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2012 Master's Level Graduate Research Conference

Session I - Session II - Session III - Session IV

Shaping History Through Storytelling in Faulkner’s Abaslom, Absalom!

This paper considers the role of storytelling in William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!, particularly focusing on the relationship between the reader and the text itself. Faulkner’s use of a multi-narrative structure and repetitive layering allow readers to actively reconstruct the Sutpen story alongside the narrators. Faulkner’s “design,” such as his rich use of Biblical and classical allusions, as well as the narrative structure in the fabula and syuzhet, is the primary concern here. The representative narrative must be pieced together and interpreted in order to come to some sort of meaning. In shaping history and time through how the past is re-told and interpreted ad infinitum, Faulkner and his characters demonstrate how stories and the representative “truth” change. Moreover, the act of interpretation is what allows the storytellers (and readers) to connect to what’s represented – the story, the “truth” – and the shaping of meaning. Obviously this impacts notions of memory, as well as time, two important concepts of modernity. Faulkner, himself, had his own theory on time, emphasizing its fluidity and how humans can shape it for their own purposes through language. In this way, storytelling in Absalom, Absalom! manifests immortality. At what cost, though? Readers witness its haunting effects and ability to quite literally destroy lives and futures. Thus, Faulkner points to the power of language: to shape words, to shape the world, to shape “truth.”

Presenter: Kristen Niemi (SUNY Fredonia) -- kniemi@fredonia.edu
Topic: English - Panel
Location: 216 Hartwell
Time: 9:40 am (Session I)

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