Writing Race: Faulkner and His Progeny

Writing Race

Faulkner and His Progeny

English 166 /Fall 2021//Tues & Thurs 930-11/Wheeler 300

Mark Danner


“The past is never dead,” Faulkner famously said. “It is not even past.” In our time of racial turmoil, few High Modernist writers feel more contemporary. Faulkner managed to construct in Yoknapatawpha County a second reality where the country’s racial present and past are enacted and re-enacted in painful and often brutal detail. His intricate portrait of a land bound together and ripped apart by the fallen inheritance of race has never seemed more startlingly present. We will explore the major works of this foundational American writer and seek to understand what makes his work so vibrant for readers and writers. And we will trace his influence through a range of storytellers from here and abroad, from Juan Rulfo and Toni Morrison to Cormac McCarthy and Jesmyn Ward.

Course Lectures

Warning Some books in this course contain words – including racial and ethnic slurs — that are offensive. We will be discussing this issue in class but please be prepared for it in your reading.

Course Reader Julietta Bisharyan is our course reader. She will be having office hours on Tuesday afternoons, 1 to 3:30, and can be reached at jbish@berkeley.edu

Course Assistant Sebouh Oshagan is our undergraduate course assistant and he can be reached at sebouho@berkeley.edu

Class Requirements This class will be a mixture of lectures and discussion, backed up by a large amount of reading, and some writing. The most important requirements are that students

*Attend all class sessions

*Keep up with reading and writing assignments

*Participate in discussions

*Offer a class presentation, in collaboration with one or two colleagues

*Complete one four-page midterm paper and one eight-page final paper


A student’s record of attendance and participation in class discussion, together with the quality of his or her writing, will determine the success of our class and contribute the better part of the grade.


Schedule Note that all classes will meet Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9:30 am in Wheeler 300.

Reading Our primary reading will draw on a series of novels by William Faulkner and four other writers. They are listed below under Required Texts. I strongly urge you to obtain these books in your own copies and in the edition specified either from local bookstores or from online suppliers, so that you will be able to highlight and annotate them and so that during discussions we will all be “on the same page.”

Favorite Passages Always come to class with a favorite passage of a paragraph or two drawn from that session’s assigned reading. Be prepared to read the passage out loud and say a few words about why you chose it.

Writing and Final Exam There will be two papers required in this class, a short creative paper or story of four pages and a longer analytic paper of eight pages. The four-page paper is due October 26. The eight-page paper is due December 2.

To bolster the clarity and vigor of your prose, I strongly suggest studying two works: George Orwell’s essay, “Politics and the English Language,” which can be readily found on the web, and Strunk and White’s little manual, The Elements of Style.


Class Presentation Every student will be required to put on a class presentation in collaboration with one or two other students. The presentations should last ten to fifteen minutes and take up some subject ancillary to the class, having to do with Faulkner, his era, race, writers he’s influenced, his film writing, his politics, among other things. The presentation can also take up any of the other writers we will discuss. Use of images, recordings and video is strongly encouraged.


Office Hours I will want to meet individually with each of you at least once during the semester. I will be holding office hours Friday mornings. We will begin to schedule these a few weeks into the semester. You are welcome to come talk to me about the class, the reading or anything else of interest. Note that our course reader, Julietta Bisharyan, jbish@berkeley.edu , will also be available to meet with students on Tuesday afternoons, 1-3:30 pm. Meeting ID: 975 4495 3254

Note that my writing, speaking and other courses can be found on my website, www.markdanner.com


Grading Students will be graded on their preparedness and their participation in class, the strength of their presentations and the quality of their written work, roughly as follows.

Attendance                  25 percent

Participation               25 percent

Writing                        25 percent

Presentation                25 percent


Required Texts

William Faulkner, Collected Stories (Vintage, 1995)

William Faulkner, The Unvanquished (Vintage, 1991 [1938])

William Faulkner, Flags in the Dust (Vintage, 2012 [1929])

William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying (1991 [1930])

William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury: The Corrected Text (Vintage, 1990 [1929])

William Faulkner, Light in August (1990 [1932])

William Faulkner, Absalom! Absalom! The Corrected Text (1990 [1936])

William Faulkner, Go Down, Moses (1990 [1942])

Cormac McCarthy, Outer Dark (Vintage, 1993 [1968])

Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon (Vintage, 2004 [1977])

Juan Rulfo, Pedro Páramo (Grove, 1994 [1955])

Jesmyn Ward, Salvage the Bones (Bloomsbury, 2011)


Suggested Secondary Texts

Michael Gorra, The Saddest Words: William Faulkner’s Civil War (Liveright, 2020)

Michael Gorra (ed.), As I Lay Dying: A Norton Critical Edition (Norton, 2010)

Michael Gorra (ed.), The Sound and the Fury: A Norton Critical Edition (Norton, 2014)

  1. Thomas Inge (ed.), The Dixie Limited: Writers on William Faulkner and His Influence (University of Mississippi, 2016)

Arthur F. Kinney, Go Down, Moses: The Miscegenation of Time (Twayne, 1996)

Toni Morrison, Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination (Vintage, 1992)

Jay Parini, One Matchless Time: A Life of William Faulkner (Harper, 2004)



Gunga Din (1939)

To Have and Have Not (1944)

The Big Sleep (1946)

Intruder in the Dust (1949)

Land of the Pharaohs (1955)

The Long Hot Summer (1958)

As I Lay Dying (2013)

Further Reading

William Faulkner, Intruder in the Dust

Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian

Jesmyn Ward, Sing, Unburied, Sing

Juan Rulfo, The Plain in Flames

Toni Morrison, Beloved

Richard Wright, Native Son

Ralph Ellison, Juneteenth

Chester Himes, Yesterday Will Make You Cry

Carlos Fuentes, The Death of Artemio Cruz

Gabriel Garcia Márquez, A Hundred Years of Solitude

Mario Vargas Llosa, Conversation in the Cathedral

Flannery O’Connor, The Collected Stories

William Faulkner, Sanctuary

William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun



August 26, 2021 – Introduction to Course. Apocalypse. Racism and Our Time. Morrison and Faulkner. Faulkner’s words. Where He Came From. Modernism. On the Evolution of Race. Reading Faulkner’s Novels. What We’re Reading. On the plan of the course. Primary and secondary sources. How to read. Writing assignments. Presentations. How to Succeed in this Course.


August 31 — William Faulkner, Collected Stories (Vintage, 1995), including these stories: “Barn Burning,” “A Rose for Emily,” “Centaur in Brass,” “Dry September,” “That Evening Sun,” and “Red Leaves.” Note: All these texts can be found online.

— John McWhorter, “How the N-Word Became Unsayable,” The New York Times, April 30, 2021 https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/30/opinion/john-mcwhorter-n-word-unsayable.html

September 2 – William Faulkner, The Unvanquished (Vintage, 1991 [1938]), pp. 3 – 154


September 7 – William Faulkner, The Unvanquished (Vintage, 1991 [1938]), pp. 155 – 254

September 9 – William Faulkner, Flags in the Dust (Vintage, 2012 [1929]), pp. 3 – 211


September 14 – William Faulkner, Flags in the Dust (Vintage, 2012 [1929]), pp. 211 – 404

September 16 – William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying (1991 [1930]), pp. 3 – 136


September 21 – William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying (1991 [1930]), pp. 137 – 26

September 23 – Juan Rulfo, Pedro Páramo (Grove, 1994 [1955])


September 28 – Juan Rulfo, Pedro Páramo (Grove, 1994 [1955])

September 30 – Jesmyn Ward, Salvage the Bones (Bloomsbury, 2011)


October 5 – Jesmyn Ward, Salvage the Bones (Bloomsbury, 2011)

October 7 – William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury: The Corrected Text (Vintage, 1990 [1929])


October 12 (Class over Zoom) William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury: The Corrected Text (Vintage, 1990 [1929])

October 14 – William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury: The Corrected Text (Vintage, 1990 [1929])


October 19 – William Faulkner, Light in August (1990 [1932])

October 21 – William Faulkner, Light in August (1990 [1932])


October 26 – William Faulkner, Light in August (1990 [1932])

Four Page Midterm Paper Due.

