Scholars scrutinize Faulkner’s use of the contemporary crime and detection genre as well as novels that deepen a plot rather than solve it. Several essays are dedicated to exploring the narrative strategies and ideological functions of Faulkner’s take on the detective story, the classic “whodunit.” Among Faulkner’s novels most interested in the format of detection is Intruder in the Dust, which assumes a central role in this essay collection.
Other contributors explore the thickening mysteries of racial and sexual identity, particularly the enigmatic nature of his female and African American characters. Questions of insight, cognition, and judgment in Faulkner’s work are also at the center of essays that explore his storytelling techniques, plot development, and the inscrutability of language itself.
This study argues that Faulkner's writings about racial matters interrogated rather than validated his racial beliefs and that, in the process of questioning his own ideology, his fictional forms extended his reach as an artist.
After winning the Nobel Prize in 1950, Faulkner wrote what critics term "his later novels." These have been almost uniformly dismissed, with the prevailing view being that as he became a more public figure, his fiction became a platform rather than a canvas.
Within this context Faulkner on the Color Line redeems the novels in the final phase of his career by interpreting them as Faulkner's way of addressing the problem of race in America. They are seen as a series of formal experiments Faulkner deliberately attempted as he examined the various cultural functions of narrative, most particularly those narratives that enforce American racial ideology.
The first chapters look at the ways in which the ability to assert oneself verbally informs matters of individual and cultural identity in both the widely studied works of Faulkner's major phase and those in his later career. Later chapters focus on the last works, providing detailed readings of Intruder in the Dust, Requiem for a Nun, the Snopes trilogy, A Fable, and The Reivers.
The book examines Faulkner as he confronted the vexing questions of race in these novels and assesses the identity of Faulkner as the Nobel Prize winner who claimed on many occasions that he was "tired," maybe "written out." In his decision not to speak in the identity of the black people represented in his fiction, in his decision to write instead about the complexities of all racial constructions, he produced a host of characters suffering within the rigid protocols on race that had been enforced in America for centuries. As a private, white individual, he could never be other than what he was. Rather than attempt to reconcile Faulkner the public man with the private one, however, this study concludes that through his fiction Faulkner the artist questioned himself and came to understand others across the color line.
Theresa M. Towner is Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies in the School of Arts and Humanities at the University of Texas in Dallas.
Few other writers have exerted as profound an influence on literature as Faulkner. Prominent literary scholar M. Thomas Inge documents the scope of his influence in the twentieth century through the words of those writers themselves.
This collection of essays offers a survey attempting to capture exactly what Faulkner meant to his literary peers and colleagues both in the United States and abroad. Inge has combed essays, articles, reviews, letters, and comments written by over forty novelists, poets, and playwrights about Faulkner’s fiction and the power of his literary accomplishment. Many major American writers sound off here, as well as important figures from France, England, Japan, and South America.
Some speak about his technical virtuosity and how this expertise has directly influenced them, and others express the difficulties of trying to escape his example. A few even criticize him for what they see as artistic failures. The variety of responses demonstrate, in any case, that Faulkner created an unavoidable power in his own time and remains a permanent force in literature.