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Faulkner and Love: The Women Who Shaped His Art, A Biography Hardcover – April 7, 2009

4.8 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Exploring the emotional and creative energies Faulkner derived from his close relationships with three generations of white and black women, Judith Sensibar provides a decidedly original and revealing portrait of his life and his writing."—Eric J. Sundquist, author of Faulkner: The House Divided

(Eric J. Sundquist)

“A remarkable work of sleuthing, researching, and interpreting. Sensibar has used every resource in print, and has buttressed all that information with countless oral interviews to provide a myriad of insights into Faulkner.”—Linda Wagner-Martin, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
(Linda Wagner-Martin)

"The portrait of Faulkner that emerges from this book is layered, complex, and absolutely fascinating. Sensibar offers a new way of apprehending his world and of understanding how he was shaped as a thinker and writer."—Thadious Davis, University of Pennsylvania
(Thadious Davis)

“We know a lot about William Faulkner's drinking, his philandering, his struggles with race, sexuality and history. We know much less about why Faulkner was so spectacularly talented and so spectacularly troubled. Judith Sensibar's magisterial new book tells how the fraught, obsessive relationships with the women in his life permeated every aspect of his art and life. Faulkner's critics and biographers too often dismiss or caricature his mother, his  "mammy," and his wife. But by uncovering important new information about Faulkner's family life, and integrating it with intelligent readings of his fiction and poetry, Faulkner and Love places Maud Butler, Caroline Barr, and his wife Estelle Oldham Faulkner back where they belong at the center of his work and illuminates the obsessions that impelled him to write the greatest novels of the 20th century.” – Diane Roberts, author of Dream State
(Diane Roberts)

"A breakthrough account. . . . An indispensable addition to Faulkner scholarship. . . . [S]crupulously documented, brilliantly insightful  . . . one can easily see why these three essential women who touched him . . . should be given more than attention . . ." —Alexander Theroux, Boston Globe
(Alexander Theroux Boston Globe)

"For the first time, a scholar looks deeply and sensitively into William Faulkner’s relationships with the . . . women who were central in his life . . . [His] meticulous research shoot[s] holes in some myths . . . [and] will enrich our understanding of Faulkner and his world . . .'"—Lisa Howorth, Square Books
(Lisa Howorth Square Books)

". . . Those who think they know Faulkner biography are in for a few surprises. . . . Room must be made on the bookshelf of Faulkner biography for this exhaustively researched and brilliantly argued new study. . . . It will make several . . . earlier efforts irrelevant . . .—M. Thomas Inge, The Key Reporter
(M. Thomas Inge The Key Reporter)

Sensibar's sensibility is that of a major literary critic, and this book serves to sustain that judgment. All future biographers of Faulkner must take into account her findings, and they should be grateful for the intelligent light she has cast on one of our most inexplicable and challenging authors.”—Thomas Inge, Richmond Times-Dispatch
(Thomas Inge Richmond Times-Dispatch 2009-06-14)

Chosen as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2009 by Choice Magazine
(Choice 2010-01-01)

About the Author

Judith L. Sensibar is the author of The Origins of Faulkner’s Art and the winner of fellowships from the NEH and the ACLS. She lives in Chicago.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 616 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 1 edition (April 7, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300115032
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300115031
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,824,379 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
In her book, Judith Sensibar, as a curious Yankee outsider, was well placed to ask that most perfect of outsider questions. Why, Ms Sensibar wondered, had the field of Faulkner studies largely ignored the three most important people in William Faulkner's daily world? Faulkner and Love gives us her beautifully written, decisive answer. They just happened to be women. Their names were Caroline (Callie) Barr, Maud Butler Falkner and Estelle Oldham Faulkner. Ms. Senisbar's work reclaims this powerful trio through meticulous research and places them right where they belong. That is, front and center in Faulkner's life and creative process.

The received wisdom when I studied Faulkner was that his mother, Maud, was domineering and critical of her son. His wife, Estelle, we were told, was merely an alcoholic with extravagant spending habits. We weren't even told of the existence of Caroline (Callie) Barr. Evidently, scholars couldn't conceive that the African-American woman who raised Faulkner and his brothers could possibly have inspired the writing of such a genius. In the dedication of Go Down Moses, Faulkner wrote that Callie `gave him immeasurable devotion and love.' The intertwining of his life and that of Caroline Barr is at the heart of what makes Faulkner and Love such a revelation.

Maud Butler Falkner passed on to her son her love of art and literature. I learned from Faulkner and Love that Maud painted over 600 works during her lifetime. Callie Barr told him endless stories of her life as a slave while looking after him as a child. His wife Estelle was a beautiful, intelligent woman that Faulkner had loved for years before being able to marry her. In today's psychological jargon we would perhaps call the four of them, with all their flaws, `co-dependent.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Sensibar did a masterful job of researching unpublished material as well as the novels, letters, and speeches. One of the most valuable aspects of the book is that she points out how literary criticism has ignored the influence of Faulkner's mother, Maude Faulkner; the black woman, Callie Barr, who played a major part in rearing all the Faulkner boys and William's daughter, Jill and niece, Dean; and his wife, Estelle, who wrote short stories that were published under Faulkner's name. Sensibar used Freudian and Feminist theory to write an illuminating assessment of the huge influence of the women on the emotional and artistic development of a major American writer. Sensibar deserves to be the central focus of the next Faulkner Conference. It's stunning how deeply sexist and racist modern scholars continue to be --it is as if they are working while wearing blinders. Patriarchy with it's attendant slavery, racism, and sexism does truly blind even the most significant writers and their biographers and critics.
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Format: Hardcover
One doesn't have to 'love' Faulkner to read this impressive examination of his relationship to his mother, his black mammy and his wife. I was bowled over by Sensibar's revelations and understanding of the complexitites of Southern life under de facto segregation, making this a study as much about 'hatred' as 'love' I doubt Faulkner could have written his great novels without his muses. This book is a must.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I liked the subject matter very much. I agreed with the author about how important the three women she talked about in the book had great influences on Faulkner. But the way she presented the book was jumbled, full of repitition, not well conceived. The problem may be that she had different editors for different sections. For all the scholarship that clearly went into the book, it needs a good editor to weed out all the excesses and make it an enjoyable read.
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Format: Hardcover
The three women--the black mammy, the artist mother, and the Southern belle wife--are all interesting in their own right, and Bill Faulkner's vulnerabilities are showcased. This triple, or quadruple, literary history, completely documented, definitely tells you more than Milford's "Zelda" did. All four people were of course intimates. One wishes one could sit in, say, the Rowan Oak dining room and see them interact.
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