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Title:Beyond Myth: Sexual Identity In "light In August" And Other Novels By William Faulkner (women, Narrative, Point Of View)
Author(s):Hill, Jane Bowers
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Literature, American
Abstract:This study re-evaluates standard critical interpretations of Faulkner's portrayal of female characters, using attitudes toward myth and legend suggested in A Fable to establish a scheme whereby female characters are either victims or exploiters of the archetypal feminine roles they are usually said to embody. When myths and legends are viewed, as A Fable suggests, as artificially imposed social constructs out of which humans conduct limited lives, the narrative attitude toward females becomes more sympathetic and admiring, as well as more realistic, than is often held to be the case with Faulkner.
Light in August provides a framework which is then used to examine briefly the other novels. In Light in August, Lena Grove, traditionally held to be Faulkner's most perfect embodiment of the female as Earth mother and fertility goddess, becomes, using this approach, a subversive naif, consciously constructing the life she wants out of pieces of the mythic identity society hands her. Joanna Burden, her opposite, becomes not the archetypal negative female, the one who rejects the mythic role she is offered, but instead the tragic victim of her own desperate effort to embrace that role. Joe Christmas and Gail Hightower become the mail counterparts to Joanna, also victims of their inability to escape from the limited and flawed point of view that forces them to see the women around them only in mythic terms. Byron Bunch, on the other hand, possesses the courage and wisdom to transform his limited point of view in order to see woman as both individual and symbolic force and uses the corrected vision to enable himself to embrace the female presence in the world with wisdom and joy.
The patterns of being woman or observing woman established in this novel allow a re-thinking of Faulkner's other novels, so that finally the idea that the author is either a misogynist or a mythologizer of women cannot stand as the only commentary on his portrayal of female characters.
Issue Date:1985
Description:358 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1985.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI8600209
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-15
Date Deposited:1985

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