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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The voice of the many in the one : modernism’s unveiled listening to minority presence in the fiction of William Faulkner and Patrick White Trautman, Andrea Dominique

Abstract

By comparing the novels of William Faulkner and Patrick White, this thesis reconsiders modernism's elitism and solipsism by revealing within them a critical interest in liberating minority perspective. Theoretical debates which continue to insist on modernism's inherent distance from the identity politics which front the postmodernist movement are overlooking modernism's deeply embedded evaluative mechanisms which work to expose and criticize the activity of psychic and social co-optation. Faulkner and White are both engaged in fictionally tracing the complexities of a failing patriarchy which can no longer substantiate its primary subjects — the white, upper class male. As representatives of modernism we can see that Faulkner and White, perhaps unwittingly, initiate the awareness that the 'failure' of their chosen subjects is in large measure due to processes of marginalization which both created the authoritative power structures within which they are constructed and helped serve to collapse them. The classic isolation of the modernist subject can be looked at not simply as an isolation predicated on endless self-referentiality, but rather on a desperate social outreaching for which he or she is not psychically equipped. By following the trajectory and perspective of specific novels and characters it becomes clear that it is precisely this handicap which clears the textual space for diversity of representation, just as it overturns the notion of modernism's functioning separatism. Chapter one concentrates on the double-edged representation of the female subject constructed as always-already 'guilty' within the psychologically, emotionally and physically repressive terms of the dominant male power structures within the context of Faulkner's Requiem for a Nun and White's A Fringe of Leaves. Chapter two investigates the psychological parameters of the morally disenfranchised modern subject whose disillusionment results from prejudicial social practices promoted by virulent racial anxiety as exemplified in Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom! and White's Voss. The third and final chapter discusses Light in August and Riders in the Chariot with attention to modernism's own investigation of the exclusion of minority voices from collective social imagining. The thesis posits that literary modernism is interested less with reconciling its literary subjects within a self-contained totalizing project than it is with invoking new social and psychological paradigms that stress the necessity of external, not internal, represented multiplicity, and that what has been (mis)recognized as modernism's self-closure is, in fact, the key not only to its own continuing relevance, but to the contemporaneous literary injunction to let all voices be heard.

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