- 9 Faulkner
Faulkner studies continue to benefit from criticism's fickle tendencies. Several areas once judged by a majority of Faulknerians as "irrelevant" to productive engagement with his novels have found vindication in the hands of experts versed in theory and in Faulkner. In particular, a more global image of Faulkner's work is evolving as critics continue to explore "Southernness" as a chimera rather than a chronic condition.
Sally Wolff King conducted an interview with the bishop serving at St. Peter's Church in Oxford, Mississippi, during the years of the civil rights movement. "'He Liked to Call Me Padre': Bishop Duncan Gray Remembers William Faulkner" (SoQ 43, i: 80–106) contains Gray's memories, admittedly sparse and hazy, of Faulkner. Clearer are Bishop Gray's expressions of various Faulkner family members' views on integration, which he supported from the pulpit of St. Peter's, and his memories of Maud Falkner's funeral.
ii Bibliography, Editions, Manuscripts
The conference proceedings from the 2003 Faulkner conference at the University of Mississippi conclude with Seth Berner's "Collecting Faulkner," pp. 153–67 in Joseph R. Urgo and Ann J. Abadie, eds., Faulkner and the Ecology of the South: Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha, [End Page 189] 2003 (Miss.). A book dealer and longtime conference attendee, Berner offers both practical advice on collecting Faulkner ("not for the faint of wallet," he notes) and explanations of publishing terms that affect collecting markets.
iii General Criticism
Faulkner appears as a major figure in five monographs this year and as the central subject of one. Earl Rovit and Arthur Waldhorn have compiled an entertaining selection of commentary on Faulkner and his greatest contemporary in Hemingway and Faulkner in Their Time (Continuum). They include short biographies of the commentators. The book will not settle any of the ongoing debates concerning either writer's work or their vexed relationship to one another, but it's fun to read things like Hart Crane's assessment of The Sun Also Rises ("No wonder the book sold; there isn't a sentence in it without a highball or a martini") and H. L. Mencken's view of Faulkner's novels ("rather forced melodramas"). In An Ethical Analysis of the Portrayal of Abortion in American Fiction: Dreiser, Hemingway, Faulkner, Dos Passos, Brautigan, and Irving (Mellen) Jeff Koloze enlists The Wild Palms in the contemporary anti-abortion movement. He argues that the hill woman of "Old Man" "fulfills her body's natural function" but that Charlotte's death in The Wild Palms "is viewed almost as nature's punishment for the abrogation of an essential element of her womanhood." Also interested in ethical narratives, Jeffrey J. Folks examines Faulkner through the lens of Elias Canetti's meditations on power in Damaged Lives: Southern and Caribbean Narrative from Faulkner to Naipaul (Peter Lang). In Light in August, for example, Byron Bunch "is capable of transforming fear and suffering into courage and compassion"; and "this transformative force, the counterbalance to the primal fear and violence that Canetti documents at such length in Crowds and Power, is more generally revealed in Faulkner's fiction than one might suppose." Folks examines Faulkner's If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem and Requiem for a Nun as a way of setting up readings of F. Scott Fitzgerald's "Dream of the South" and James Agee's work, which in turn lead to analysis of Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood (a quibble here: the main character is Hazel, not Haze, Motes), Mary Hood's Familiar Heat, and V. S. Naipaul's The Enigma of Arrival. In less deft hands, Folks's argument would be hidebound. He advocates the search for moral transformation [End Page 190] rather than a surrender to moral chaos—which might account for his choice of Fitzgerald texts, for instance—but he does not descend into cliché when he describes "the legacy of a past civilization that survives in the sensibility of traditionalists" whose work embodies "a significant form of continuity with the past."
Margaret Donovan Bauer's William Faulkner's Legacy: "What Shadow, What Stain, What Mark" (Florida) sets out to "expos[e] the Faulknerian perspective that, intentionally or not, marginalizes and...