William Faulkner and Southern History

Paperback | November 1, 1995

byJoel Williamson

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One of America's great novelists, William Faulkner was a writer deeply rooted in the American South. In works such as The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, Light in August, and Absalom, Absalom! Faulkner drew powerfully on Southern themes, attitudes, and atmosphere to create his own worldand place--the mythical Yoknapatawpha County--peopled with quintessential Southerners such as the Compsons, Sartorises, Snopes, and McCaslins. Indeed, to a degree perhaps unmatched by any other major twentieth-century novelist, Faulkner remained at home and explored his own region--the history andculture and people of the South. Now, in William Faulkner and Southern History, one of America's most acclaimed historians of the South, Joel Williamson, weaves together a perceptive biography of Faulkner himself, an astute analysis of his works, and a revealing history of Faulkner's ancestors inMississippi--a family history that becomes, in Williamson's skilled hands, a vivid portrait of Southern culture itself. Williamson provides an insightful look at Faulkner's ancestors, a group sketch so brilliant that the family comes alive almost as vividly as in Faulkner's own fiction. Indeed, his ancestors often outstrip his characters in their colorful and bizarre nature. Williamson has made severaldiscoveries: the Falkners (William was the first to spell it "Faulkner") were not planter, slaveholding "aristocrats"; Confederate Colonel Falkner was not an unalloyed hero, and he probably sired, protected, and educated a mulatto daughter who married into America's mulatto elite; Faulkner'smaternal grandfather Charlie Butler stole the town's money and disappeared in the winter of 1887-1888, never to return. Equally important, Williamson uses these stories to underscore themes of race, class, economics, politics, religion, sex and violence, idealism and Romanticism--"the rainbow ofelements in human culture"--that reappear in Faulkner's work. He also shows that, while Faulkner's ancestors were no ordinary people, and while he sometimes flashed a curious pride in them, Faulkner came to embrace a pervasive sense of shame concerning both his family and his culture. This he woveinto his writing, especially about sex, race, class, and violence, psychic and otherwise. William Faulkner and Southern History represents an unprecedented publishing event--an eminent historian writing on a major literary figure. By revealing the deep history behind the art of the South's most celebrated writer, Williamson evokes new insights and deeper understanding, providinganyone familiar with Faulkner's great novels with a host of connections between his work, his life, and his ancestry.

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From Our Editors

One of America's most acclaimed historians of the South weaves together a perceptive biography of Faulkner with an astute analysis of his works and a revealing history of his ancestors in Mississippi--a family history that becomes, in Williamson's skilled hands, a vivid portrait of Southern culture itself.

From the Publisher

One of America's great novelists, William Faulkner was a writer deeply rooted in the American South. In works such as The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, Light in August, and Absalom, Absalom! Faulkner drew powerfully on Southern themes, attitudes, and atmosphere to create his own worldand place--the mythical Yoknapatawpha County--...

Joel Williamson is Lineberger Professor in the Humanities at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He is one of our foremost historians of the South, and his classic work The Crucible of Race (1984) won five awards: the Parkman Prize by the Society of American Historians (for high literary quality), the Emerson Award by Phi B...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:544 pages, 9.25 × 6.26 × 0.43 inPublished:November 1, 1995Publisher:Oxford University Press

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195101294

ISBN - 13:9780195101294

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From Our Editors

One of America's most acclaimed historians of the South weaves together a perceptive biography of Faulkner with an astute analysis of his works and a revealing history of his ancestors in Mississippi--a family history that becomes, in Williamson's skilled hands, a vivid portrait of Southern culture itself.

Editorial Reviews

"Williamson provides a powerful, rich study of William Faulkner and his southern heritage....No one will write again about Faulkner and his world without grappling first with this book."--Register of the Kentucky Historical Society