William Faulkner and Mortality : A Fine Dead Sound book cover
1st Edition

William Faulkner and Mortality
A Fine Dead Sound

ISBN 9780367501358
Published January 9, 2023 by Routledge
194 Pages

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Book Description

William Faulkner and Mortality is the first full-length study of mortality in William Faulkner’s fiction. The book challenges earlier, influential scholarly considerations of death in Faulkner’s work that claimed that writing was his authorial method of ‘saying No to death’. Through close-readings of six key works – The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, "A Rose for Emily", Light in August, Absalom, Absalom!, and Go Down, Moses – this book examines how Faulkner’s characters confront various experiences of human mortality, including grief, bereavement, mourning, and violence. The trauma and ambivalence caused by these experiences ultimately compel these characters to ‘say Yes to death’. The book makes a clear distinction between Faulkner’s quest for literary immortality through writing and the desire for death exhibited by the principal characters in the works analysed. William Faulkner and Mortality: A Fine Dead Sound offers a new paradigm for reading Faulkner’s oeuvre, and adds an alternative voice to a debate within Faulkner scholarship long thought to have ended.


Table of Contents




Introduction: Saying No to Death? William Faulkner’s aesthetic of mortality

Saying Yes to death in Faulkner’s fiction

The literary tradition of immortality and the modern denial of death

I listen to the voices

Chapter 1: A fine dead sound: Quentin Compson’s suicide in The Sound and the Fury

June Second, 1910: Morning – An affectless voice

The word that Quentin cannot say

Little Sister death

June Second, 1910: Night – A fine dead sound

Coda: Three reactions to Quentin’s suicide

Chapter 2: Living was terrible: Confrontations with mortality in As I Lay Dying

Getting ready to stay dead

A shoddy job

A wet seed in the hot blind earth

My mother is a fish

That goddamn box

I have no mother

Now I can get them teeth

Chapter 3: Burying the fallen monument: The death of the Old South in "A Rose for Emily"

A fallen monument to the Old South

A body submerged in water

I want some poison

A strand of iron-gray hair

Emily’s rose for the narrator

Chapter 4: A bloody mischancing of human affairs: Murder and violence in Light in August and Absalom, Absalom!

The rootless stranger: Alienation and racial exclusion in Light in August

Something is going to happen to me: The murder of Joe Christmas

An act of passion and violence: The legend of Thomas Sutpen in Absalom, Absalom!

I’m going to tech you, Kernel: Wash Jones’s tragic design

Chapter 5: Ah’m goan home: Narration, homegoing, and whiteness in Go Down, Moses

Faulkner’s narrational distance

Homegoing and the subversion of African American funerary culture

Come home, whar we can help you

Ah’m snakebit and bound to die

Black bereavement through the lens of whiteness

She just wanted him home

Conclusion: Breaking the pencil: Death and voice in Faulkner’s fiction

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Ahmed Honeini teaches in the Department of English at Royal Holloway, University of London. He earned his PhD from Royal Holloway on the work of William Faulkner in 2018, and he was previously educated at King’s College London and University College London. He has published with the Mississippi Quarterly and United States Studies Online. He has also been awarded various research grants, including from the British Association for American Studies (BAAS), the Hemingway Society, and the F. Scott Fitzgerald Society. Finally, he is the founding director of the Faulkner Studies in the UK Research Network (@Faulkner_UK on Twitter). His main research interests are Faulkner, literary modernism, and American fiction, theatre, and film.


"This volume brings a valuable contribution to Faulknerian criticism, a noteworthy achievement for an author on whom so much has been written. Honeini’s prose is clear, and the arguments put forward are utterly convincing and perspicuous."

-- Solveig Dunkel (University of Picardy-Jules Verne), in Transatlantica: American Studies Journal, 2021 (Volume 2)

"William Faulkner and Mortality: A Fine Dead Sound is a key work for any scholars looking at the author’s mediations on loss, life, grief, and more broadly, gendered life in the American South."

-- Katie Anne Tobin (University of Durham), United States Studies Online