Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

1-1-2013

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D. in English

Department

English

First Advisor

Jaime L Harker

Second Advisor

Ted Ownby

Third Advisor

Annette Trefzer

Relational Format

dissertation/thesis

Abstract

This dissertation is a biographical study of William Faulkner (1897-1962) as his life coincided with a particular moment in LGBT history when the words homosexual and queer were undergoing profound changes and when our contemporary understanding of gay identity was becoming a widespread and recognizable epistemology. The connections forged in this study--based on archival research from Joseph Blotner's extensive biographical notes--reveal a version of Faulkner distinctly not anxious about homosexuality and, in fact, often quite comfortable with gay men and living in gay environments (New Orleans, New York). From these connections, I reassess Faulkner's pre-marriage writings (1918-1929) for their prolific reference to homosexual themes. I culiminate these early years with a new reading of Darl Bundren from As I Lay Dying (1930)--the first novel Faulkner completed after his marriage--for the way Darl's community constructs him as queer and the way he defines his own gay identity as a "wounded" soldier who was exposed to homosexuality during his time at the war in France. Then I turn towards the changes Faulkner's perspective underwent after his marriage, in the 1930s, as he wrote his major novels. Finally, I turn towards the final years of his career and assess Faulkner's depiction of V. K. Ratliff in the latter novels of the Snopes trilogy as a Cold War homosexual, whose presence throughout Faulkner's long career crystalizes in the closing scenes in The Mansion (1959) as the final verdict on the great saga of Yoknapatawpha County. This study is a developmental narrative both of Faulkner's queer identity throughout his life and of his mastery of the gay representation through its many emanations in the first half of the twentieth century.

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