of Faulkner here in his home town, at the university he attended and where he was employed for a while. As you might expect, there is a committee, made up of local Faulkner scholars and interested professors from Southern, American, and other literary fields, and this committee meets throughout the year to talk about topics, potential speakers, the budget, and the various logistical challenges inherent in hosting a few...

  4. A Note on the Conference
    (pp. xxi-2)
  5. Faulkner and the Passing of the Old Agrarian Culture
    (pp. 3-19)
    Charles S. Aiken

    Geographers definematerial cultureas “all physical, material objects made and used by a culture group, including clothing, buildings, tools, instruments, furniture, and artwork.”¹ However, material culture also includes invisible features that produce landscape expressions. Because people and material objects have distinct aromas, many geographers believe that odors are products of material culture. Material culture is significant because it distinguishes places and culture groups. Geographers have developed a considerable literature on economic regions of the United States but have given little attention to the anatomy and physiology of culture regions. The nation’s cultural geography is viewed in the context of...

  6. The Philosophy of Furniture, or Light in August and the Material Unconscious
    (pp. 20-47)
    Jay Watson

    If you take one of the key words for this year’s conference, “material,” and trace its etymological roots back far enough, you will arrive, first, at the Latin word for matter,materia, but then at an even older meaning formateria: wood, or more specifically, “the usable wood of a tree as opposed to its bark, fruit, sap, etc.”¹ The Greek term for “primary matter” or “material cause,”hyle, contains a similar prehistory; before Aristotle brought it into a specifically philosophical discourse, the word originally meant forest. In this way wood, which already supplied the classical world with its principal...

  7. Dematerializing Culture: Faulkner’s Trash Aesthetic
    (pp. 48-67)
    Patricia Yaeger

    Rubbish, trash, garbage, detritus: why make these the subjects of high art? But objects just as peculiar have become the stuff of aesthetic ecstasy. Ruins—those monumental buildings beset with decay—have been the source of artistic and metaphysical contemplation for centuries. In the Renaissance their crumpled facades gained altitude, signaled the triumphs of the Greco-Roman world. In the Romantic era ruined abbeys and temples became rich signs of decay defying Enlightenment precepts. Similarly, still life, a genre focused on the daily or quotidian, gained aesthetic resonance in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Still-life paintings offered, at first, a form...

  8. Flags in the Dust and the Material Culture of Class
    (pp. 68-81)
    Kevin Railey

    Based on Faulkner’s own explanations,Flags in the Dusthas been understood by many to be mainly concerned with the fading away of the Old South. Unlike the later Snopes trilogy, however, where the forces of Faulkner’s New South are clearly identified, inFlagsno new power overtly replaces the Sartoris family and all it represents. The novel seems more like a snapshot in time than an evolving narrative. Critics, including Faulkner’s own literary agent, have noted this quality and lamented the book’s lack of narrative unity. Surprisingly, when I turned to look at the novel through the lens of...

  9. “Touch Me While You Look at Her”: Stars, Fashion, and Authorship in Today We Live
    (pp. 82-103)
    D. Matthew Ramsey

    The benefits of a cultural studies/materialist investigation of William Faulkner are many—not the least being a demystification of the works and the man himself. In considering the material circumstances behind a text’s conception, production, promotion, and reception, we can productively “unburden” the work and the author and get at seeming contradictions between the revered, canonical Faulkner and his less respected “hack” output. Richard Dyer has argued that works of a canonized author have often been treated “as illustrations of the author’s biography . . . flying in the face of both the evident discrepancy between most authors’ persons and...

  10. Order and Rebellion: Faulkner’s Small Town and the Place of Memory
    (pp. 104-120)
    Miles Orvell

    We are not always fortunate enough to be present at the primal scene in an artist’s work, but we are, in a sense, when Faulkner gives birth fictionally to the town that he’d already been writing about for twenty years or more before he came to imagine its “founding.” Here is that moment, in “The Courthouse” section ofRequiem for a Nun, where its first construction, in the 1830s, is described: one of the townsmen utters the name that is the town, after initially thinking that “the thought was solitarily his”:

    ‘By God. Jefferson.’

    ‘Jefferson, Mississippi,’ a second added.


  11. Faulkner, Photography, and a Regional Ethics of Form
    (pp. 121-138)
    Katherine R. Henninger

    Picture the South. There’s a good chance the image that comes to mind, especially, perhaps, if you’re not from the South, is an image based on a photograph. No one, Southern or not, will deny the ubiquity of photographs in American culture or their power in shaping our notions of the subjects they depict. What exactly is the source of this power? Is it the material photograph, a piece of paper with light waves recorded upon it, a potentially permanent record of “reality,” not only of a place but of a specific moment in time? Or is it our cultural...

  12. True and False Things: Faulkner and the World of Goods
    (pp. 139-148)
    T. J. Jackson Lears

    The burden of Southern history comes in many forms. Mine was a burden offauxSouthern history, some might say, though such distinctions are not always easily made. My father was a professional Southerner, even though (or maybe especially because) he was from the border state of Maryland. My brother was named for Robert E. Lee, and I was named for Stonewall Jackson; we also had a dog named Jefferson Davis—which pretty well captures the Southern view of how those gentlemen stacked up. This obsessive Southernism played itself out in my father’s publicity stunts (designed to promote his furniture...

  13. Contributors
    (pp. 149-150)
  14. Index
    (pp. 151-155)