While John Winthrop might have famously uttered the phrase “city upon a hill” on the way to Massachusetts, the strands of millennialism and exceptionalism that remain so central to U.S. political discourse are now dominated by eschatological visions that have emerged from the particular historical experiences of the U.S. South. Despite the strategic exploitation of this reality by political communicators, scholars in the humanities have paid little attention to the eschatological visions offered by southern religious culture.
Fortunately, writers and artists have not ignored such matters; compared to their academic counterparts, southern novelists have been far better attuned to a southern apocalyptic imaginary—a field of reference, drawn from the cosmology of southern evangelical Protestantism, that maps the apocalyptic possibilities of cataclysm, judgment, deliverance, and even revolution onto the landscape of the region. Apocalypse South rectifies the omissions in existing scholarship by interrogating the role of apocalyptic discourse in selected works of fiction by four southern writers—William Faulkner, Richard Wright, Randall Kenan, and Dorothy Allison. In doing so, it reinvigorates discussions of religion in southern literary scholarship and introduces a new element in the ongoing investigation into how regional identities function in notions of national mission and American exceptionalism. Engaging concerns of religion, race, sexuality, and community in fiction from the 1930s to the present, Apocalypse South offers a new conceptual framework for considering what has long been considered “southern Gothic literature”—a framework less concerned with the conventions of a particular literary genre than with the ways in which literature exposes and even tries to make sense of the contradictions within cultures.
As the price of oil climbs toward $100 a barrel, our impending post-fossil fuel future appears to offer two alternatives: a bleak existence defined by scarcity and sacrifice or one in which humanity places its faith in technological solutions with unforeseen consequences. Are there other ways to imagine life in an era that will be characterized by resource depletion?
The French intellectual Georges Bataille saw energy as the basis of all human activity—the essence of the human—and he envisioned a society that, instead of renouncing profligate spending, would embrace a more radical type of energy expenditure: la dépense, or “spending without return.” In Bataille’s Peak, Allan Stoekl demonstrates how a close reading of Bataille—in the wake of Giordano Bruno and the Marquis de Sade— can help us rethink not only energy and consumption, but also such related topics as the city, the body, eroticism, and religion. Through these cases, Stoekl identifies the differences between waste, which Bataille condemned, and expenditure, which he celebrated.
The challenge of living in the twenty-first century, Stoekl argues, will be to comprehend—without recourse to austerity and self-denial—the inevitable and necessary shift from a civilization founded on waste to one based on Bataillean expenditure.
Allan Stoekl is professor of French and comparative literature at Penn State University. He is the author of Agonies of the Intellectual: Commitment, Subjectivity, and the Performative in the Twentieth-Century French Tradition and translator of Bataille’s Visions of Excess: Selected Writings, 1927–1939 (Minnesota, 1985).
How Faulkner, Welty, Lytle, and Gordon reimagined and reconstructed the Native American past in their work.
In this book, Annette Trefzer argues that not only have Native Americans played an active role in the construction of the South’s cultural landscape—despite a history of colonization, dispossession, and removal aimed at rendering them invisible—but that their under-examined presence in southern literature also provides a crucial avenue for a post-regional understanding of the American South. William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Andrew Lytle, and Caroline Gordon created works about the Spanish conquest of the New World, the Cherokee frontier during the Revolution, the expansion into the Mississippi Territory, and the slaveholding societies of the American southeast. They wrote 100 years after the forceful removal of Native Americans from the southeast but consistently returned to the idea of an "Indian frontier," each articulating a different vision and discourse about Native Americans—wholesome and pure in the vision of some, symptomatic of hybridity and universality for others.
Trefzer contends that these writers engage in a double discourse about the region and nation: fabricating regional identity by invoking the South’s "native" heritage and pointing to issues of national guilt, colonization, westward expansion, and imperialism in a period that saw the US sphere of influence widen dramatically. In both cases, the "Indian" signifies regional and national self-definitions and contributes to the shaping of cultural, racial, and national "others." Trefzer employs the idea of archeology in two senses: quite literally the excavation of artifacts in the South during the New Deal administration of the 1930s (a surfacing of material culture to which each writer responded) and archeology as a method for exploring texts she addresses (literary digs into the textual strata of America’s literature and its cultural history).
