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William Faulkner: A Critical Study (4th Edition) Paperback – August 1, 1991

ISBN-13: 978-0929587691 ISBN-10: 0929587693 Edition: 4th

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William Faulkner: A Critical Study (4th Edition) + William Faulkner: The Yoknapatawpha Country
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 305 pages
  • Publisher: Ivan R. Dee; 4 edition (August 1, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0929587693
  • ISBN-13: 978-0929587691
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,195,460 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

Irving Howe (1920-–1993), a leading New York intellectual, founded Dissent magazine and was regarded as one of the most influential American literary critics. His other books include World of Our Fathers, A Treasury of Yiddish Stories, and William Faulkner (published by Ivan R. Dee).

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Howe's book is at times more of an appreciation than an analysis. Many of his ideas are so good I wish he had written a more thorough study. However, this book remains an excellent introduction to Faulkner's work.

Howe understands the problem of treating Faulkner's oeuvre as a unified myth about Yoknapatawpha County while simultaneously taking the time to discuss each novel as a separate work of art.

The book is divided into two parts. The first part is an overview of broad themes throughout all of Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha saga. The main thread for Howe is the myth of the decline of the homeland. Other themes include the changing role of blacks in the American South and how Faulkner's views on the conflict between Nature and Society shape his moral vision.

The second part is a series of analyses of individual novels. Howe considers The Sound and the Fury to be Faulkner's finest achievement, mostly for the "Benjy" section. He considers As I Lay Dying to be almost as fine. Howe ranks Light In August and The Hamlet on a very high level, too, though he finds them to be somewhat deficient in artistic execution. He admits that Absalom, Absalom! is for aficionados only.

Among Faulkner's shorter works, Howe considers "The Bear" to be almost as perfect as The Sound and The Fury. Most interesting is his discussion of the story's long and difficult fourth section. He considers the pros and cons of omitting that section of dialogue between Isaac and Cass, pretty much leaving the decision to the reader.

Howe does discuss Faulkner's short stories and admits that he wrote a few truly "great" ones competitive with the best work of Hemingway and Sherwood Anderson.
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