English - Free topic 5: The Faulkner Factor: Influence and Intertextuality

Course content

In Barry Hannah’s posthumously published short story “Fire Water” (2010), two Mississippi author-friends ponder the legacy of William Faulkner and “the way he wrote like an octopus with pencils.” In concluding that “Compared, they were only mild grannies with a patient lightbulb inside,” Hannah’s characters are merely the latest in a long line of writers who have struggled with what fifty years earlier Flannery O’Connor termed the daunting “presence” of southern literature’s “Dixie Limited,” William Faulkner, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1949 and widely regarded as a seminal figure in U.S. southern, American and modernist literatures. In this course, we will consider how a wide range of authors—regional and international, male and female, white and black—have evaded, negotiated, parodied and embraced what I have called "the Faulkner factor": Faulkner’s literary influence and legacy. The dubious distinction of being compared to Faulkner burdened the early careers of white male southern authors from William Styron via Cormac McCarthy to Richard Ford and Hannah himself; critics have considered the intertextual and “postsouthern” maneuvers undertaken by some of these authors to “get out from under Faulkner.” Meanwhile, black southern authors from Ernest Gaines to Jesmyn Ward have worked out varying complex relationships to Faulkner’s fiction, as well as his public statements on race relations. Finally, as recent scholarship in Faulkner studies and the “new southern studies” has emphasized, Faulkner’s influence and legacy has extended south of the U.S. South, as well as across the Atlantic. Hence we will also consider some of those non-southern, non-American authors who have consciously drawn on or responded to Faulkner’s body of work.

Primary course texts will be selected (i.e., narrowed down!) from the following:  William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury (1929), William Styron, Lie Down in Darkness (1951), Richard Ford, A Piece of My Heart (1976), William Faulkner, Flags in the Dust (1973), Barry Hannah, Ray, William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom! (1936), Peter Matthiessen, Shadow Country (2009), Mario Vargas Llosa, The Real Life of Alejandro Mayta (1986), Edouard Glissant, Faulkner, William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying (1931), Graham Swift, Last Orders (1996), Ernest Gaines, A Gathering of Old Men (1983), Jesmyn Ward, Salvage the Bones (2011)

Secondary texts are to be confirmed, but will likely include John Matthews, ed., The New Cambridge Companion to William Faulkner (2015)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 28
  • Preparation
  • 176,75
  • English
  • 204,75