In the first book of its kind, Joseph Fruscione examines the contentious relationship of two titans of American modernism—William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway. At times, each voiced a shared literary and professional respect; at other times, each thought himself the superior craftsman and spoke of the other disparagingly. Their rivalry was rich, nuanced, and vexed, embodying various attitudes—one-upmanship, respect, criticism, and praise. Their intertextual contest—what we might call their modernist dialectic—was manifested textually through their fiction, nonfiction, letters, Nobel Prize addresses, and spoken remarks.
Their intertextual relationship was highly significant for both authors: it was unusual for the reclusive Faulkner to engage so directly and so often with a contemporary, and for the hypercompetitive Hemingway to admit respect for—and possible inferiority to—a rival writer. Their joint awareness spawned an influential, allusive, and sparring intertext in which each had a psychocompetitive hold on the other. Faulkner and Hemingway: Biography of a Literary Rivalry—part analytical study, part literary biography—illustrates how their artistic paths and performed masculinities clashed frequently, as the authors measured themselves against each other and engendered a mutual psychological influence.
Although previous scholarship has noted particular flare-ups and textual similarities, most of it has tended to be more implicit in outlining the broader narrative of Faulkner and Hemingway as longtime rivals. Building on such scholarship, Faulkner and Hemingway offers a more overt study of how these authors’ published and archival work traces a sequence of psychological influence, cross-textual reference, and gender performance over some three decades.
In Games of Property, distinguished critic Thadious M. Davis provides a dazzling new interpretation of William Faulkner’s Go Down, Moses. Davis argues that in its unrelenting attention to issues related to the ownership of land and people, Go Down, Moses ranks among Faulkner’s finest and most accomplished works. Bringing together law, social history, game theory, and feminist critiques, she shows that the book is unified by games—fox hunting, gambling with cards and dice, racing—and, like the law, games are rule-dependent forms of social control and commentary. She illuminates the dual focus in Go Down, Moses on property and ownership on the one hand and on masculine sport and social ritual on the other. Games of Property is a masterful contribution to understandings of Faulkner’s fiction and the power and scope of property law.
Georges Bataille was arguably the greatest influence on the poststructuralist revolution in twentieth-century thought and literature, yet few truly understand his work and legacy. Stuart Kendall now translates the work and life of this renowned French writer, anthropologist, and philosopher into a concise yet informative biography that reveals fascinating facets of this intellectual giant.
Until his death in 1962, Bataille was an instrumental force in philosophical debate, acting as a foil for both Surrealism and Existentialism and advocating radical views that spanned the entire spectrum of political thought. Georges Bataille chronicles these aspects of his intellectual development, as well as tracing out his pivotal role in the creation of the College of Sociology and how his writings in aesthetics and art history laid the groundwork for visual culture studies. Kendall positions Bataille at the heart of a prodigous community of thinkers, including André Breton, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Jacques Lacan.
A compelling account, Georges Bataille will be invaluable for all thinkers who have benefited from Bataille’s lasting contributions.
In Heterology and the Postmodern, Julian Pefanis presents a new view of the history of poststructuralism (heterology) and the origins of postmodernism by analyzing three important French theorists, Georges Bataille, Jean Baudrillard, and Jean-François Lyotard. Beginning with the introduction of Hegel in French postmodernist thought—largely but not exclusively through the thought of Georges Bataille—Pefanis argues that the core problematics of postmodern aesthetics—history, exchange, representation, and writing—are related to Bataille’s reconceptualization of the Hegelian framework. Pefanis explores how Bataille was influenced by Hegel, Marcel Mauss, Freud, and Nietzsche, and traces the effects of this influence on the analyses and critiques of later postmodernists, most notably Lyotard and Baudrillard. Finally, employing these postmodernists along with Freud and Jacques Lacan, Pefanis discusses discourse on postmodernism and its relation to Freud’s concept of the death drive. This intellectual history makes valuable contributions to the debates over what the “postmodern” may mean for intellectual and political activity.
