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Children of the Dark House

Children of the Dark House: Text and Context in Faulkner

Noel Polk
Copyright Date: 1996
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    Children of the Dark House
    Book Description:

    Polished and refitted into a new critical matrix, these essays by a distinguished Faulkner editor and scholar in no way resemble the casual self-anthologizing often encountered. Polk's stature as a critic meshes neatly with his work as an editor; his patent joy at the very sight of Faulkner manuscripts is inspiriting, and his professed commitment to Freudian readings is borne lightly (that is, expressed in sensible, jargon-free discourse that is both witty and brilliant).--J. M. Ditsky,Choice

    First published in 1996, this book by a major scholar of William Faulkner's writings collects choice selections of his Faulkner criticism from the past fifteen years. Its publication underscores the significance of his indispensable work in Faulkner studies, both in criticism and in the editing of Faulkner's texts.

    Here, Polk's focus is mainly upon the context of Freudian themes, expressly in the works written between 1927 and 1932, the period in which Faulkner wrote and ultimately revised Sanctuary, a novel to which Polk has given concentrated study during his distinguished career. He has connected the literature with the life in a way not achieved in previous criticism. Although other critics, notably John T. Irwin and Andre Bleikasten have explored Oedipal themes, neither perceived them as operating so completely at the center of Faulkner's work as Polk does in these essays.

    Noel Polk, a professor of English at the University of Southern Mississippi, is the editor of the definitive texts of Faulkner's works. He also is one of the most notable scholars of Eudora Welty's works and the author ofEudora Welty: A Bibliography of Her Work(University Press of Mississippi)

    eISBN: 978-1-62103-194-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction: Pleasure of the Texts
    (pp. vii-2)

    The essays in this collection derive from an abiding interest in the intense reciprocities between William Faulkner’s life and his work, between his lived and his imaginative lives. Most of them explore his engagement with his psychic life, the last two his more public social and political selves. The first concerns the specific site of that reciprocity, the manuscript and typescript pages on to which he translated, transmuted, one life into the other—through what conscious or unconscious processes of refraction, repression, or sheer exploitation we are only now beginning to understand.

    The first essay thus signals where, for me,...

  4. Where the Comma Goes: Editing William Faulkner
    (pp. 3-21)

    Scholarly editing is the ultimate act of criticism, because it involves a wider range of issues than interpretation alone does, from macrocosmic ones like the author’smeaning, to more mundane and practical microcosmic ones likewhere does the comma go?Dealing with all these issues responsibly requires extensive knowledge of publishing history and of publishing techniques and procedures, of standard usage in the author’s period, of the author’s preferences at any period of his or her career, of the author’s relationship to commercial editors, to financial considerations, and to the political and cultural times, and of the author’s practices in...

  5. Children of the Dark House
    (pp. 22-98)

    Faulkner’s original title for bothAbsalom, Absalom!andLight in Augustwas “Dark House.”¹ Why he abandoned the title, twice, is impossible to know. Perhaps its oblique allusion to Dickens’Bleak Housewas a different kind of weight than he wanted either novel to bear, and perhaps he wanted to downplay that title’s deliberate appropriation of the Gothic tradition, even if the novels themselves do not. Perhaps he thought“Absalom, Absalom!”more richly allusive than “Dark House,” but there are ways in which the rejected title seems more appropriate and thematically functional for the earlier novel thanLight in August,...

  6. Trying Not to Say: A Primer on the Language of The Sound and the Fury
    (pp. 99-136)

    Flower spaces that curl, a fence, a search, a table, a movable flag, and a pasture in which people are “hitting,” all without any apparent relationship to one another, dot the visual landscape of the opening lines ofThe Sound and the Fury. And, as if the first paragraph didn’t throw enough problems at the reader, the opening words of the second paragraph, the novel’s first spoken words—“Here, caddie.”—are relayed to us by the same narrator who has thrown us asea in the first paragraph, who transmits them without identifying their source, and who misunderstands them. They contain...

  7. The Artist as Cuckold
    (pp. 137-165)

    In order to believe that Thomas Sutpen rejects Charles Bon because he has black blood, readers have blithely been willing to do a good deal of fancy footwork around some significant obstacles. First, you have to believe that Sutpen is far more race-conscious than he proves himself to be in any other place in the novel. Second, you have to believe that Bon at birth had physical characteristics—skin pigmentation, hair texture, lip thickness: something—that identified him as black, but which disappeared as he got older so that he could enroll at the University of Mississippi and pass as...

  8. Ratliff’s Buggies
    (pp. 166-195)

    The Hamletbegins with a blurring of geographical, temporal, and political boundaries. Though Frenchman’s Bend lies “twenty miles southeast of Jefferson,” it is “Hill-cradled and remote, definite yet without boundaries, straddling into two counties and owning allegiance to neither”; the old Frenchman’s mansion is still known as the Old Frenchman place, but “the original boundaries now existed only on old faded records in the Chancery Clerk’s office in the county court house in Jefferson, and even some of the once-fertile fields had long since reverted to the cane-and-cypress jungle from which their first master had hewed them.” But this “master”...

  9. Woman and the Feminine in A Fable
    (pp. 196-218)

    At almost the exact dead center ofA Fableoccurs one of those characteristic Faulknerian scenes that abrupt into the narrative, encounter one or more of the plot’s central characters or elements, then disappear as abruptly. By 1954 this was so well-established an aspect of Faulkner’s technique—the most famous example being the “Notes on a Horsethief” section ofA Fableitself—that we ought to know to take such scenes’ very disruptiveness as the measure of their significance to the larger work. The scene I refer to here occurs on Wednesday evening, as precisely at the center of this...

  10. Man in the Middle: Faulkner and the Southern White Moderate
    (pp. 219-241)

    Faulkner wroteIntruder in the Dustin the winter and early spring of 1948, seasons during which the Mississippi Democratic party geared itself for a vital confrontation with the national Democratic party at the summer convention in Philadelphia over the report of President Truman’s Commission on Civil Rights. Truman was urging Congress “to adopt his civil rights program embodying voting rights, employment opportunities, and other provisions destined to draw fire from Southern Democrats” (Winter 141). Governor Fielding Wright called a meeting of Mississippi Democrats for February 12, Lincoln’s birthday, in Jackson. All members of the legislature attended, hoping to find...

  11. Faulkner at Midcentury
    (pp. 242-272)

    There’s a wonderful moment in the 1952Omnibustelevision program about William Faulkner. Moon Mullins, Faulkner’s old friend and the former editor of the OxfordEagle, comes to Rowan Oak to tell Faulkner that he’s won the Nobel Prize. TheOmnibuscamera stationed in the Rowan Oak living room watches from behind Faulkner as he answers Mullins’ knock at the front door; Faulkner, neatly dressed in a coat and a tie, greets Mullins: “So you’re the one the trouble begins with?” “Who did you want it to begin with?” Mullins responds, as they move together into the living room, sit...

  12. Works Cited
    (pp. 273-282)
  13. Index
    (pp. 283-288)