A minimum duty
required in a literary study is said to grasp
the point of the discussions at least over the past decade. But am I the only one who thinks that saying
and doing are two different things in the study of William Faulkner? Essays about him are produced in large
quantities and at the second fastest pace just after those about William
Shakespeare. It is hard just to
keep the pace and take a comprehensive and panoramic view of Faulkner studies
since it requires to organize an enormous volume of them and keep them in head in
the circumstances that various critical approaches are presented and interrelated
with each other. Is not there a
work that "rehearse(s) how critics have read Faulkner over the years, digest
the major critical approaches that have been brought to bear on his work, and
apply some of those approaches, either as sample readings or as continuations
of work already done" (ix)? In
response to such a voice, A
Companion to Faulkner Studies was given to the world.
Let us glance over chapter one, Mythic and Archetypal
Criticism. The first chapter starts
by explaining T. S. Eliot's Mythical Method and Carl Jung's Collective Unconscious. After then, the author, Robert W.
Hamblin, points out Faulkner's international reputation as a Nobel laureate and
Faulkner's book, A Fable, during
1950s was an impetus to mythic approaches.
Hamblin then goes to the introduction of major mythic critics, such as
Richard P. Adams, Walter Brylowski, and David Noble. Hamblin takes us to the
downward phase of the mythic and archetypal criticism in 1970s, when new
interests--feminist, multicultural, race/class/gender, postmodern, New
Historical and postcolonial--emerged.
The last half of the chapter is sample readings that enable readers to
examine The Sound and the Fury, A Fable, and the myth of Yoknapatawpha
through the mythic approach.
The particulars, like style, are successfully itemized
in the course of the history of the criticism and explained with the review of
the reference books and the presentation of sample reading. The Formalist Criticism section, for
example, begins with the explanation in comparison with New Criticism, and
moves on to "Structuralism," "Deconstruction and Poststructuralism," "Narratology,"
and "Bakhtin and Dialogics." The
sections on modernism and postmodernism, which are generally defined with
difficulty, are also organized with success. Debrah Raschke, the author of the former
section, focuses on modernism as "an experience of loss, particularly an
epistemological loss, which subsequently affects the construction of the self
and that self's relation to others and to the communal" (100) and deals with
various themes of loss in Faulkner's texts in relation to his literary
techniques. Terrell L. Tebbetts,
the author of Postmodernist Criticism, picks up the post modernistic features
in Faulkner's works, after his introduction of following five intellectual
assumptions that constitute postmodern worldview, (1) Language cannot represent
reality. (2) All truth is contingent rather than final. (3) All authorities and hierarchies are
suspect. (4) Transgression is a
positive act. And (5) Human
identity is relational rather than essential.
This jargon-free, readable "companion" is worth
reading, but we should keep it in mind that each chapter bears on the personal
stamps of their authors. In
Modernist Criticism, the author Raschke has a tone with Donald M Kartiganer and
Daniel Singal. In Biographical
Criticism, Kevin Railey emphasizes the achievements of Carvel Collins, who
focuses the relationship between Faulkner and Helen Baird, and sets much store
on William Faulkner. The Journey to
Self-Discovery by H. Edward Richardson as a pioneering research on psychological,
biographical approach. Charles A.
Peek, the author of Thematic Criticism, who treats various themes referred in
Faulkner's literary works, divides into five periods from a standpoint that a
criticism is an interface between intellectual and political history---(1)
1924-1946 (from the beginning to the end of the world wars), (2) 1946-1952 (a
transition period from Malcolm Cowley's The
Portable Faulkner through the Novel Prize), (3) 1952-1976 (the next two
decades roughly through the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Viet Nam and the
foundation of the Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference), (4) 1976-1981 (a
transition through the post-Nixson/pre-Regan era), and (5) 1981-present (from
that time to a transition beginning fin de siecle) (309). This section, incidentally, sums up
themes scattered in the previous pages, which are chaptered on each critical
approach and it is appropriate for the closing chapter.
Copyright (c)2006 SUZUKI Akiyoshi