Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
William Faulkner's most concentrated and flourishing phase of literary production virtually coincided with the Great Depression, yet the relationship between these two monumental developments in American cultural history has remained for the most part unexplored. Consequently, a more complete understanding of Faulkner can be achieved by redressing this critical oversight. Such an endeavor must involve reconstituting relevant features of historical and cultural context so as to comprehend the forces informing Faulknees literary production. A critical approach rooted in Marxist literary theory is useful in this regard, for it challenges persistent notions of Faulkner as a writer resistant to contextual influences in the pursuit of an autonomous "art for art's sake" rather than a writer of considerable social insight. Through analysis of aesthetics and ideology as integrated rather than mutually exclusive subjects of inquiry, this study traces the social dimensions of Faulkner's literary production in the thirties and reveals its active participation in the politics of art extant in the cultural context. Posited at the outset, then, is a theory that the aesthetic features of Faulkner's texts are bound to larger ideological formations, thus yielding political implications that are measurable in terms of thematic content and formal structure. Examining Faulkner's fiction in relation to prominent social and cultural issues---specifically, the "Literary Class War," the specter of fascism, and the prospect of agrarian revolution---provides an instructive means of testing this theory. This critical inquiry finds that tensions between narrative disruption and the desire for closure in Faulkner's texts suggest that his fictional voice assimilates, represents, and negotiates the struggle to achieve order in a period of heightened social upheaval.
Atkinson, Theodore B. III, "Faulkner and the Great Depression: Aesthetics, Ideology, and the Politics of Art." (2001). LSU Historical Dissertations and Theses. 262.