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NICOLE J. CAMASTRA University of Georgia “Waters of the Fountain Salmacis”: Metamorphosis and the Ovidian Subtext in William Faulkner’s Sanctuary WILLIAM FAULKNER’S SANCTUARY STRONGLY ALLUDES TO OVID’S THE Metamorphoses, primarily through the myth of Narcissus. Horace sees both his and Popeye’s reflections in the opening scene; Popeye obsesses about his hair, asking the sheriff to “fix” it just before he hangs for murder; and Temple’s “painted” face repeatedly stares back at her from a compact mirror. Elements of the Narcissus myth help to establish the themes of self-love and self-loathing that course through the novel.1 But the violent shift from innocence to knowledge experienced by Temple Drake and the center of the novel’s concern with evil and violable sanctuary are more concretely rooted in the darker tale of Salmacis and Hermaphroditus.Focusingonsexualandepistemologicaltransformation, Ovid writes of a young man and a nymph forever fused into one being, “nor boy nor girl, / Neither yet both within a single body” (122). The girl, Salmacis, seems culpable since she articulates her mad desire to make love to the boy; but Hermaphroditus, “half innocent of love” (121), coyly dismisses the girl’s assertive sexual overtures, encouraging her even more. After a violent struggle in a “tempting pool” (120) of water, the gods join the two irrevocably, granting the pool its “weird magic.” Both figures succumb to impulses they only partially understand, and their own agency seems subordinate to that of the “fountained pool” (122) that devours them both. The tale of Salmacis and others in The Metamorphoses. indulge Ovid’s fascination with the psychology of love and sex, and his consistent placing of “natural law above decorum” (Gregory xviii), as in his Art of Love along with The Metamorphoses, precipitated his exile. As a story teller, Ovid aimed to vivify, not judge, the human condition. The 1 See John T. Irwin’s discussion of the Narcissus myth and Horace Benbow in both Sanctuary and Flags in the Dust. 324 Nicole J. Camastra radical changes the characters experience in The Metamorphoses. remind us that “they live and act within a world of irrational desires which are as vivid to them as things that happen in a dream” (Gregory xi). In Sanctuary, Horace and Temple wrestle with irrational and irreconcilable desires in a dark, dream-like world “filled with all the nightmare shapes” (222). They both court metamorphosis as a means to deal with sexual and sensual forces they neither consciously welcome nor completely understand. Horace and Temple remain “half innocent of love” and the Salmacis myth resonates with both of them.2 Ovidian hermaphroditism, the shifts in identity resulting from natural impulses rather than moral consequences, figures prominently in the revised version of Sanctuary. Since the original text of the novel focuses mostly on Horace’s story, the female element of the Ovidian androgyne seems poorly represented and, therefore, unconvincing.3 In contrast, the revised text puts equal implicit weight on Temple’s drama and provides more depth to the violent metamorphosis they both experience. More importantly, good evidence exists that Faulkner’s idea for the novel originated with a vision of Temple Drake and her father in the Luxembourg Gardens, facing a fountain (316). Faulkner’s early conception of what would become the final scene in both texts not only 2 In Faulkner’s Olympian Laugh, Walter Brylowski reads some of Faulkner’s work as indebted to Ovid, though he never exhibits definitive proof of Faulkner’s having read the Roman poet (45-47). The likelihood of Faulkner’s acquaintance with The Metamorphoses is pretty high, given his statements concerning another classic author during one of his class conferences at the University of Virginia in 1957: “Well, I’m sure if I ever read Vergil [sic]—I can’t remember whether I did or not—I’d have stolen from him too for the reason that the writer is influenced by everything he ever read” (University 150). Incidentally, a 1956 edition of Virgil is listed as a component of his library(Blotner,Library80).Moreimportantly,JosephBlotner’sintroductiontoWilliam Faulkner’s Library reminds us that “one should remember that he obviously read many books—throughouthislifebutparticularlyduringhisliteraryapprenticeship—ofwhich this catalogue gives...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2689-517X
Print ISSN
0026-637X
Pages
pp. 323-340
Launched on MUSE
2020-02-27
Open Access
No
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