chapter  4
21 Pages

William Faulkner, the Past, and History

ByJohn McCormick

William Faulkner was a younger contemporary, the contrast between him, on the one hand, and Robert Musil and Hermann Broch, on the other, is dramatic, and at first glance, irreconcilable. Novalis helps one to define a central quality of Faulkner's style, the oratorical. For Faulkner, Romanticism was not historical, not a movement of the preceding half-century and deeper in time, but to the contrary an integral part and context of everyday life in his native Mississippi. A quality in American life that is if anything exaggerated in Faulkner's work, a quality directly related to Romanticism, is awareness of history. Another quality of Faulkner and of American post-Romanticism, equal only to Faulkner's obsession with history, is his self-consciousness about writing, about being or not being an artist. Faulkner's treatment of history in Light in August is basically different from that of The Sound and the Fury; it shows us Faulkner's versatility, and how his imagination was charged with vision of history.