R. Rio-Jelliffe
Obscurity's Myriad Components:
The Theory and Practice of William Faulkner.

London: Associted UP, 2001. 201pp.


     Inheriting the literary legacy directly from the generation represented by J.Hillis Miller and Cleanth Brooks, R. Rio-Jelliffe, the author of Obscurity's Myriad Components, tries to theorize the nature of Faulkner's language by recalling Faulkner's own words from a walk with him in Nagano in 1955. The major methods of analysis employed by Rio-Jelliffe in her work are theories of language and of narrative. From among these theories Rio-Jelliffe finds parallels between Faulkner and Bergson's concepts of time, since Faulkner noticed that he must subdue time in order to control his own language. Thus, Rio-Jelliffe argues, "[t]he preeminence of synchronic time in Faulkner's concept of form and in his fiction calls for a reappraisal of the influence of Bergson on his thought and art"(24).
     Based on Bergsonism, she stresses the importance of the process through which raw experiences are transferred, transcended, or sublimated into art and refined in the mind through the functions of remembrance, memory, imagination and intuition. By doing so, Rio-Jelliffe tries to reconstruct Faulkner's thoughts on the nature of language in the absence of Faulkner's own writings/comments on his language. Faulkner's poetics, she claims, are paradoxical since he was well aware of the nature of language as a treacherous medium that he successfully used to create a series of self-denying narratives, in which" meaning remains suspended or deferred in the interplay of 'myriad components' denying but also reinforcing one another" (151). Asking how the novelist continued to write using such a treacherous medium on which he could not rely, Rio-Jelliffe focuses on the unreliability and vacillation of meanings and clarifies "Faulkner's concepts of language of s! ynchronic time and a modulant structure for disjunct narratives" (50) in the following chapters, each of which deals with Light in August, Absalom, Absalom!, The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, The Unvanquished and Go Down, Moses. Although Rio-Jelliffe's approach may seem retrospective in the context of recent literary criticism, especially in the eyes of those who are immersed in theories of cultural studies, her analysis reminds us of the effectiveness of Faulknerian ambiguity, vagueness, unreliability and contradictions, which are important to recall if American society today is to accept diversified truths in the 21st century.

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