October 28 – Cormac McCarthy, Outer Dark (Vintage, 1993 [1968])


November 2 – William Faulkner, Absalom! Absalom! The Corrected Text (1990 [1936])

November 4 – William Faulkner, Absalom! Absalom! The Corrected Text (1990 [1936])


November 9 – William Faulkner, Absalom! Absalom! The Corrected Text (1990 [1936])

November 11 – Holiday: No class


November 16 – Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon (Vintage, 2004 [1977])

November 18 – Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon (Vintage, 2004 [1977])


November 23 – Song of Solomon and Go Down, Moses


November 30 – William Faulkner, Go Down, Moses (1990 [1942])

December 2 – William Faulkner, Go Down, Moses (1990 [1942])


December 7 – Go Down, Moses, Faulkner, Race and…. Everything

                        Final Paper Due. Eight Pages.


Annotated Syllabus

Notes by Sebouh Oshagan

August 26, 2021 – Introduction to Course. Apocalypse. Racism and Our Time. Morrison and Faulkner. Faulkner’s words. Where He Came From. Modernism. On the Evolution of Race. Reading Faulkner’s Novels. What We’re Reading. On the plan of the course. Primary and secondary sources. How to read. Writing assignments. Presentations. How to Succeed in this Course.

  • First paragraph of “Barn Burning”
    • Description of boy’s POV describes his character through subtext → shows that the boy is poor and hungry, does not tell the reader directly.
  • No writer is more daring with innovation in sentence, POV, narrative pyrotechnics, ect than William Faulkner (and Joyce) in the generation of the high modernists.
    • Created a fictional world: Yoknapatawpha county
  • His fiction tells of:
    • Depiction of race as a profundity of questions
    • Heritage of race and racism
    • Alienation in the circumstance of modern life
    • Decline and corruption of elite
    • Despoiling the land
  • Faulkner was born and lived in N. Mississippi his entire life
    • Had mothers of different races—a black nanny that’d raised him and his white mom.
    • His grandfather was a slave owning, racist with a plantation and a chateau family
  • He lived within his history and the history of the people around him → history became him
    • “Artistic articulation of the past which art and fiction can do but history refuses to do” —Tony Morrison, Deconstruction of the History of Myths


August 31 — William Faulkner, Collected Stories (Vintage, 1995), including these stories: “Barn Burning,” “A Rose for Emily,” “Centaur in Brass,” “Dry September,” “That Evening Sun,” and “Red Leaves.” Note: All these texts can be found online.

— John McWhorter, “How the N-Word Became Unsayable,” The New York Times, April 30, 2021 https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/30/opinion/john-mcwhorter-n-word-unsayable.html


September 2 – William Faulkner, The Unvanquished (Vintage, 1991 [1938]), pp. 3 – 154


September 7 – William Faulkner, The Unvanquished (Vintage, 1991 [1938]), pp. 155 -254

  • Coming of Age novels
    • Portrait of an artist as a young man, Joyce
  • Unvanquished
    • Begins with 12 year olds enacting the battle of Vicksburg
    • What was lost in the south → purity of southern womanhood
    • Novel is about endings
      • End of the south
    • Social roles are givens, the word slave not even used in the novel
    • Southerns rebelled against effort to have all black people vote, the black representatives that were elected
  • Bildingsroman – Coming of age novel
  • Purity of the southern woman





September 9 – William Faulkner, Flags in the Dust (Vintage, 2012 [1929])

  • Symbols of the South (Lee statue) were taken down in Richmond yesterday (2021) → themes of Faulkner’s novels are relevant today → vote in Georgia is a fight against suppression of black people’s votes
    • Unvanquished: carpetbaggers were shocked by colonel sartoris who stopped the black man from being elected
    • People who want it up want to savior a wicked absurd and cruel part of history → The lost cause
  • Sprig in Odor of Verbena
    • Greek symbol of honor or courage
  • Civil War 1861 – 1865
  • WW1 1914 – 1918
  • Parallelism between generational characters is signified by names’: John Bayard; Batard John; Bayard
  • Modernism is rooted in post-war desolation
    • Literary modernism → phenomena of the early 20s → The wasteland, Ulysses
  • Flags in the Dust, his 3rd novel, first Yok. novel
    • His own “postage stamp” of land was worth writing about
  • Symmetry of the Faulknerian worlds → represented by names
    • Post-ww1 desolation → wounded, traumatized warrior is Bayard
      • Struggles with the past, never dead
      • Bayard’s brother died (John); the past or the Traditions of the Sartoris → john Sartoris is patterned after his great grandfather
      • Bayard has a conflict with his own legacy → mirror of the south’s legacy
      • Symmetry of names, symmetry of actions
    • Parallelism in flags in the dust
    • This novel is a discovery of the genius of Faulkner
  • The Lost Cause argument
  • Civil War 1861-1865
  • WW1 1914-1918
  • First Yoknapatawpha County novel although it is not mentioned
  • Faulkner inspired to write about his people
  • Symmetry between the Unvanquished and Flags in the Dust


