| Since the proclamation by Roland Barthes of
the death of "the author," more and more critical attention has been devoted
to the role and function of the reader of the literary text. The critical
approach of Lothar Hönnighausen in Faulkner: Masks and Metaphors
can also be classified broadly as reader-response criticism. Taking
into account the reader's responses to Faulkner's text, Hönnighausen,
in this volume, attempts to read his works as "open" texts from his own
peculiar viewpoint of "mask" and "metaphor." The term "mask," as he employs
it, refers to Faulkner's habitual poses of "concealment" and "disguise,"
which can be perceived in a variety of expressions revealed through several
of his photographs, and which can also be read in his varying responses
to questions when interviewed. Hönnighausen observes that Faulkner's
use of masks in his private life and the dynamic expression thereof
which he calls "role-playing" (p.73) are reflected directly and indirectly
in his characterizations. Hence, Hönnighausen's interest in Faulkner's
biography, but of course, here, he does not intend to conduct a biographical
study of Faulkner in the traditional sense. He tries to elucidate his new
theory in chapter 2, where he pronounces that "the author" in the traditional
sense is no longer our object of study, but that "nowadays, the author
appears to be tied to the conditions of discourse criticism and new historicism"
(p. 58). According to him, the multiplicity of the masks in Faulkner's
texts is a manifestation of his various responses to contemporary social,
psychological and literary situations in which he is involved; his role-playing,
too, should be interpreted as "a communicative act" (p. 60) which is open
to the reader. This contention of his is based on the recognition of the
many-sidedness of Faulkner--his many masks. Therefore, it should come as
no surprise that he criticizes Martin Kreiswirth and Judith Sensibar because
both of them, he feels, develop their arguments on the assumption that
Faulkner has "one artistic identity" (p.59).
Hönnighausen's attitude of emphasizing the multiplicity of Faulkner's masks is also found in his explanation for the function of "metaphor." Drawing on Nietzsche: "What then is truth? A mobile army of metaphors, metonymics, and anthropomorphism," he reminds us of the "fluidity" ("a mobile army") and the "indeterminability" that "metaphor" has in common with Nietzechean "truth." He maintains that fluidity and indeterminability are characteristics common to the "mask" and the "metaphor," and that the reader is constantly encouraged to participate in the complex and multiplex processes that are being created by fluidity and indeterminability in Faulkner's texts. In chapter 3 and later, the formation of these processes is studied through concrete examples from Faulkner's works. (A critical approach of this sort is more concerned with the formal aspects of the novelist's work than with the elucidation of its meanings, and this attitude of Hönnighausen's has been carried over from his William Faulkner : The Art of Stylization in his Early Graphic and Literary Work.)
This volume consists of eight chapters. Chapter 1 examines Faulkner's photographs, letters, and interviews and surveys many aspects of his role-playing (how intriguingly he conceals his real self), and suggests that all of it reflects his aesthetic consciousness.
In response to the question raised in chapter l, chapter 3, chiefly dealing with "Black Music," "Carcassonne," Elmer, and Mosquitoes, seeks to prove that the personae of "the artist," which are related to Faulkner's inner psychological and aesthetic motifs, and represent his divided selves, are meted out to the individual characters. Here, Hönnighausen's reading of texts that begins with a study of "faun" as a persona of "the artist," is detailed. One interesting example from this chapter is the discovery that "the rider" and "the skeleton" in "Carcassonne" embody the author's double persona as artist, and they represent "motion" and "stasis" respectively (both of which constitute, in drawing together, Faulkner's vision of art). But more important is the assertion that the contrast between motion and stasis reflects Faulkner's inner drama of "creativity" and "self-destruction" (p. 86). This "self-destruction" motif should be considered in connection with Hönnighausen's earlier assertion that deep within Faulkner's adherence to his own privacy (which is closely related to his wish for the impersonality of the artist) lies "the lure of suicidal self-effacement" (p.52). In this light, Hönnighausen's view on the conflict between creativity and self-destruction might be called original. The question, however, is why Faulkner would have a suicidal urge. With regards to this, Hönnighausen previously pointed out that he has self-consciousness about his small build, which, combined with his romantic problems and financial worries and so forth, makes him feel the "suicidal urge" (pp. 22-23). This explanation may satisfy us for the present. Nevertheless, this important issue of the conflict in Faulkner between creativity and a suicidal urge is not argued thoroughly here (not only here but throughout the volume) and subsequent attention is focused on a different work, "Artist at Home," and from a different viewpoint.
Thus, in this chapter individual issues and motifs discovered in a specific work are not investigated closely as themes common to the other works. In other words, arguments are put forth without regard to the interrelationships between Faulkner's different works. Accordingly, besides the one mentioned above, certain of Hönnighausen's other original views are also not sufficiently utilized here to impress one as a reader, and this is true of the rest of the book as well. (In chapter 4 where Mosquitoes, Flags in the Dust, The Town, and As I Lay Dying are treated also, the development of the arguments is basically the same. Seeing Faulkner's masks of self-caricatures as a reflection of his psychological and artistic anxieties and responses to contemporary sociocultural situations, Hönnighausen studies these works, while paying due attention to the effects of the metaphors used in them.)
Keeping in mind the theories put forth in chapter 2, in chapter 5 Hönnighausen examines the processes by which metaphors "open" texts with the aid of the reader's imagination, mainly drawing upon The Sound and the Fury, Light in August, and A Fable. What is emphasized here is the "transcendental" function of "metaphor" in linking together two different contexts. Hönnighausen states in conclusion that the creativeness of Faulkner's metaphors becomes "his artistic challenge to the reader" (p.156).
