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Faulkner and Welty and the Southern Literary Tradition

Faulkner and Welty and the Southern Literary Tradition

Noel Polk
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 240
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    Faulkner and Welty and the Southern Literary Tradition
    Book Description:

    As one of the preeminent scholars of southern literature, Noel Polk has delivered lectures, written journal articles and essays, and discussed the rich legacy of the South's literary heritage around the world for over three decades. His work on William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Walker Percy, and other writers is incisive and groundbreaking.

    His essays inFaulkner and Welty and the Southern Literary Traditionmaintain an abiding interest in Polk's major area of literary study: the relationship between the smaller units of construction in a literary work and the work's larger themes. The analysis of this interplay between commas and dashes, curious occlusions, passages, and characters who have often gone unnoticed in the critical discourse--the bricks and mortar, as it were--and a work's grand design is a crucial aspect of Polk's scholarship.

    Faulkner and Welty and the Southern Literary Traditioncollects Polk's essays from the late-1970s to 2005. Featuring an introduction that places Faulkner and Welty at the center of the South's literary heritage, the volume asks useful, probing questions about southern literature and provides insightful analysis.

    Noel Polk is professor of English at Mississippi State University and editor of theMississippi Quarterly. From 1981 to 2006, he edited the Library of America's complete edition of William Faulkner's novels. He is the author ofOutside the Southern Myth;Children of the Dark House: Text and Context in Faulkner; andEudora Welty: A Bibliography of Her Work.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-323-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  3. Preface
    (pp. IX-X)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. XI-2)
  5. Faulkner and Welty and the Southern Literary Tradition
    (pp. 3-21)

    William Faulkner’s eye is a defining eye. Generations of post-Faulkner southern writers and readers have adopted his vision and so seen “The South” through his eyes rather than through their own or struggled against that vision, experiencing it as a barrier to be gotten around behind above or below in order to keep from seeing only the South that he saw. For so many writers in the South, especially those who want to be southern writers rather than writers, Faulkner’s vision seems to have defined what can be seen, so that southern writers following him have indeed been in a...

  6. How Shreve Gets in to Quentin’s Pants
    (pp. 22-30)

    The occasion for my title occurs inThe Sound and the Furyjust after Gerald Bland, his mother, Spoade, Shreve, and two veiled young ladies encounter Quentin Compson in the clutches of the law and of an angry brother who wants Quentin pilloried for molesting his sister, whom Quentin has ostensibly been helping to find her way home. Julio, the brother, is as certain of Quentin’s intentions toward his sister as Quentin is certain of Dalton Ames’s intentions toward his own sister Caddy. It’s part of an extended tumultuous episode of two or three pages of which we haven’t yet...

  7. Faulkner in the Luxembourg Gardens
    (pp. 31-43)

    One of the strangest twists inSanctuaryis its final scene, for which Faulkner quite unexpectedly drags us to Paris’s fabled Luxembourg Gardens. It is a profoundlyrenderedscene, almost anature morte, a poem profoundlyimagistewhose unnarrated elegance gives it the same visual hold upon our imaginations as Ezra Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro” and partakes of some of that poem’s qualities of mood and scene. Perhaps most curious of all is that though it seems to dissolve before our very eyes, it is at the same time visually realistic and detailed, so finely chiseled as...

  8. Testing Masculinity in the Snopes Trilogy
    (pp. 44-67)

    I’ve argued elsewhere that race in Faulkner’s fiction often serves as a mask for gender. In fact, race occupied him in only four of his nineteen novels and in only one or two of nearly 140 short stories, so that race, statistically at any rate, is a very minor part of his concerns. Sexual and sexualized relationships, on the other hand, are everywhere, on nearly every page. Indeed, inAbsalomrace provides a narrative “out” for Quentin and Shreve’s otherwise failed attempts to explain why Henry Sutpen kills Charles Bon. After hundreds of pages of speculation, of convoluted and complex...

  9. Reading Blood and History in Go Down, Moses
    (pp. 68-81)

    Isaac McCaslin’s renunciation of his birthright is an iconic moment in American literature. Early critics accepted the renunciation as a heroic act—and therefore accepted Isaac as Faulkner’s hero—because the language of his renunciation fit the high idealism of the time that believed that Jim Crow racism was a plague on the land and that Isaac’s sacrifice was Faulkner’s answer to it. Later critics, noting how little effect Isaac’s act had on the condition he sought to cure, concluded that he was a failed hero whose noble intentions and high sentence failed to alter the stark realities of racism....

