William Faulkner and the Faces of Modernity

ISBN : 9780198849742

Jay Watson
416 Pages
156 x 156 mm
Pub date
Nov 2019
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William Faulkner has enjoyed a secure reputation as American modernism's foremost fiction writer, and as a landmark figure in international literary modernism, for well over half a century. Less secure, however, has been any scholarly consensus about what those modernist credentials actually entail. Over recent decades, there have been lively debates in modernist studies over the who, what, where, when, and how of the surprisingly elusive phenomena of modernism and modernity. This book broadens and deepens an understanding of Faulkner's oeuvre by following some of the guiding questions and insights of new modernism studies scholarship into understudied aspects of Faulkner's literary modernism and his cultural modernity. William Faulkner and the Faces of Modernity explores Faulkner's rural Mississippians as modernizing subjects in their own right rather than mere objects of modernization; traces the new speed gradients, media formations, and intensifications of sensory and affective experience that the twentieth century brought to the cities and countryside of the US South; maps the fault lines in whiteness as a racial modernity under construction and contestation during the Jim Crow period; resituates Faulkner's fictional Yoknapatawpha County within the transnational counter-modernities of the Black Atlantic; and follows the author's imaginative engagement with modern biopolitics through his late work A Fable, a novel Faulkner hoped to make his 'magnum o.' By returning to the utterly uncontroversial fact of Faulkner's modernism with a critical sensibility sharpened by new modernism studies, William Faulkner and the Faces of Modernity aims to spark further reappraisal of a distinguished and quite dazzling body of fiction. Perhaps even make it new.


Introduction: Modernization, Modernity, Modernism, and William Faulkner
1 Rus in Urbe: Faulkner's Rural Modernizers
2 The Philosophy of Furniture, or, Light in August and the Material Unconscious of Mississippi Modernity
3 Faulkner on Speed
4 The Unsynchable William Faulkner: Faulknerian Voice and Early Sound Film
5 Genealogies of White Deviance: Eugenic Modernity and William Faulkner, 1926-1932
6 Slavery, Modernity, and the Turn towards Death in the Black Atlantic World of Yoknapatawpha County
Faulkner's Biopolitical Fable of Modernity

About the author: 

Jay Watson is Howry Professor of Faulkner Studies and Professor of English at the University of Mississippi. During the 2002-2003 academic year he served as Visiting Fulbright Professor of American Studies at the University of Turku and Abo Akademi University in Turku and he has since been honored with the UM Faculty Achievement Award (2012), the UM Liberal Arts Professor of the Year award (2014), and the UM Humanities Teacher of the Year award (2014). In 2013 he was a finalist for the Southeastern Conference Professor of the Year Award, and in 2018 he was the fall convocation speaker at UM. Professor Watson's publications include two monographs, Forensic Fictions: The Lawyer Figure in Faulkner (University of Georgia Press, 1993) and Reading for the Body: The Recalcitrant Materiality of Southern Fiction, 1893-1985 (University of Georgia Press, 2012). He has also edited or co-edited ten published or forthcoming collections.

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