UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

"The Echo, Not the Shot" : metamorphosis and mediation in William Faulkner Smith, Philip Anthony James


This thesis is an attempt to situate and contextualize William Faulkner’s novels of the 1930s within the framework of the emerging mass culture forms of that period, and to investigate this author’s assimilation and inversion of the structures and the stylistic and formalistic devices afforded not only by film, but by animated cartoons, newsreels, and radio. Faulkner’s works are fully immersed in and reflective of a world of metamorphosis and mediation engendered by these mass culture forms, a world when social and artistic hierarchies also fully enter the modernist period of incessant flux. Chapter One will offer a brief overview of the perceptual and literary effects engendered in the early days of media culture as it may apply to Faulkner and his contemporary Sherwood Anderson, including a growing loathing of what was seen as an increasing tendency toward “standardization” in both literature and life. For Faulkner however the media culture which was partially responsible for standardization also provided new formal possibilities through which the writer could address it. Chapter Two will focus on two of Faulkner’s most beloved popular culture forms -the animated cartoon and the newsreel - and their relation to Light in August, Absalom, Absalom! and Pylon in particular. The interpolation and recuperation of mass culture devices and motifs and the concern with a standardized world reach an apotheosis in the 1939 novel "If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem" (now known as The Wild Palms), a work which also can be seen as the culmination of Faulkner’s decade-long experiments in the use of multiple narrative voices. Chapter Three of the thesis will examine this novel’s and its narrators’ relation to the contemporaneous culture of cacophony these media arts were producing, in particular that of radio’s. As this book also functions as a cautionary tale as to the convergence of writing and mass culture, Chapter Four will discuss the double transfiguration of genre codes and restrictions found within Jerusalem, as well as briefly examine the acceleration of the culture of celebrity and the attendant fragmenting mediation of literary works found in the later media age (that of television).

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