By Peter B. High
A survey of the English prose, poetry and drama of the U.S. from Colonial occasions to the1980s.
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Additional resources for An Outline of American Literature
When we examine Faulkner's women and other characters' responses to them, we find that they often mirror the tensions and ambivalences of Faulkner's artistic style in ways which men do not. For Hélène Cixous, "Woman un-thinks the unifying, regulating history that homogenizes and channels forces, herding contradictions into a single battlefield" (252). " Clearly, not all of Faulkner's women evoke the power of a Rosa Coldfield or an Addie Bundren, but his greatest novels often rely on the presence of disruptive femininity.
But Faulkner goes further than just silencing Caddy; he ties her silence to her beauty, her femininity, and claims that "Caddy was still to me too beautiful and too moving to reduce her to telling what was going on, that it would be more passionate to see her through somebody else's eyes" (Univ. 1). David Minter has suggested that Faulkner found "indirection" a useful strategy "for approaching forbidden scenes, uttering forbidden words, committting dangerous acts" (103). Yet the "forbidden words'' and "dangerous acts" appear not to be Caddy's but those of her brothers: Quentin's incestuous desires, Jason's criminality, and Benjy's groping for the language "to say" which culminates in attempted rape.
When the "phallic, linguistic symbolic establishment" fails to suppress maternal authority, it reveals the precariousness of its own power and definition. Page 6 Into this dearth of phallogocentric control comes the disruptive presence of women, with the potential to redefine established conventions and to suggest different methods of creativity. Thus Faulkner, who may very well have feared and distrusted women, also sees in them a mysterious, often threatening power, which is aligned with his own creativity and the grounds of his own fiction.
An Outline of American Literature by Peter B. High