Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




This thesis examines William Faulkner' s aesthetic rendering of Plato's ideas in The Republic within Light in August. It asks, given Faulkner's persistent rejection of ideas and ideologies, where and why are they in the novel? It is suggested that the text is imbued with a Greek and Hellenic aura consistently invoking Platonic Absolute Idealism. Faulkner ' s insistence upon the future relevance of his works is used to challenge conventional interpretation as merely repressive patriarchal, religious, and racial codes of the tum of the century American South. The argument proposes another view that accommodates a future ideological matrix of Faulkner' s sought after audience, "The Jones of 4057." Faulkner' s invocation of The Republic and Plato's seminal allegory of the Cave offer more than a formula and deductive theory of Light in August, and suggests a conceptual unity under which divergent plurisignation of other systems of thought might be timelessly subsumed. The argument is advanced that Light in August does not use Plato ' s allegory and epistemological theory to depict victimizing oppressive ideological forces , but rather oppressive ideological forces are the inevitable end of absolute idealism found in Platonism. Faulkner does not reverently use Platonism in Light in August; instead, he doggedly uses Light in August to indict Platonism. There is a specific symbol matrix shared between Plato's Cave and Light in August that is identified, explicated, and proposes Light in August as an anti-Platonic text. The novel's irreverent and ubiquitous infusion of Platonic symbol and theory suggests a unity in its persistent rejection of Absolute Idealism. Bakhtinian hybridization within Light in August is explored revealing a Faulknerian non-authoritarian and Platonic authoritarian heteroglossia which character, plot, and structure are in service. A critical examination of the novel' s symbols argues how the abstract language of the Truth can never quite b e truth; it must be inextricably bound to the visceral language of the everyday. The thesis contends that Faulkner is a strange sort of modernist. invoking something of the ideal, God, virtue, and eternity by wrestling it away from the stranglehold of abstract systems of isolated Idealism. Faulkner's Light in August is not modernism as usual in its eliciting a sense of vital continuum and vital abstraction that includes ideals.