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Faulkner's Country Matters

Folklore and Fable in Yoknapatawpha

by Daniel Hoffman

Southern Literary Studies

232 pages / 6.00 x 9.00 inches / no illustrations

Literature - American

  Paperback / 9780807124260 / March 1999

Daniel Hoffman’s bold new readings reveal unsuspected dimensions in Faulkner’s The Unvanquished,The Hamlet, and Go Down, Moses. He shows how these works, often regarded as disunified collections of short stories and novellas, are coherent and successful experiments in novelistic form.

These last three novels of Faulkner’s great period are striated with folklore and structured with myths. They teem with folk motifs of comic exaggeration, deception, horse-trading, tall-tale humor. Hitherto, critics unversed in folklore have been able to treat these aspects only in generalities. Here, drawing on fieldwork from the Mississippi Writers Project in the 1930s, the author of Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe and the influential Form and Fable in America Fiction demonstrates in detail Faulkner’s ironical, subversive, and transformative appropriations of folklore plots, characters, comedy, language, and the style of oral tale-telling, setting these in the full complexity of the works they animate.

Hoffman, shows, too how in imagining his dynastic novels, Faulkner interprets myth as history, history as myth. He challenges recent deconstructive, post-Marxist and structuralist readings of “The Bear,” and demonstrates the necessity on the reader’s part for an historical imagination to complement Faulkner’s own.

Written with verve, Faulkner’s Country Matters enriches our reading of Faulkner by presenting his work in its necessary settings of southern history and culture. Faulkner’s modernism is restated as a continuance of the great American fiction tradition of Hawthorne, Melville, and Mark Twain.

Praise for the Book

“In Form and Fable in American Fiction, Daniel Hoffman brilliantly demonstrated the relationship between the literary imagination in America and our myths, fables, and folktales. Reasserting and deepening the thesis of that study in Faulkner’s Country Matters, Hoffman provides rich readings of The UnvanquishedThe Hamlet, and Go Down, Moses, and at the same time offers a moving, often profound meditation on the American sense of history as myth and myth as history. Appearing at a moment when Faulkner studies are dominated by a rage for theorizing about literature, Hoffman’s new book returns us to the actual source of the author’s imagination. This is an indispensable work.” —Lewis P. Simpson

Former poet laureate, Daniel Hoffman (1923—2013) published fourteen books of poetry, including The Whole Nine Yards, Beyond Silence, and Brotherly Love, a finalist for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. His honors include the Arthur Anse prize for “a distinctive poet” from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and, from the Sewanee Review, the Aiken-Taylor Award for Contemporary American Poetry. He was the author of many critical studies, including Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe, also a National Book Award finalist. He taught at Swarthmore College and at the University of Pennsylvania, where he was the Felix Schelling Professor of English Emeritus.

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