Though this year’s William Faulkner scholarship is less voluminous than usual, in part because of lags in publication of the Faulkner Journal, it is no less rich. The major critical thrust of the year is the exploration of Faulkner’s time in Hollywood—the biographical details, the influence of the experience on him and his literature, and his influence on the industry. Undergirding this specific topic is a questioning of the myth of the Faulkner persona, the image of an individual genius, isolated and self-sustaining. Instead, much of the scholarship examines Faulkner’s place in larger systems of production—Hollywood, the academy, and the larger community of writers. Alongside these dominant trends, this year’s scholarship features the continuation of other recent developments, with several intertextual readings, some of which position Faulkner in the transnational South. As always there was an abundance of readings of Absalom, Absalom! And as always the current work is exciting for the ways that it opens up new avenues for exploring the larger systems of production that were shaped by and helped to shape Faulkner.
The only book devoted entirely to Faulkner this year is the proceedings of the 2010 Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference, Faulkner and Film, ed. Peter Lurie and Ann J. Abadie (Miss.). As Lurie notes in his introduction (pp. ix–xxxi), this is the second Yoknapatawpha conference devoted to the topic (the earlier one took place in 1978, and [End Page 151] the essays arising from it were published the following year). While the previous volume focused mostly on Faulkner’s biographical connection to the film industry and on the “influence” of specific films and works of fiction, this one asks more nuanced questions, examining not just Faulkner’s films but the filmic techniques that he employs in his fiction. Film studies has changed much since the earlier volume, as these new essays make clear.
The first essay in the collection, Robert W. Hamblin’s “Faulkner and Hollywood: A Call for Reassessment” (pp. 3–25), contextualizes the significant changes in film studies. After giving a brief summary of Faulkner’s Hollywood career and noting a few cases of intertexuality between Faulkner’s screen and fiction writing, Hamblin argues, “Before Hollywood … Faulkner wrote fiction primarily in the ‘high modernist’ style as represented by Conrad, Joyce, and Eliot; after Hollywood, he principally wrote in what might be termed a ‘filmic’ style.” This “filmic” style is not the same thing as a “cinematic” style, the former emphasizing traits associated with the screenwriter, the latter involving the language and techniques of film as absorbed by viewers and craftsmen alike. This distinction undergirds the critical treatment in the entire volume.
In “Images of Collaboration: William Faulkner’s Motion Picture Communities” (pp. 26–46) Robert Jackson turns to Faulkner’s fraught relationship with the idea of collaboration, both in Hollywood and in his literary career. Jackson notes that both modernist theorists and Hollywood during the “auteur” era idolized the image of the great artist working in isolation. And yet Hollywood was in fact strongly reliant on collaboration. Jackson marks the contradiction: “Even as film production, especially during the Hollywood studio era, is a fundamentally collaborative process, it remains one in which the idea of collaboration has never been very well received or theorized.” He proposes that we read Faulkner with the Hollywood reality in mind, seeing him as influenced by and influencing a collaborative community, certainly in Hollywood but also in his fiction. In this way, further exploration of Faulkner’s screenwriting experiences can open up avenues for better understanding him as a collaborative artist.
Turning from general discussion of Faulkner’s Hollywood career, the next essay in Faulkner and Film discusses some of the specific filmic techniques that Hamblin identifies in his reassessment essay. In “Immemorial Cinema: Film, Travel, and Faulkner’s Poetics of Space” (pp. 47–70) Aaron Nyerges explores Light in August through the [End Page 152] language of photography. He argues that “the irruption of the camera into the world of representation triggers a tension between photography and orthography that Faulkner negotiates through characterization.” Thus Faulkner emulates slow motion “through an elongation of syntax and an accretion...