September 14 – William Faulkner, Flags in the Dust (Vintage, 2012 [1929])

  • http://faulkner.iath.virginia.edu/family/tree.php?name=Sartoris
  • http://faulkner.iath.virginia.edu/family/
  • https://faulkner.lib.virginia.edu/page%3Fid=clips&section=selections.html
  • Novel’s (Flags in the Dust) foreground : period of 1 year
    • Yet its backstory goes from 1865 –
      • Sartoris: aristocratic role in society; code of chivalry
      • Banbows
      • Strothers
      • Peabody
      • Maccullam
      • Mitchells: new money
      • Compsons
      • Snopes: white trash; family code that is separate and contrary to society (barn burning)
      • Themes and world created here formulate the rest of his body of work
      • 65 characters in the book, some families:
    • 1919 – 1920: the lost generation
  • Many different styles in this novel (stream of consciousness) and just different styles adhering to different characters; story within stories
    • Women (aunt jenny) deals with this fatality
    • Modernism is inextricable from post ww1 trauma
      • Technologisy that symbolized modernity used for mass murder → undermining of faith in western civilization
    • glamorous fatality of the Sartoris
    • Themes of “lost generation” (gertrude stein)


September 16 – William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying (1991 [1930])

  • Presentation on Faulkner and Film
    • James Frano : As I lay Dying and Sound and the Fury
      • Tries to literalize what faulkner does stylistically in his novels → movies are mostly failures
    • Adaptations of faulkner’s novels
  • Flags in the Dust
    • Is this novel a successful work of art?
    • Fatality → Bayard and Horace
    • *Sadly* Faulkner has a fascination with incest


September 21 – William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying (1991 [1930])




  • Life of Faulkner by the time AILD was published
    • Unhappy marriage
    • Great depression → poverty and crash reflected in this novel
    • Married a divorced woman with 2 children → Estelle Oldham
    • Fall of 1929 he is waiting for the publication of Sound and Fury
    • Gets a job at a power plant shoveling coal and writes this book in 2 months
  • As I lay Dying
    • Odysseus goes into Hades and finds his old chief Agamemnon who was killed by his wife → says the as I lay dying quote
    • Burial in novel fulfills a vow → sanctity, unified
      • People who are very poor, overcome biblical difficulties to fulfill a promise
      • Yet the title casts doubt on family relationships
      • Detailing of the freudian family romance → jealousies, strains, passions within the family group
    • Odyssey is a journey homeward → this is a story of the journey home for Addie
    • Also was apparent in Flags in the Dust but a much higher class southern white family
    • At least a couple of narrators have inflictions of their POV → Darl (comparable to Benji) fascination with unusual POVS → also Vardamon, doesn’t know whats happening (was reliant on his mom) nonone else in the novel takes her place
    • Other characters have pronounced, inflected POVs
    • POV illuminate that each of the people in this supposedly close family reveals isolation → Dewy Dell is secretly pregnant; Jewel keeps secrets about his nighttime horse/job
    • Darl is a seer → knows things intuitively; knows secrets of the family
    • Each chapter is not strict stream of consciousness: faulkner world builds with image and diction through the narrative
      • Darl can be seen as the artist of the family
      • Turns of phrase, complications of description → usually happen in Darl’s sections (narrates 16 chapters, the most)
    • First section shows a struggle for power and mastery between Jewel and Darl
      • Clashes within family romance
    • Title comes from Homer’s Odyssey → Odysseus takes 11 years to get home from troy: “as i lay dying, the woman with the dogs eyes would not close my eyes”
    • Themes of nobility, importance of keeping a promise → chivalry code of honor
    • 59 chapters : 15 narrators (7 bundrens, other 8 ‘witnesses’)
    • Bundrens are low class → strong class division between poor country folk and city folk
  • 20s were the decade of high modernism → Ulysses connects to the Odyssey
    • Dislocations of modernity → experience of isolation even within a home and a family: disconnection of contemporary life


