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  • Faulkner
  • Taylor Hagood

The year was a modestly productive one for William Faulkner studies, with a helpful and readable new biography, two Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha collections, and catch-up issues of the Faulkner Journal, but no monographs dedicated solely to his work. Studies of African American convergences with Faulkner dominate, with particular attention paid to the civil rights movement, and sound and media continue to grow as important lines of inquiry. Hemispherical studies characterize the current era of "global Faulkner" criticism, and a number of studies focus on writers responding to him.

i Biography

In Myself and the World: A Biography of William Faulkner (Miss.) the long-established Faulkner scholar Robert W. Hamblin presents a barebones biography based on this premise: "The best preparation for reading [Faulkner's] magnificent books is to have a good understanding of the life and experience—both outer and inner—from which they grew. If this book leads readers to want to read (and reread) Faulkner's novels and stories, it will have served the purpose for which it is intended." This essentially conservative book offers up the Faulkner biographical narrative in the same framework as the major biographies by Joseph Blotner, Frederick Karl, Jay Parini, and others. Far from adding anything new, reassessing, or even providing a unique and provocative approach to Faulkner's biography in the way, say, Phillip Weinstein's [End Page 137] Becoming Faulkner does, Hamblin's is a highly readable "lite" version of the Faulkner story, presumably for people who want to enjoy learning about Faulkner's life without having to slog through 400 pages or deal with a "reassessment." It is particularly unfortunate that Hamblin makes no use of Judith L. Sensibar's Faulkner and Love (2009; see AmLS 2009, pp. 177–79). Sensibar's insistence that three women, Faulkner's mother, Caroline Barr, and Estelle Oldham, were major shaping influences not only adds to but poses a major challenge to the standard line—on which Hamblin spends a chapter—that the "Old Colonel" William Clark Falkner "was arguably the single greatest influence upon the fiction of William Faulkner." Still, the book does bring something new to the Faulkner life story by drawing from the Brodsky collection at Southeast Missouri State's Center for Faulkner Studies to include a number of Faulkner drawings and photographs that are not commonly known. In fact, this biography has the distinction of being one of the most extensively illustrated biographies of Faulkner. Certainly it is the latest of Hamblin's many successful projects—from editing the journal Teaching Faulkner to Oprah's "Summer of Faulkner"—designed to make an often inaccessible author accessible to a range of readers, including readerly students of any age.

ii Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha

Two collections of essays arising from the annual University of Mississippi Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha conference appear this year. Fifty Years after Faulkner, ed. Jay Watson and Ann J. Abadie (Miss.), reflects contributions to the 2012 conference of that title. As Watson's introduction (pp. xi–xxiv) puts it, a half century later offers a useful moment "to pause, reflect, and take stock of Faulkner's rich and multifaceted life and career." Ramón Saldívar's "Faulkner and the World Culture of the Global South" (pp. 3–19) reminds readers that Absalom, Absalom! stretches from Canada to the Caribbean, that Jason Compson configures Mississippi as a Global South space, and that Joe Christmas may be Mexican. Deborah Clarke's "Considering the Unthinkable: The Risks and Rewards of Decanonizing Faulkner" (pp. 20–30) worries that in seeing Faulkner as always already great scholars have run the risk of foreclosing readings of his texts and not allowing for new explorations of his flaws. Clarke offers a clever and illuminating reading of Lorelei Lee in Anita Loos's Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, arguing that Loos's modernist [End Page 138] presentation of women makes them arguably more developed, nuanced, and authentic than Faulkner's women, such as Caddy Compson. She also argues that taking Faulkner's genius for granted poses problems in dealing with his depiction of race: it overlooks the view of a number of writers and scholars that Faulkner often does not get African American experience right...


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