Chapter 6 contains a discussion that expands on the theme of the creativity of metaphors through a study of Absalom, Absalom!, the discussion of which is most brilliant in the book. First, Hönnighausen maintains that the "indirect" effects of metaphors revealed in Rosa's narrative, colored by her outrage at Sutpen, suggest to the reader the motives for Sutpen's "design." Then, he goes on to illustrate closely through the analysis of various levels of tellings by the narrators in Absalom, how Faulkner's imagery makes up a metaphoric structure in which even repetitions of words and phrases, or interruptions in time and plot bear a metaphoric meaning. In this structure, individual metaphors act to metaphorize whole sentences or a whole context. In other words, the narratives in Absalom have the remarkable characteristic of associating, through the mediation of metaphors, several thematic strands with one another. (For example, the words "mad" and "madness" recurring in Rosa's narrative represent her own hysteria as well as Sutpen's and, at the same time, inform her penetrating analysis of the sociopolitical situation in the South [pp. 158-59]. Moreover, in this chapter, more attention is paid to the reader's role in the formation of these metaphoric structures than in the other chapters. To cite an instance of this, Hönnighausen trenchantly points out that the repetitions of the "sherbet" image by Shreve in chapter 8 of Absalom constitute a complex theme of incest, by virtue of the reader's imagination that connects the intensification of Bon's interest in Judith with Quentin's response to it (pp.166-67).
However, I cannot help feeling some dissatisfaction with even this chapter. This volume is not aimed at elucidating the meaning of Faulkner's work. The emphasis here lies on the processes in which "mask" and "metaphor" are "opening" texts. Therefore. Hönnighausen's analysis in this study of Absalom also does not help make clear the meaning of the work. The individual motifs discovered through analysis, just as in the case of chapter 3 , have not been thoroughly argued here in relation to one another. As a result, the reader who wishes to learn about Hönnighausen's overall view of Absalom is obliged to feel frustrated in some way.
The problem of the relationship between Faulkner and the South (a "region" called the South) is now raising a new critical concern about the regionalist aspect of Faulkner. Keeping this in mind, in chapter 7, Hönnighausen tries to situate Faulkner as a regionalist in a wider context informed by the method of new historicism, while at the same time seeing that his regionalist features interact with his modernist features.
Based on the previous chapter's extensive study of Faulkner's regionalism, the last chapter deals exclusively with The Hamlet, and attempts to show how ingeniously "regional" metaphors appearing therein imply the themes of the work. Here again, from the perspective of new historicism, Hönnighausen demonstrates through analysis of metaphors that the world of the community in The Hamlet is closely related to the sociopolitical and economic situations of the South/America. Let me give an example of one of his arguments about the functions of "regional" metaphors. Noting?Flem's "tiny predatory nose like the beak of a small hawk" ( which is one of the many animal images, applied to Flem) and considering it in connection with the "uncanny...indefinability" of the nose image that can be perceived from the following sentence in the text describing the nose as "the unfinished job" by "the original designer" (The Hamlet , Book One, Chapter Three), Hönnighausen put forth the interesting view that the nose image suggests the indefinability of Flem's personality, which is the very origin of the threat the community receives from him ( pp. 227-28). The analysis of metaphors in this chapter, using the method of new historicism, occasionally brings about irrelevant assertions. Particularly acute, however, is the observation that even Ratliff's business, in a way, is enmeshed in the unhealthy contemporary economic system that exploited poor farmers--the system that itself was deeply involved in the Crash of 1929--this observation being derived from the fact that a common colonial imagery is found in the passages describing Ratliff's and Flem's business activities ( pp. 236-37).
In the final chapter, Hönnighausen at times discusses Eula and Ike in light of Faulkner's strong attachment to "the earth," abandoning the new historicist perspective for a while, and at other times considers the author's psychological problems reflected in Labove and other characters. The reason why even Hönnighausen's brilliant analyses in this chapter do not always leave a strong impression on the reader may be that the methods used here are thus inconsistent and most of the points of the arguments do not converge into the conclusion.
The volume's originality, if we seek it, lies in Hönnighausen's discovery of "metaphoric" structures in Faulkner's texts, which are constituted by masks and metaphors that "open" texts and force the reader to participate in the process. This discovery is certainly made possible by his original perspective on the essential affinity between "mask" and "metaphor," which is indeed beyond that of any critic who has studied Faulkner's masks so far. Furthermore, another important achievement of this book is that it has thrown light upon the sociocultural consciousness inherent in Faulkner's texts, through the study of metaphors based on the method of new historicism.
Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that the previously mentioned drawbacks in the development of the arguments leaves the points at issue unresolved, and results in the ambiguous juxtaposition of several facets of Faulkner. This, of course, stems from Hönnighausen's discourse criticism in which he conceives of the diversity of Faulkner's masks as the base of the discussion and therefore does not seek "one artistic identity" for Faulkner. Yet, on the other hand, Hönnighausen indicates and acknowledges interrelatedness between the masks (pp. 114-15), and we as readers would like to ask him to look more deeply into how they are nterrelated.
Michael Millgate's Faulkner's Place contains
eight essays, all of which have already been published, though revised
for this edition. Six of the essays first appeared during the years 1977
to l984, and the latest one was published in 1991. This volume might be
said to have been somewhat lagging behind the trend of contemporary critical
theory, as Millgate himself acknowledges in his preface to the volume,
but here, his arguments themselves are never "outdated." All the essays,
though different in the degree of their achievements, are written with
Millgate's excellent sense of balance and his deep knowledge of Faulkner's
life and work. However, because of the nature of the book, in which comparatively
old papers are reprinted, I presume that most of them are already familiar
to Faulkner scholars. Therefore, I would like to consider the significance
of the book by commenting only on several important essays.
Copywright (C) 1999 Hasegawa Yoshio