September 23 – Juan Rulfo, Pedro Páramo (Grove, 1994 [1955])

First Writing Assignment: Creative Short Story

  • Judged on whether the story shows an understanding of the kind of writer Faulkner is and the kind of writing he does
  • Consider: Is it interesting? Does it show some comprehension about what Faulkner does as a writer? Have you worked on it? Does it show some application?
  • Look at Faulkner’s short stories and see how they’re constructed
  • Give yourself time to work with it
  • Can approach Faulkner in both subject matter/technique
  • Faulkner techniques – Different POVs used in remarkable ways, defines region of Northern Mississippi, wide cast of characters, pushes Modernist styles and techniques, recognizable prose style
    • You don’t have to incorporate all of those things in the story, but your story should attempt to emulate Faulkner’s style
  • Consider your life, conditions of the world, etc. as topics for your story
  • Take the chance to explore a theme that has grabbed you about Faulkner
  • Send finished assignment to Danner/Julietta’s emails; no sending in drafts
  • 4 pages max, double-spaced, MLA format

Presentation: Julia Kolman/Sebastian Giller – Faulkner and Gabriel Garcia Marquez


September 28 – Juan Rulfo, Pedro Páramo (Grove, 1994 [1955])






  • The Pleasure of the Text
    • Roland Barthes
    • The pleasure of reading this text is establishing the bounds of those ambiguities and letting you play in them
  • As I Lay Daying
    • 57 fragments with 15 tellers
  • Pedro Paramo — Juan Rulfo
    • 68 fragments and 6 voices
  • Multiple perspectives give immersive experience, makes you a more active reader (modernism)
  • Two generations using similar techniques
  • Latin American Boom > Post Modern
  • The gaps that the reader has to fill in create ambiguities
  • Glorying in the Gap
  • Suspense is withheld resolution
  • Defeat and decline = major subject in Faulkner and Latin American literature
  • Mexican modernity – aftermath of the Mexican Revolution and Cristero War
    • Movement of peasantry from rural areas into the city
    • dislocation/ghosts of the countryside
  • Lot of half characters, glimpses of people who go away
  • Original title: Los Murmurios (The Murmurs)
  • Purgatory
  • Intense models of compression in Rolfo’s writing
  • Why are the narratives of As I lay Dying and Pedro Paramo out of chronological order
    • Being an active reader
    • Basic narrative requires construction at the hands of the reader
    • Makes it much more of a realist novel
    • Create ambiguities → “glories in the gap”
    • Suspense as withheld resolution → works of art that work through time (unfold through time) have a suspense of resolution
    • Pleasure of the Text, Roland Barthes (french literary theorist)
    • Paramo told in 68/67 fragments;6 voices
    • Dying told in 57 fragments; 15 voices
    • Literary cubism, no single truth, and is immersive → no way to read these books without being an active reader
    • Pedro paramo can be marked as the beginning of the postmodernist period; latin-american boom
    • What are the purposes of gaps in the narrative—what do they create?
  • Major Faulkner subject is defeat → Also a major subject in latin america
    • Faulkner was very influential in the latin american boom
  • Juan Rulfo: wrote two amazingly well known books
    • Socio economic status as a boy (pedro)
    • Has more of an impression of a dead town and the various social relationships of that town → ghostly town that has been destroyed but still lives in the countryside
      • What part of the theological spectrum would this town be in? → purgatory
    • The Plane in Flames (1953; collection of stories)
    • Ghosts of the countryside is critical in Pedro Paramo
    • Original title can be translated to The Murmurs (los murmullos)

Presentation: Leo Martinez/Yuna Kang – Pedro Paramo and the Cristero Rebellions


September 30 – Jesmyn Ward, Salvage the Bones (Bloomsbury, 2011)

  • Pedro Paramo
    • Ghosts
    • Theme of decline
    • Modern Mexico – revolutionary times
    • Civil war — downfall
    • Characters haunting the readers
    • Culture of oral storytelling
    • Communicates the experience of uncertainty
    • Magical realism scenes

Presentation: Sophie Winfree/Shelby Rew – Faulkner’s screenplay writing career


October 5 – Jesmyn Ward, Salvage the Bones (Bloomsbury, 2011)