Stendhal, George Sand, Rachilde, Georges Bataille: Forgoing the patronym, with its weight of meaning, these modern French writers renamed themselves in their work. Their use of pseudonyms, as Maryline Lukacher demonstrates in this provocative study, is part of a process to subvert the name of the father and explore the suppressed relation to the figure of the mother. Combining psychoanalytic criticism, feminist theory, and literary analysis, Maternal Fictions offers a complex psychological portrait of these writers who managed at once to challenge patriarchal authority and at the same time attempt to return to the maternal. Through readings of Armance, Le Rouge et le noir, La Vie de Henry Brulard, and Les Cenci, Lukacher exposes Stendhal's preoccupation with his dead mother, who is obsessively retrieved throughout his work. George Sand's identity is, in effect, divided between two mothers, her biological mother and her grandmother, and in Histoire de ma vie,Indiana, and Mauprat, we see the writer's efforts to break the impasse created by this divided identity. In the extraordinary but too little known work of Rachilde (Marguerite Eymery), Lukacher finds the maternal figure identified as the secret inner force of patriarchal oppression. This resistance to feminism continues in the pseudonymous work of Georges Bataille. In Ma mère, Le coupable, and L’Expérience intérieure Lukacher traces Bataille’s representation of the mother as a menacing, ever subversive figure who threatens basic social configurations. Maternal Fictions establishes a new pseudonymous genealogy in modern French writing that will inform and advance our understanding of the act of self-creation that occurs in fiction.
Kevin Railey uses a materialist critical approach--which envisions literature as a discourse necessarily interactive with other forces in the world--to identify and historicize Faulkner’s authorial identity. Working from the assumption that Faulkner was deeply affected by the sociohistorical forces that surrounded his life, Railey explores the interrelationships between American history and Faulkner’s fiction, between southern history and Faulkner’s subjectivity. Railey argues that Faulkner’s obsession with history and his struggle with specific ideologies affecting southern society and his family guided his development as an artist, influencing and overdetermining characterizations and narrative structures as well as the social vision manifest in his work. By seeing Faulkner the artist and Faulkner the man as one and the same, Railey concludes that the celebrated author wrote himself into history in a way that satisfied the image he had of himself as a natural, artistic aristocrat, based on the notion of natural aristocracy.
After examining two prevailing and opposing ideologies in the South of Faulkner’s lifetime--paternalism and liberalism--Railey shows how Faulkner’s working-through of his identifications with these forces helped develop his values and perceptions as an artist and individual. Railey reads Faulkner’s fiction as exploring social concerns about the demise of paternalism, questions of leadership within liberalism, and doubts about both an aristocracy of heritage and one of wealth. This reading of The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, Sanctuary, Light in August, Absalom, Absalom!, the Snopes trilogy and The Reivers details Faulkner’s explorations of various manifestations of paternalism and liberalism and the intense conflict between them, as well as his attempts to resolve that conflict.
Providing new insights into the full range of Faulkner’s fiction, Natural Aristocracy is the first systematic materialist critique of the author and his world.
From 1929 to the latest issue, American Literature has been the foremost journal expressing the findings of those who study our national literature. The journal has published the best work of literary historians, critics, and bibliographers, ranging from the founders of the discipline to the best current critics and researchers. The longevity of this excellence lends a special distinction to the articles in American Literature. Presented in order of their first appearance, the articles in each volume constitute a revealing record of developing insights and important shifts of critical emphasis. Each article has opened a fresh line of inquiry, established a fresh perspective on a familiar topic, or settled a question that engaged the interest of experts.
Hosam Aboul-Ela provides a startlingly original perspective on Faulkner, examining his work in the transnational context of the “Global South”: the geopolitical and economic dynamics of the post-Reconstruction period that link the American South to the larger colonial tradition. Other South thus raises new questions as to the scope and attitude of Faulkner's project, positioning Faulkner's work as an inherent critique of colonialism and emphasizing a more specific conceptualization of coloniality.
Engaging with ideas and thinkers from the former colonies, Aboul-Ela draws on an understanding of economics, social structures, and the colonial/neocolonial status of the Third World, stepping outside the preconceptions of current postcolonial studies to offer a fresh perspective on our shared literary heritage and a new look at an iconic literary figure.
In Producing American Races Patricia McKee examines three authors who have powerfully influenced the formation of racial identities in the United States: Henry James, William Faulkner, and Toni Morrison. Using their work to argue that race becomes visible only through image production and exchange, McKee illuminates the significance that representational practice has had in the process of racial construction. McKee provides close readings of six novels—James’s The Wings of the Dove and The Golden Bowl, Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury and Light in August, and Morrison’s Sula and Jazz—interspersed with excursions into Lacanian and Freudian theory, critical race theory, epistemology, and theories of visuality. In James and Faulkner, she finds, race is represented visually through media that highlight ways of seeing and being seen. Written in the early twentieth century, the novels of James and Faulkner reveal how whiteness depended on visual culture even before film and television became its predominant media. In Morrison, the culture is aural and oral—and often about the absence of the visual. Because Morrison’s African American communities produce identity in nonvisual, even anti-visual terms, McKee argues, they refute not just white representations of black persons as objects but also visual orders of representation that have constructed whites as subjects and blacks as objects. With a theoretical approach that both complements and transcends current scholarship about race—and especially whiteness—Producing American Races will engage scholars in American literature, critical race theory, African American studies, and cultural studies. It will also be of value to those interested in the novel as a political and aesthetic form.
