Date of Award

12-2007

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

English

Abstract

As one of the most well-known modern American authors, William Faulkner is no stranger to the world of critical interpretation. His works are often discussed and analyzed in academic circles, and these analyses have taken on, over time, a quite traditional interpretation. With Light in August and Absalom, Absalom!, interpretation has traditionally focused on themes of history and race. There is no doubt that Faulkner had a rather distinct preoccupation with these two themes; his works are full of references to the issues of the past and of race in relation to the Civil War and ''the Old South." It is not surprising, either, that it has been the standard that critical interpretations, from early critics like Cleanth Brooks and Olga Vickery to more contemporary critics like Lisa Nelson and Thomas Argiro, have focused on racial tensions and the representation of the past in Light in August and Absalom, Absalom! What is often overlooked in critical interpretations of these novels is the influence of the present on Faulkner's works as well. When read in the context of the time period when Faulkner was writing and publishing, the critical interpretations of Light in August and Absalom, Absalom! focus on themes different from the more traditional interpretations. This new approach, using a more "historical present" critical lens for interpretation, shows how the issues plaguing the United States in the 1920s and 1930s-the threat of the "other," in the forms of immigration and differing socio-political affiliations-are reflected in these two Faulkner novels.

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