Date of Award

1993

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

J. Bainard Cowan

Abstract

In the course of its development as a genre, the novel shifted in the mid-twentieth century from a mimetic model grounded in imitation and colored with pessimism, to a poietic one based on discovery and novelty and foregrounded in hope. Precipitated by a crisis in representation after Joyce, the novel found in its own history, through the recuperation of older literary forms, new possibilities of representation, and shifted away from assumptions based on fact and history, to one grounded in miracle and myth. This shift was anticipated by the theories of the German Romantics Schlegel and Novalis and is adumbrated at the present time by theorists such as Mikhail Bakhtin and novelists such as Italo Calvino, Carlos Fuentes, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Salman Rushdie, and Toni Morrison. Together, the discoveries that these novelists and theorists uncover and develop run counter to many prevailing assumptions about the novel and to the dominant model of the modern novel propounded by Georg Lukacs. Contemporary novelists are less concerned with modes of representation and imitation and the rendering of consciousness than discovering patterns of action made visible through the lens of fable, myth, and ritual. In this new paradigm, modes of power change, the range of representation is expanded, and the consciousness of time and history become refigured. Ancestral appearances surface in the novel, and in America, the Bible is foregrounded as a foundational narrative that simultaneously highlights the form and comprehensiveness of the contemporary novel and presents a persistent subtext for many of its themes. William Faulkner's Go Down, Moses stands at a crossroads in the development of the novel in America and in the world, as it manifests, in miniature, many of the concerns that are expanded upon in later works by contemporary novelists. Further, an understanding of Go Down, Moses is enhanced when seen in light of a biblical understanding of history and figural character formations. Finally, the novel in its development in America aligns itself with the epic and becomes the instrument of a new myth of the world, a mythopoesis, grounded in the simultaneous apprehension of time and space.

Pages

296

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