Reading Faulkner: Introductions to the First Thirteen Novels is a collection of lectures by Harvard University professor and nationally known novelist and biographer Richard Marius. Marius had been charged with the task of teaching an introductory course on Faulkner to undergraduates in 1996 and 1997. Combining his love of Faulkner's writing with his own experiences as an author and teacher, Marius produced a series of delightful lectures-which stand on their own as sparkling, well-rounded essays-that help beginning students in understanding the sometimes difficult work of this celebrated literary master.
An expository treatment of Faulkner's major works, Reading Faulkner
comprises essays that are arranged in roughly chronological order, corresponding to Faulkner's development as a writer. In a way sure to captivate the imagination of a new reader of Faulkner, Marius explicates themes in Faulkner's work, and he sheds light on the larger social history that marked Faulkner's literary production.
In addition, Marius is a southerner who grew up a couple of generations after Faulkner and, like Faulkner, turned his own world into the setting for his fiction. This unique perspective, combined with Marius's thorough readings of the novels, grounded in basic Faulkner criticism, provides an engaging and accessible self-guided tour through Faulkner's career.
Reading Faulkner is perfect for students from high school through the undergraduate level and will be enjoyed by general readers as well.
Richard Marius (1933-1999) taught at the University of Tennessee before heading Harvard's expository writing program from 1978 to 1998. He was the author of Thomas More, Martin Luther: The Christian between God and Death, and four novels about his native East Tennessee.
Nancy Grisham Anderson is an associate professor of English at Auburn University,
Montgomery. She is the author of The Writer's Audience: A Reader for Composition and the editor of <i>They Call Me Kay: A Courtship in Letters</i>, and <i>Wrestling with God: The Meditations of Richard Marius</i>. She was a longtime friend of Richard Marius.
Recalcitrance, Faulkner, and the Professors is a wonderfully fetching book of criticism that presents fairly, coherently, and forcefully the major critical viewpoints operating in literature studies today and puts them into an invigorating conflict. In the framework of a deliberately artificial plot, characters at an imaginary university present a variety of theoretical and critical points of view in a four-day round table discussion. Centering on Faulker's As I Lay Dying, the discussion has at stake the hand of Eve Birdsong, a student whose distress with the conflicts among her professors had inspired these proceedings. The cast also includes a young hero—assistant professor Charlie Mercer—professors representing a variety of contemporary critical positions, and several extraordinary students.
The discussion, presented in turn by speeches, exchanges in dialogue, and short papers, focuses on the concept of recalcitrance in fiction: the resistance that texts offer to the development of formal structures. Recalcitrance, Faulkner, and the Professors is, variously, a pedagogical text, a critical theory text, and a text about a single novel. But Wright's volume breaks the rules of categorization: it refuses to sit neatly in any genre.
Since the publication of Visions of Excess in 1985, there has been an explosion of interest in the work of Georges Bataille. The French surrealist continues to be important for his groundbreaking focus on the visceral, the erotic, and the relation of society to the primeval. This collection of prewar writings remains the volume in which Batailles’s positions are most clearly, forcefully, and obsessively put forward.This book challenges the notion of a “closed economy” predicated on utility, production, and rational consumption, and develops an alternative theory that takes into account the human tendency to lose, destroy, and waste. This collection is indispensible for an understanding of the future as well as the past of current critical theory.Georges Bataille (1897-1962), a librarian by profession, was founder of the French review Critique. He is the author of several books, including Story of the Eye, The Accused Share, Erotism, and The Absence of Myth.
Few twentieth-century writers are as revered as William Faulkner. This collection brings together the best literary criticism on Faulkner from the last six decades, detailing the imaginative and passionate responses to his still-controversial novels. By focusing on the criticism rather than the works, Linda Wagner-Martin shows the primary directions in Faulkner’s influence on critics, writers, and students of American literature today. This invaluable volume reveals the patterns of change in literary criticism over time, while exploring the various critical streams—language theory, feminism, deconstruction, and psychoanalysis—that have elevated Faulkner’s work to the highest rank of the American literary pantheon.