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When the train carrying Quentin Compson home from Cambridge, Massachusetts to Jefferson, Mississippi comes to a halt at a road crossing in Virginia, Quentin observes out the window an elderly Black man astride “a mule in the middle of the stiff ruts, waiting for the train to move.” “[M]otionless and unimpatient,” man and mule have “that quality about them of shabby and timeless patience, of static serenity,” something only thrown into relief by the train that “wound through rushing gaps and along ledges.”1Unimpatient.
William Faulkner remains one of the most important writers of the twentieth century, and Faulkner Studies offers up seemingly endless ways to engage anew questions and problems that continue to occupy literary studies into the twenty-first century, and beyond the compass of Faulkner himself. His corpus has proved particularly accommodating of a range of perspectives and methodologies that include Black studies, visual culture studies, world literatures, modernist studies, print culture studies, gender and sexuality studies, sound studies, the energy humanities, and much else. The fifteen essays collected in The New William Faulkner Studies charts these developments in Faulkner scholarship over the course of this new century and offers prospects for further interrogation of his oeuvre.
In identifying cinematic qualities—including Eisensteinian montage—in Faulkner's major fiction, scholars have conceived of film as an exclusively visual medium. This essay provides evidence of Faulkner's familiarity with Eisenstein's cinematic praxis by examining the similarities between the novelist's 1934 film treatment of Blaise Cendrars's Sutter's Gold and one that Eisenstein produced in 1930. It then argues that there is a striking continuity between the two treatments in the realm of sound—in particular, the imagining and inscription of film sound. Most surprising is the manner in which Faulkner's sonic experimentalism, clearly influenced by Eisenstein, works its way into the novel on which he was working at the time, Absalom, Absalom!. Informed by screen writing and film-sound technology, Faulkner's high-modernist novel contributes to emerging scholarly interest in the auditory culture of modernism.
This essay seeks to extend Faulkner's imaginative writings beyond the temporal, spatial and aesthetic parameters of regionalism and modernism, according to which his work has been widely read. In an exemplary reading of his 1942 novel Go Down, Moses, I recontextualize Faulkner's fiction in a broader literary and discursive tradition of the US frontier narrative. To draw out the frontier meanings and tropes of Go Down, Moses, I examine closely those texts – Faulkner's and others' – that circulate around the major fiction and necessarily exert, I argue, interpretative pressure on it. These more secondary or contiguous texts include Faulkner's screenwriting for two of the great Hollywood Western directors, John Ford and Howard Hawks; his short stories and speeches; James Fenimore Cooper's Leatherstocking tales; and the political discourse that emerged in response to the democratic crisis of the 1930s. Certain tropes and narratives – to do with colonialism, for example – that have been submerged within the Faulknerian southern narrative of the plantation, begin to surface, to reset the narrative in relation to a national project. Reading Faulkner in this way constructs a critical frame that is both diachronic and transregionalist, and thus contributes to current debates articulated within the revisionary project of new southern studies about the ways in which we think and write anew about the post-South.
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