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The Canadian Review of American Studies, Volume IX, Number 2, Fall, 1978·Incenseand Honeysuckle: Menand Women In Faulkner Estella Schoenberg. Old Tales and Talking: Quentin Compson in Wilham Faulkner's "Absalom, Absalom!" and Related Works. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1977. l56 + xi pp. David Williams. Faulkner's Women: The Myth and the Muse. \lontrealand London: McGill-Queen's, 1977. 268 + xiii pp. T. H. Adamowski Thereis a kind of literary criticism which insists on the importance of the writerwith whom it is concerned, which may speak of the social, political, moral and philosophical issues that define that importance, and yet which remainscuriously distant from the life of the reader to whom it isdirected and fromthe world in which its chosen authors wrote. An urgency is missing from itsdiscourse, and in that absence the issues raised by the critic are drained of muchof the importance claimed for them. This is a criticism more interested inthe "insights" it offers than the demands on the life of the reader that such , insightsmight seem to imply. It is a criticism that is not intended for the life butrather for the scholarly and pedagogical activity of the reader. One can callthis criticism "academic," since it comprises the great bulk of the writing that issues from the pens of the professors-who write for the professors. Also,it is the academic profession of criticism- that congeries of ''methods," "heresies" and conventions that make up "literary studies" at the present time-that accounts for the space between the critical discourse and the life ofthe reader. Still, one realizes that the professors need not be so detached from the lifevalueof their insights. The work of Howe, Fiedler, Levis and the late Lionel Trilling can stand as a witness to the moral and intellectual demands that criticism may make on our daily lives. But these are the exceptions within the academic community. It is a busy community, and never has it seemed so busy as in its concern with the work of Faulkner. 242 T. H. Adamowski The two books under review here are certainly instances of the academicin criticism, though one is more academic than the other. Schoenberg's is the more academic piece of critical scholarship and thus the slighter work. More importantly, she does not really establish the case for her insight. Her contention is that The Sound and the Fury and Absalom, Absalom! makeup what she calls a "multi-novel or a dual-novel." She insists that the later novel be read as the response made to the Sutpen legend by a Quentin Comps onwho remains the Quentin of the earlier novel. For Schoenberg there is only this one Quentin: a young man forever haunted by the infidelity of his sister and unable to respond to the dilemma of Henry and Judith Sutpen and Charles Bon except insofar as that dilemma can be assimilated to his own. Schoenberg is a good "close reader," in the great academic tradition, and she makes it clear that many problems stand in the way of any interpretation of Absalom, Absalom I that would give a central place in the novel to Thomas Sutpen. She will not, for example, accept the notion that the primary concern ofthe novel is with a murder (Henry's of Bon) which has its source in the farmer's fear of miscegenation. Nor will she grant that the text allows one to speak with equanimity of Bon as Sutpen's son by a woman whom he put aside because he "learned" that she had Negro blood. For Schoenberg it is Quentin who stands behind these "themes" of incest and miscegenation. She believes that the novel raises more problems (of chronology and narrative "fact") than its text allows one to solve. In this gap between the problem and the solution stands Quentin, brooding over Caddy, and haunted by the odors of honeysuckle and wistaria. Schoenberg realizes that Caddy is not mentioned in the later novel (although Quentin's suicide is implied by the appendix), and she admits that the narrator remarks that Quentin and Shreve are "probably right" in certain of their interpretations of the Sutpen material. But these problems seem not to bother her...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-114X
Print ISSN
0007-7720
Pages
pp. 241-247
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Open Access
No
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