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Abstract

The discipline of onomastics investigates such topics as “What is a name? Who names? What is named? Why does a person, place, or thing receive a name?” (Nuessel 1). Although there are numerous academic approaches subsumed under the broad term onomastics, the one most relevant to this paper is “anthroponyms,” which directly concerns the practice of character naming. In addition to surveying this perspective, I will analyze the innovative way in which character names in The Sound and the Fury function by locating the numerous places in the novel in which names change, repeat, layer, multiply, becoming ambiguous and displaced. Ultimately, I will consider how these linguistic “slippages” relate to the famous Faulknerian theme of the decline of the South. At the same time, I will identify those places in the novel–most often, in the case of the Gibsons–where names function effectively, and consider what this might connote about the future of the South, which the novel famously “redeems” on Easter Sunday, 1928. I will focus on three character names and one linguistic-ethnographic set: Benjy, Quentin, Candace, and the Gibson family.

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