Helen Oakley
The Recontextualization of William Faulkner in Latin American Fiction and Culture

Lewiston: Edwin Mellen Press, 2002. 223pp.


     The relationship between Faulkner and such Latin American writers as Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Mario Vargas Llyosa is one of the much investigated themes in Faulkner studies. In fact, Deborah N. Cohn gives a general survey of the theme in an essay entitled "Faulkner and Spanish America: Then and Now" (Faulkner in the Twenty-First Century: Faulkner and Yoknapatwpha 2000 pp.50-67) and claims that the focus of research about the theme should shift from investigating Faulkner's influence upon limited number of Latin American writers to establishing a new framework to discuss the whole relationship among the Spanish America and the Southern part of the United States. Helen Oakley's The Recontextualization of William Faulkner in Latin American Fiction and Culture can be seen as an answer to Cohn's call in that it attempts to recapture the relationship between Faulkner and the Latin American Literature from the wider perspective that goes beyond the investigation of the direct authorial relationships. The aim of this book is, first, to try to see the various process of Faulkner acceptance in some Spanish American countries in the larger context of these countries' cultural and political relationship with the United States and, second, to investigate the intertextual relationship between Faulkner and authors who played the central role in Faulkner acceptance in each country.
     The authors and countries discussed here are Maria Luisa Bombal who was born in Chile and associated with an important literary journal, Sur, in Argentina; Carlos Juan Onetti of Uruguay and Juan Rulfo of Mexico. Bombal's novel The Shrouded Woman is compared with As I Lay Dying, while two stories by Onetti "La novia robada" and "Tan trieste como ella" is related to "A Rose for Emily" and Pedro Paramo by Rulfo is discussed in relation to Absalom, Absalom! However, as stated above, this book is not an attempt to trace Faulkner's direct influence upon those Latin American authors. To repeat, the aim of this book is to discuss the intertextual relationship among these authors in the larger context of the US foreign policy and these countries' political and cultural reactions against the policy. It is for that purpose that the first procedure is to assess the context and effect of Faulkner's Latin American tours in 1950s and to review the processes of Faulkner acceptance in these countries alongside Faulkner's critical revaluation in the United States. It is only after this procedure that Oakley proceeds to analyze above-mentioned works by three authors and compare them with corresponding works by Faulkner.
     The key concept that plays the central role in the analysis of these works is the idea of intertextuality Oakley proposes which is a kind of fusion between Harold Broom's idea of "influence" and that of "intertextuality" by Julia Kristeva. Using this concept, she supposes limitless and boundless interrelationship among texts while still keeping the author's status of "subject." She also employs the idea of "labyrinth" by J. Hillis Miller or "parasite" by Michel Serres and tries to explore various complex correspondences between the analyzed texts.
     Oakley apparently has a definite aim in mind. That is to make an analogy between the textual relationship between Faulkner and Spanish American authors and the political one between the United States and the Spanish American countries. Hence her insistence to assume an interactive relationship between the opposing "subjects." It is also the reason why she emphasizes the differences among Argentina, Uruguay and Mexico: she tries to make an antithesis to the imperial view which labels the whole region simply as "the Latin America."
     However, the international relationship between US and the Spanish America or the process of Faulkner acceptance in each country is not directly connected to the intertextual relationship among the selected texts. Rather, they are just put in parallel. They are essentially different matters and hence it is hardly possible to discuss them on the same level. We can assume Oakley's intention here is just to leave them set in parallel and imply their indirect connectedness which is intertetexual in turn.
     That is a general summary of the method and aim of this book. Obviously we cannot say the method employed here is sophisticated or convincing enough: especially the assumption of the intertextuality beyond authors' intentions while granting the status of "subject" to the author who has created the text sounds like a contradiction. However, The Recontextualization of William Faulkner in Latin American Fiction and Culture is an important attempt to reinvigorate the study of the relationship between Faulkner and the Spanish American writers. It indicates new possibilities of the theme, among which the political meaning of Faulkner's influence in the Spanish America is quite suggestive. I hope her argument will incite us to the same kind of reexamination of the process of Faulkner acceptance in Japan seen in the larger context of the US-Japan relationship in 1950s.

Copyright (c)2005 KANAZAWA Satoshi