English | Studies in British and American Authors
L369 | 26011 | Ed Comentale

Ed Comentale

11:15a-12:30p TR (30 students) 3 cr., A&H.

TOPIC:  “Faulkner’s Voices”

This course will focus on William Faulkner’s fiction as it records
and responds to drastic changes in twentieth-century American
culture and registers the many promises and pains of an emerging
modernity. We will read Faulkner’s novels as they address pressing
social issues such as the industrial transformation of rural
America, the demise of traditional culture and the rise of mass
consumerism, the violence of world war and colonial revolt, the
anxiety of emancipation and the terrors of Jim Crow, the dissolution
of traditional family order, and the emergence of increasingly
irrational and incoherent forms of selfhood. We will also explore
his work as it marks a revolution in literary form, as it develops
modernist means of description and storytelling (stream-of-
consciousness, irony, collage, black humor, etc.) to convey the
emotional and psychological complexity of the new world. We will
emphasize Faulkner’s many different styles and modes – Faulkner as
folklorist, Faulkner as modernist, Faulkner as postmodernist,
Faulkner as ethnographer, Faulkner as musicologist, Faulkner as
psychologist, Faulkner as Southern apologist, Faulkner as Hollywood
screenwriter – as they prepare the way for twentieth-century fiction
at large. Throughout, our reading will be supplemented by other
cultural forms - we will look closely at how Faulkner’s fiction
incorporates and revolutionizes the standard techniques of
vaudeville, minstrelsy, blues music, popular fiction, film, and
slapstick, and we will consider his legacy in relation to more
recent cultural phenomena such as Southern Gothicism in fiction and
music, the films of the Coen Brothers, and Oprah’s reading club.

Students should expect to read seven difficult novels and write
three papers about 5-7 pages each.