  • Salvage of the Bones
  • Jesmyn Ward and Faulkner
  • Experience of Hurricane Katrina and racial overtones
  • References As I Lay Dying (pg. 7)
    • AILD looms over this book, gives the reader a clue on how to read this book
  • Subtle stream of consciousness and highly figurative in novel
  • Motherhood parallels with dogs
  • Lyrical poetic pace through the language
    • Similar to Faulkner
  1. My mother is gone and not gone.
  2. The fish is gone and not gone.
  3. Therefore, my mother is a fish.
  • Childlike attempts to understand death
  • Family parallels between AILD & SOTB: Absent mother, ineffectual alcoholic father, pregnant teenage girl, one brother knows about pregnancy
  • The coming storm and the dogs (birth and fate of the puppies)
  • Attachment to animal comes with attachment to family
  • Moving and staying — evacuation during hurricane
    • Never a conversation about leaving
    • Absent mother is within the landscape
  • Focus on skin color / mixed race
  • AILD – family pulling a part
  • SOTB – family saving themselves

Presentation: Elena Koshkin and Yuting Han (Chloe) and Julia Cheunkarndee – Jesmyn Ward, Salvage the Bones & Faulkner


October 7 – William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury: The Corrected Text (Vintage, 1990 [1929])

  • Salvage the Bones, Jesmyn Ward
    • Ward sets out to rewrite As I lay Dying
    • Many Similarities and differences between this and As I Lay Dying
      • Difference in the portrayal of Women’s strength: Ward portyas women’s strength as much more admirable than faulkner
        • Pg 85 “Mama went swimming…” → Mama provides food and cooks it—contrast to addie who is not warm and loving
      • There is much more affection and support in Salvage family than the Bundren
      • Visceral descriptions of being embodied in a physical feminine body → also imagery of moisture and water connected with water
        • Figuratively links birth to the storm → similar climatic art where the storm forms the climax then the future is the birth, a matter of worry, but later wholly accepted
      • Ward says Creole characters are not as believe on the page as the white ones in faulkner
      • Pg 202 – 204: Esch becomes → we see her in reaction to others; she becomes active, dramatic
        • Goes from secrecy to being accepted as a pregnant woman → in the storm there is a renewal : ending with a birth begins a new chapter
          • As i lay dying ends with new teeth, new wife → grotesque
            • Very different than this novel
        • Novel gives voice to people who come from great poverty → solidarity to each other is bread in the family


October 14 – William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury: The Corrected Text (Vintage, 1990 [1929])

  • Sound and the fury does not unfold in time
  • Sarte famously reviewed Time and Sound and the Fury
    • Nothing happens because everything has already happened → narrative does not reveal plot rather unfolds your own understanding of it
  • Compson Family Characters are complicated: 2 Jasons, 2 Quentin
    • https://www.pinterest.com/pin/398427898254385055/
    • Fallen women: the notion of family honor has been destroyed → relates to the honor we’ve discussed about the Sartorises (Flags in the Dust)
      • Response to the notion of honor in the different characters
    • Are part of the aristocracy but original family person was a strong driven man with no particular background → this is very similar to many faulkner families
    • Are yet another a family in decline
  • Faulkner has called his novel a failure, repeatedly
    • Says he wrote it in 4 different ways → the novel is the layering of his retellings of the narrative
  • Movement in the novel is you reading it
    • The unfolding of the novel as an aesthetic piece of literature is extremely unique
  • Drying up of the civilization → transmogrified from modernism into the story of the south
    • Contradictory project → end of the civilization thats also a monument to southern civilization
  • Qualities of the Parental generation trickles to the children
    • Caroline: Hypochondriac, self absorbed, self pitying, appearance obsessed
    • Jason III: ineffectual, alcoholic, amature philosopher, cynic/nihilist
  • Symbols here expand outward







Presentation: Mai Corkins / Blake Ling / Andrew Chan – Willam Faulkner and Women


October 19 – William Faulkner, Light in August (1990 [1932])

Sound and the Fury

  • Loss of love/inability to love from parents, particularly from the mother
    • This will repeat itself into next generation
    • Different kind of love or absence of love
  • Murray = Faulkner’s father
  • Significance of time
    • Clocks throughout the novel
    • Benji has no sense of time
    • Nihilism of time
  • “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow” quote from Macbeth
  • Significance of the trout