  10. Faulkner and the Commies
    (pp. 82-94)

    I begin by noting three scenes inThe Unvanquished. The first occurs a couple of pages into the second part of “Retreat,” the second ofThe Unvanquished’s chapter-stories. Bayard and Ringo, in Jefferson for supplies for their trip to Memphis, encounter Uncle Buck McCaslin. Buck, whom we know far better fromGo Down, Moses, had served under Bayard’s father, John Sartoris, in the regiment Sartoris and Thomas Sutpen had raised and taken to fight in Virginia. Because Buck will play a significant part in the boys’ lives over the course of this narrative, Bayard takes a couple of pages to...

  11. War and Modernism in A Fable
    (pp. 95-105)

    Modern European sculpture and painting appear prominently in two scenes inA Fable. The sculpture appears in an intricately staged setting for the old general’s interview with the three women, his son the corporal’s sisters and wife, who have come to Allied Headquarters at Chaulnesmont to ask him to spare their kinsman’s life. The interview takes place in a sparsely-furnished ante-room in which sit a table, a chair behind it, and a bench against the opposite wall. On the ends of the table perch two bronzes, “a delicate and furious horse poised weightless and epicene on one leg, and a...

  12. Scar
    (pp. 106-132)

    The least bloody battle of the Civil War occurred at Harrykin Creek, on the Sartoris farm just outside Jefferson, Mississippi, on 28 April 1862, just after the fall of Memphis. According to Bedford Forrest’s official written report of this battle, the only victim was Lieutenant P. S. Backhouse.

    Perhaps “battle” is too grandiose a name for what actually happened. “Skirmish” might be more apt. Some days earlier, a band of a half dozen Yankee scavengers had shown up to steal the family silver. With all the skill and discipline of a general herself, Granny Rosa Millard, every night almost for...

  13. Water, Wanderers, and Weddings: Going to Naples and to No Place
    (pp. 133-162)

    In “Moon Lake,” Easter, Nina, and Jinny Love approach an old boat hidden in the vines in a forbidden part of the shore. To get to it they have to transgress a barbed wire fence, fight their way through fierce vines, and tromp through treacherous mud. As they near the boat they see a snake drop off into the water, perhaps another one swimming in it; even though she can’t swim, Easter jumps eagerly into the old boat and trails her fingertips into the surface of the mysterious waters. Jinny Love is fearful: her “long oval face” goes “vacant” when...

  14. The Landscape of Alienation in “Old Mr. Marblehall”
    (pp. 163-175)

    In its own way, “Old Mr. Marblehall” is as much a tour-de-force as William Faulkner’s “Carcassonne”—richly poetical, densely imaged; cooler and more detached, but just as calmly deliberate, as totally confident in its power to shake and move and tantalize, and no less stubbornly reluctant to yield itself to us completely. Despite its manifest modernity, however, it resonates powerfully with two curious but equally enigmatic nineteenth-century short stories that may provide at least one way of getting at its riches. Like “Old Mr. Marblehall,” both Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Man of the Crowd” and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Wakefield” are narrated...

  15. Domestic Violence in “The Purple Hat,” “Magic,” and “The Doll”
    (pp. 176-185)

    I want to get a running start for a reading of Welty’s odd story “The Purple Hat” by backing up to two very early stories, “Magic” and “The Doll.” The first is an exact contemporary of its more famous sibling, “Death of a Travelling Salesman.” Both were accepted byManuscripton 19 March 1936 and published in the summer and fall issues of the same year; “The Doll,” published inThe Tanagerin June 1936, was not far behind. All three concern women dabbling in pleasure.

    “Magic” is a grim little story about a grim defloration. Myrtle Cross, on her...

  16. The Ponderable Heart
    (pp. 186-198)

    The Ponder Heartis Eudora Welty’s oddest book. Every line, every illustration, seems to scream “Laugh! Laugh! Laugh, damn you!”—and yet I never feel quite like laughing, never quite feel like taking the book seriously enough to laugh either at it or with it. It always seems too slight, indeed too silly, to be the work of a major writer. Perhaps because I don’t have an uncle just like Edna Earle’s Uncle Daniel,The Ponder Heartseems to me a deliberate collection of every tawdry cliché of Southern literature, of small-town rural life, a collection so thick I’d like...

  17. Works Cited
    (pp. 199-202)
  18. Index
    (pp. 203-207)