In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Book Reviews 131 the "practical" men of North and South, eager to get down to business, had serious doubts about their own or each other's masculinity. When all is said, the smell of cigars and the taste of brandy continue to linger at the table of reconciliation. Frederick A. Bode Concordia University Daniel J.Singal. William Faulkner: The Making ala Modernist. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997. Pp. xii + 357, bibliography and index. No one who undertakes a book-length study of the work ofWilliam Faulkner need fear suspicion of having chosen a subject with a side-long eye to the ease of producing fresh observations and novel interpretations. In matters of literary criticism, it requires more resoluteness and confidence to boldly go where many men, and women, have gone before, and no trails have been more thoroughly trod than the deeply rutted dirt roads of Yoknapatawpha County. If, as Mark Twain notoriously claimed, the absence of a work of Jane Austen is sufficient to render any library excellent, the presence of the collected criticism devoted to Faulkner would already constitute a major archive . Eminence may be more quick and certain in less crowded arenas, as any world class korfballer or dry-land fly-caster will surely admit, but centre court continues to allure, in spite of the throng at the entrance alley. And for any committed Faulknerian, it is right that it should be so, for who else teaches so well the stern lesson of pushing bravely on amidst the ceaseless sussurrence of voices whispering that it has all been said before, and of believing that it is still possible to tell the story, for once, as it really should be told? Daniel J.Singal's new book, William Faulkner: The Making ala Modernist, is one more attempt to tell that story, and it is a worthwhile if not conclusive one. With greater forbearance on the part of the publisher, the title might have helpfully extended to read "from the Ruins of a Victorian," since the plot is really the narrative of Faulkner's gradual and conflicted shedding of a world view and system of values inherited from the nineteenth century, as well as the building of a self more in tune with the presuppositions of mod- 132 Canadian Review of American Studies Revue canadienne cfetudes amertcatnes em life and art. Singal's best known previous work, The War Within: From Victorian to Modernist Thought in the South (1982), dealt with the same theme, elaborated across a wider canvas. Here he shifts from intellectual history to textual analysis, offering what might be considered a corroborative case study, as well as what he claims to be the first study of "the structure and nature of [Faulkner's] thought." The most important aspect of Faulkner's intellectual biography, in Singal's reading, is his coming of age in a southern culture that was saturated by a devot1on to the "Victorian" image of the world, and to the ideals that derived from it. There are at least as many "Victorianisms" asthere are "Romanticisms"; Singal's is defined above all by its commitment to a "unified and fixed set of truths about all aspects of life," and to "absolute moral standards based on a radical dichotomy" between the civilized and the debased, the pure and corrupt. Full-time Victorianists may find this somewhat overstated, but Singal defends it by asserting that his rather simple model is intended to describe only the stripped down and intellectually anorexic version of Victorianism that prevailed in the American South from the end of the Civil War-Victorianism lite, let us say. Fortified with the regionally specific spices of the Cavalier myth and Lost Causism, that conceptually thin gruel became the ideological staple south of the Mason-Dixon line. It is one of the most remarkable feats in American letters that Faulkner, growing up in northern Mississippi amidst this complex of beliefs and deeply attracted to many of them, should have transformed himself into the foremost American modernist novelist. For Singal, Faulkner's modernism is less a matter of style than of attitude, a conviction that the fixed Victorian dichotomies were always an illusion and...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 131-134
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.