William Faulkner has enjoyed a secure reputation as American modernism’s foremost fiction writer, and as a landmark figure in international literary modernism, for well over half a century. Less secure, however, has been any scholarly consensus about what those modernist credentials actually entail. Over recent decades, there have been lively debates in modernist studies over the who, what, where, when, and how of the surprisingly elusive phenomena of modernism and modernity. This book broadens and deepens an understanding of Faulkner’s oeuvre by following some of the guiding questions and insights of new modernism studies scholarship into understudied aspects of Faulkner’s literary modernism and his cultural modernity.
William Faulkner and the Faces of Modernity explores Faulkner’s rural Mississippians as modernizing subjects in their own right rather than mere objects of modernization; traces the new speed gradients, media formations, and intensifications of sensory and affective experience that the twentieth century brought to the cities and countryside of the US South; maps the fault lines in whiteness as a racial modernity under construction and contestation during the Jim Crow period; resituates Faulkner’s fictional Yoknapatawpha County within the transnational counter-modernities of the Black Atlantic; and follows the author’s imaginative engagement with modern biopolitics through his late work A Fable, a novel Faulkner hoped to make his ‘magnum o.’ By returning to the utterly uncontroversial fact of Faulkner’s modernism with a critical sensibility sharpened by new modernism studies, William Faulkner and the Faces of Modernity aims to spark further reappraisal of a distinguished and quite dazzling body of fiction. Perhaps even make it new.