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From Haiti to Mississippi: Faulkner and the making of the Southern master-class

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Abstract:

William Faulkner had a real, if oblique, relationship to Haiti as a place whose tortured history helped shape the history of the US South. This article examines the way Faulkner's work exemplifies the literary modernism of the interwar years and also put it alongside the explosion of cultural creativity in the Black Atlantic in that same period. In fact, Faulkner's work belongs to the literary history of the Black Atlantic. This study traces the importance of Haiti in the life-story of the central figure in Absalom, Absalom! (1936), Thomas Sutpen, a white slave owner in Mississippi between the 1830s and Reconstruction. Absalom tells the story of how a white master was made out of a young man of poor white origins rather than being descended from Virginian or European aristocracy. The article also explores the ways Hegel's paradigm of domination, the master-slave relationship, is reproduced in, and helps illuminate, Sutpen's story. Thus the Hegelian analysis explains not only how slaves, but also how masters, are produced.

Keywords: Absalom, Absalom!; Haiti; Hegel; Sutpen; William Faulkner; class; master-slave

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/ijfs.14.1-2.93_1

Affiliations: University of Nottingham.

Publication date: May 1, 2011

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  • The International Journal of Francophone Studies offers a critical preview for a new development in the understanding of 'France outside France', with a thorough insight into the network of disciplinary issues affiliated with this study. The journal complements the thriving area of scholarly interest in the French-speaking regions of the world, bringing a location of linguistic, cultural, historical and social dynamics within a single academic arena.
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