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Robbing The Mother

Robbing The Mother: Women in Faulkner

Copyright Date: 1994
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    Robbing The Mother
    Book Description:

    William Faulkner claimed that it may be necessary for a writer to "rob his mother," should the need arise. "If a writer has to rob his mother, he will not hesitate; the 'Ode on a Grecian Urn' is worth any number of old ladies," he remarked.

    This study of Faulkner's paradoxical attitude toward women, particularly mothers, will stimulate debate and concern, for his novels are shown here to have presented them as both a source and a threat to being and to language.

    "My reading of Faulkner," the author says, "attempts more than an identification of female stereotypes and an examination of misogyny, for Faulkner, who almost certainly feared and mistrusted women, also sees in them a mysterious, often threatening power, which is often aligned with his own creativity and the grounds of his own fiction."

    Drawing on both American and French feminist criticism,Robbing the Motherexplores Faulkner's artistic vision through the maternal influence in such works asThe Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, Sanctuary, Absalom, Absalom!, The Hamlet, Light in August,andThe Wild Palms.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-661-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Abbreviations and Texts
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Chapter 1 “Worth Any Number of Old Ladies”
    (pp. 3-18)

    Coming from a man so devoted to his mother that he apparently visited her every day he spent in Oxford, this cavalier treatment of the mother’s claims sounds suspiciously like the tongue-in-cheek statements so common in Faulkner’s interviews. Humorously intended or not, Faulkner’s remark about the devotion of a writer to “his” work also encapsulates many of his contradictory feelings about a figure he generally associates with creativity: woman. Much literary theory defines the process of writing as a kind of patricide—responding to and often silencing one’s precursor/father figures. Faulkner, however, also identifies women as part of the struggle...

  6. Chapter 2 Erasing and Inventing Motherhood: The Sound and the Fury and As I Lay Dying
    (pp. 19-50)

    In 1946 Random House reprintedThe Sound and the FuryandAs I Lay Dyingin one Modern Library volume, a decision which caused Faulkner some distress: “It’s as though we were saying ‘This is a versatile guy; he can write in the same stream of consciousness style about princes and then about peasants’ ” (Letters228). Despite his concern at being typed as a writer with a single prose style, this pairing makes sense, for the two books have much in common beyond their narrative structures. Faulkner may have labored long, hard, and lovingly overSound and the Fury...

  7. Chapter 3 Sexuality, Inhumanity, and Violation: Sanctuary and The Hamlet
    (pp. 51-91)

    SanctuaryandThe Hamlet,while differing widely in tone and form, both focus on women’s bodies and sexual violation. UnlikeThe Sound and the FuryandAs I Lay Dying,which are predicated upon women’s bodily absence, in these two novels female bodies dominate the action. Maternal presence and power, however, take significantly different form in these texts. While sexuality in both novels looms more threateningly than maternity, women elicit similar dichotomies between literal and figurative discourse. The influence of the maternal is felt as much in its impact on language as in the physical presence of the mother. In...

  8. Chapter 4 Bodies and Language: Light in August and The Wild Palms
    (pp. 92-124)

    Light in AugustandThe Wild Palmsreflect a different perspective on maternal power in that they contain mothers who are both living and present. In marked contrast toSanctuaryandThe Hamlet,these two novels examine women’s considerable facility in the literal as well as the figurative realms. Babies are born, language is spoken, and men struggle to understand women who function both sexually and maternally. Probably Faulkner’s closest approximations to love stories, the books examine the relationships between men and women in great detail. But invariably, love flounders in the gap between men’s and women’s language or is...

  9. Chapter 5 Fantastic Women and Notmothers: Absalom, Absalom!
    (pp. 125-154)

    When consideringAbsalom, Absalom!,probably Faulkner’s greatest achievement, one can well understand why he found women more fun to write about than men. Who could doubt that it would be more fun to create Rosa Coldfield than Quentin Compson, that Clytie is more “marvelous” than Henry Sutpen, and Eulalia Sutpen Bon more “wonderful” than Charles Bon? Faulkner’s comment, however, reflects more than the entertainment value inherent in writing of women. His use of the terms “wonderful” and “marvelous” brings a particular aura to women, an aura that, when considered in the light of the women ofAbsalom,becomes uncannily fantastic....

  10. Notes
    (pp. 155-158)
  11. Works Cited
    (pp. 159-164)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 165-168)