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  • Faulkner
  • Peter Lurie

This year sees the continuation of certain patterns in recent William Faulkner scholarship as well as a few surprises. There is not a single Faulkner monograph, but there are more articles than usual, due partly to two issues of the Faulkner Journal in 2012 (after none in 2011); one of these was the special issue “Faulkner and the Metropolis” (26, i), which I edited. More significant is the diverse content of this recent work, which demonstrates a range of approaches and critical methodologies beyond those used with perhaps any other American writer. Several articles draw on the more recent field of disability studies, while formalist and even deconstructive or Derridean readings return after their long eclipse by more generally historicist and cultural approaches. One sustained example appears in the Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha volume for 2012, Faulkner and Formalism, drawing on the proceedings of the 2008 Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference. The collection exemplifies what Marjorie Levinson and others have described as the New Formalism, combining attention to Faulkner’s language with an awareness of its embeddedness in history and in connection with other methodologies.

i Biographical Considerations

Though not strictly speaking a biography, Joseph Fruscione’s Faulkner and Hemingway: Biography of a Literary Rivalry (Ohio State) does treat the authors’ lives as well as their work extensively. The first book-length [End Page 153] study of the matter, it is a lively exploration of the somewhat familiar story of an energetic “professional” and personal relationship. Faulkner and Hemingway pursued what Fruscione calls a “psychocompetitive” way of defining themselves against each other, one that was unusual for both men, who otherwise imagined themselves as essentially without peer. Fruscione charts in their public comments, letters, and references to one another their efforts to “out-innovate” each other. He points to their mutual postwar identities, their shared rejection of Sherwood Anderson, and their singular, highly opposed approaches to the primacy of syntax in determining style—Hemingway’s search for the “one true sentence” against Faulkner’s longing to “say it all in one sentence,” presumably a particularly long one comprised of multiple subordinations, displaced pronouns, and embedded, auxiliary clauses. Beyond these more superficial correspondences, with which many readers are familiar, Fruscione offers powerful readings of shared imagery and textual detail within each writer’s corpus, for example, motifs peculiar to either man’s experiences of hunting. He expands considerably on what have seemed passing references to Hemingway in If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem to suggest how each of the novel’s alternating sections corresponds to a general sense of what defined for each man the writerly domain. Generally, Fruscione suggests, Faulkner got the better of Hemingway in their nearly career-long “duel,” not because Hemingway was ultimately less recognized or decorated a writer than Faulkner but because, as Fruscione sympathetically explains, Hemingway was more troubled by the trials of writing and by a highly complicated selfhood. The book closes with a wistful account of a near miss, a visit Hemingway orchestrated to Oxford, Mississippi, in 1947 on which he did not in fact encounter Faulkner. Fruscione offers this attempted visit as evidence of Hemingway’s recognition of his literary “brother” and his acceptance of the artistic power of their competitive relationship: “In their own ways, Faulkner and Hemingway sought after—and frequently achieved—the perfection of craft for which all artists strive in one another’s shadow.” The book leaves us asking whether either man would have accomplished as much without the other.

James B. Carothers’s “‘In Conflict with Itself’: The Nobel Prize Address in Faulknerian Contexts,” pp. 20–40 in Faulkner and Formalism, calls for a reassessment of that speech. Against critics who detect disingenuousness in Faulkner’s uplifting rhetoric, Carothers finds several reasons for taking him at his word. Faulkner in the late 1940s had [End Page 154] been energized by the decisive Allied victory in World War II, had been “liberated” from a constricting Hollywood contract, and was increasingly confident in his previous and more importantly his ongoing work as a writer. By 1950 when (with some help from Malcolm Cowley) he received the Nobel, Faulkner stood at what Carothers calls both a personal and artistic “pinnacle...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-2125
Print ISSN
0065-9142
Pages
pp. 153-173
Launched on MUSE
2014-09-20
Open Access
No
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