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William Faulkner

The Abstract and the Actual

by Panthea Reid Broughton

222 pages / 5.50 x 8.50 inches / no illustrations

Literature - American

  Paperback / 9780807124567 / March 1999

“It is a brilliant and original view of Faulkner, a study which connects life and art. In a truly exciting analysis, Panthea Broughton examines those abstractions by which we are increasingly alienated from ourselves. She also examines Faulkner’s own use of abstractions both in his characters’ stratagems of avoiding reality and in their authentic use to confront and order the growing chaos of modern life.” —Walker Percy

William Faulkner was one of the few major writers of the period following World War I to retain a sense of the place of abstractions in life and in art. Faulkner saw life as a process of flux and change and abstractions as a means of either denying actuality or of coping with change and providing a solid touchstone in the flux.

William Faulkner: The Abstract and the Actual is the first critical study of Faulkner to examine in depth the theme of evasion and distortion of existence through abstractions—a theme that can be found to a greater or lesser degree in every Faulkner novel. The book covers the entire seventeen-novel canon and includes discussions of a significant number of short stories. Its thematic organization points out the unity and continuity of Faulkner’s work.

Examining the interrelationships between Faulkner’s fiction and modern thinking, Panthea Broughton shows the insight Faulkner had into the philosophical problem of the abstract versus the actual. She concludes that the central dilemma in Faulkner’s fiction—resistance to flux or change—is also one of the slaient problems of the modern world.

“This is not simply another book on Faulkner, but one which marks a full step forward in Faulkner studies. Panthea Broughton not only extends the dimensions of Faulkner criticism but broadens the critical approach to modern fiction. No other student of Faulkner has so carefully elucidated Faulkner’s sense that art is transcendent, existing as ‘a vital abstraction whose connections with the ‘motion, which is life’ are severed.’” —Lewis P. Simpson 

Panthea Reid Broughton taught at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and Louisiana State University. She has published extensively in literary quarterlies and has reviewed for Saturday Review World, the Chicago Sun Times, and the New York Times Book Review.

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