Presentation: Jake Romero, Emma Araj, Lillian Marsh –  The Southern Woman


October 21 – William Faulkner, Light in August (1990 [1932])

Light in August

  • Nearly every main character is an outcast
    • Orphan
    • Outcast of town
    • Thrown out by family
    • Ex: Joe Christmas and Lena
  • Begins with pregnant, unmarried woman
  • Novel obsessed with Race & Christianity and Paganism
    • Question of Christian moral code, particularly with Lena
  • Characters subject to gossip, full of storytellers
  • Trying to make sense of who the outcasts are and what their relation is with the town/society
  • Outcasts trying to connect (Byron, Gail) vs Outcasts who aren’t (Joe Christmas)
  • Lena is not ashamed; she has a lot of faith both in Lucas and God
  • Commentary on women and upholding moral code
  • Characters 33 years old — age of Christ when he was crucified

Presentation: Davis Mendez, Tessa Shimizu – Race


October 26 – William Faulkner, Light in August (1990 [1932])

  • Light in august
    • Technical innovations here : neologisms
      • Use of gerunds at the beginning of chapters \
      • 2 protagonists that dont interact with each other
        • Yet are attached to eachother metaphorically through The road → heavy imagery and description
          • Ancient epic
          • Very important for Joe Christmas
            • Entered on a road that lasted for 15 years
          • Novel about race where race is the
            • Story of black blood depends on the chraacter saying → he could pass for white his own life
            • Heavy on compassion in this novel
          • Blackness has todo with words → no one would think he was black unless he said it himself
            • Not about any description
          • Title is ‘overdetermined’ (derives from many sources)
            • Actual light in august – estelle
            • Pre-christian – bill
            • Pregnant – bill/lena
            • House on fire/murder
            • Arrival
          • Image of towering smoke and burning house links lena, lucas, christmas, joanna, byron
          • White man’s burden → being forced to do good and suffering the aprobriam of doign good at the same time
            • Poem from 1899
          • Names in the novel
            • Joanna Burden
              • Rest of her family is murdered for trying to help black people (white man’s burden)
            • Lena/leda
              • Leda and the swan → greek mythology swan impregnates leda and bears helen → entire epic tradition comes out of this coupling
              • She is a pagan figure who is taken by a god (not committed sin)
            • Joe Christmas
              • biblical , christ imagery
              • Suffers
              • Novel is about society its impositions and kindnesses
                • Christmas → degree of christ imagery


October 28 – Cormac McCarthy, Outer Dark (Vintage, 1993 [1968])

  • Light in August
    • Falls squarely in the period of Faulkner’s major novels yet is more elusive in its technical area
    • Plot comes together in the crazy mind of Joe christmas’s grandmother → “He went to the old woman who held the child.
      • “Well, well,” he said. “Byron must have been excited…”
    • First book where Faulkner headon confronts racism in southern society
      • Characters are a cast of outcasts that are brought together over their mutual obsessions over race
      • “At last the noise and the alarms, the sound and fury of the hunt …”
        • A literal blackening
        • Idea that he is black is all in his head, Joe is extremely white passing
      • Joanna is a parody of the idea of a white savor
      • This is a social novel where society is an actor, what the society will support and what it will reject
        • Lena is taken care of while she has no money or anything
        • Other hand, characters like hightower, joanna are outcast, thrown out from society
      • “But after that I seemed to see them for the first time not as people, but as a thing, a shadow in which I lived, we lived, all white people, all other people.”
      • Analysis of southern racism
        • 371
      • “Periodical filth” → killing sheep passage
        • Killing violence is the way men purify themselves
      • Lynching passage, 464


November 2 – William Faulkner, Absalom! Absalom! The Corrected Text (1990 [1936])

