Faulkner and the Metropolis- Electronic submissions by July 1, 2010
Faulkner and the Metropolis
It has long been axiomatic that modernism is both "about" and a product of the city. And in myriad examples, modernist culture reveals both its investments in representing urban experience and its formal shaping by metropolitan rhythms, material conditions, and energy. No less than his description of himself as a simple "country farmer," Faulkner's largely rural settings would seem to distinguish him from a modernism that is deeply engaged with urban experience. Yet Faulkner's work was in fact powerfully affected by his encounter with the city—both as a historical, social reality and as an imaginative construction or space.
This special issue welcomes a range of methodological approaches: biographical, historical, theoretical, cultural. Some questions these approaches might prompt include the following: What is the role of both the real and the imagined city in Faulkner? What impact did time that he spent in cultural centers and capitals have on his life and writing? What cities figure prominently in his work, and what role do those locations play in readers' understanding of his writing? What thematic issues such as commercialism, industrialization, immigration, or the rise of media technology (all facets of urban modernity) figure in his work? What ethnic or cultural biases follow from attitudes about the city (such as Jason Compson's distrust of "New York jews")? What urban types or institutions, like the newspaper, the gangster, the detective, or the flâneur, figure in his work? How does Faulkner's work bear a relation to largely urban phenomena such as the cinema, mass spectacle, or mass politics? What is the role of visuality in both modernity and Faulkner's writing? What does it mean, for example, that Faulkner's modernism has been compared to a painterly school like cubism—one that Fernand Léger suggested followed from a new, urban way of "seeing"? What tropes, strategies, or formal techniques associated with modernity (such as montage, the "shock" aesthetic, or the rapid shifting of mental states) appear in his work? What do we make of Faulkner's famous dictum—"The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life . . . and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life"—in light of theories of modernism and of urban modernity that stress the role of motion and speed?
The city may also be said to have a presence in Faulkner's work that we could describe as dialectical. What impact, that is, might the social spaces of the city have had on his fiction's formal properties? Like the novel form, or even "apocryphal" spaces like Yoknapatawpha, the city has historically been the product of enormous imaginative energy. Papers might explore how theories of postmodernism, space, and geography help understand Faulkner's "spatial poetics" in connection with urbanism or with a newly global view of modernity. Essays that consider "Faulkner and the Metropolis" in relation to other writers, disciplines (such as urban or environmental studies), or cultural forms (like film, advertising, or visual culture) are welcome.