  • Cormac McCarthy, Outer Dark
    • Why choose this novel as Faulkner’s prodigy: Woman on the road, kindness of stranger, doomed man, title evokes light and dark, character of Rinthy evokes Lena (woman walking on a road in a quest to find her child) , strong biblical element in both novels
    • Title is a biblical allusion, book of Matthew
      • “But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth”
    • Page 5
    • Complex system of elemental Symbols → striving toward universalism, almost a parable → how to differs from Light in August : different from the particularity of LiA
      • Dark and light
        • Dark wood → Dante’s inferno
      • Guilt → sin → incest/infanticide
    • Set in TN appalachians, time period uncertain, maybe early 1900s
    • Striving for universality obliterates time, place
      • No specific time and place
      • Hints of pastoral → people living off land without modern machinery
    • Light in August and Outer Dark comparison
      • Both are southern gothic genre → grotesquery, violence, terrible events, melodramatic doom, characters followed by evil, characters seem to be caricatures of evil
      • The road → idea of moving constantly is critical to both novels
        • Lena, lucas, byron, joe christmas
        • Culler, Rinthy, baby, tinker
      • Lena and Rinthy similarities
        • Innocence that breads shamelessness
      • Joe Xmas and Culler comparison
        • Sinners
        • Joe :Have the mark of Cain → protected to live with curse and guilt
          • Confesses his blackness
          • Point of where racism comes from → Religious root of racism and calvinism
        • Culler: sin of incest and infanticide


November 4 – William Faulkner, Absalom! Absalom! The Corrected Text (1990 [1936])

  • Outer Dark
    • 3 mysterious strangers: Harmon, mute, black beard
    • Dream (page 5)
      • Introducing a system of symbology
      • Biblical cadence thats stark from the rest of the book
        • Sets up the importance of the bible to this novel
      • evinces huge burden of guilt
      • Dichotomy between salvation and retribution
    • Absolom Absolom


November 9 – William Faulkner, Absalom! Absalom! The Corrected Text (1990 [1936])

  • Absolom Absolom
    • Reader’s experience of this book
    • Charting of a decline of a certain family: Compsons, Sartoris, Sutpens
    • Black blood in Charles Bon, aged 33 (jesus’s last year, Joe Christmas)


November 11 – Holiday: No class


November 16 – Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon (Vintage, 2004 [1977])

  • Absolom
    • Narrative : slow unfolding, accretion of complication (similar to sound and the fury)
      • Different narrators know different things
        • Miss Rosa
          • Her secret is that she hates mr compson → described as a devil, ogre, faust
        • Mr compson
          • General compson, Mrs compson
        • Quentin
        • Shreve
      • Action happens linearly, but ‘motivation’ (why things happen) halts forward → tour’de foce of narrative : demonstration of technique
        • Novelist’s novel
      • Secrets are buried in the story → some narrators dont know the secrets
        • Motor of the novel is suspense which has to do with the retelling of the plot as new secrets are revealed
        • Various narrators know various things and are also ignorant of various things
      • Rejection has a great effect on the characters of the novel
        • Thomas sutpen coping with rejection
      • Pay attention to the meaning of color
      • Southern gothic → burning house
        • Also a detective narrative : puzzles

November 18 – Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon (Vintage, 2004 [1977])

  • Absolom
    • Absurd structure of the novel reflects absurdity of the concept of race and racism


November 23 – Song of Solomon and Go Down, Moses

Song of Solomon

  • Importance of names → fact that black americans don’t have an authentic name
  • Milkman is the christ figure: heralded by flight and death of robert smith
    • Murderer of white people
  • 2 paths of integration to path of living truly and wholly with yourself and community
    • Milkman does not fit in and by the end he is flying
  • Published in 1977 : evolution of civil rights movement → black panther
    • Yet there is the path of milkman which is the difficult quest to learn your roots and where you come from
  • Oral history cannon
    • Can’t write down
    • Suite
  • Song extremely dense with meaning
    • Restores his history and place that was blank by a maicon dead → given being, in addition to the relations to the parents : understands his parents : gives to him what was taken from him → part of the black american experience is the loss of the collection of the past
  • FLIGHT : escape, liberation, abandonment
  • Pg 17; 330


November 30 – William Faulkner, Go Down, Moses (1990 [1942])

Go Down Moses

  • Race and plundering of the earth makes this
  • Parallels to song of solomon in the obsession with genealogy and race as defnining your place in life

December 2 – William Faulkner, Go Down, Moses (1990 [1942])

  • Writing Race is universalized in Go Down, Moses
    • Land : what do humans do when they violate the land

December 7 – Go Down, Moses, Faulkner, Race and…. Everything

                        Final Paper Due. Eight Pages.