Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

2013

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

M.A. in English

Department

English

First Advisor

Leigh Anne Duck

Second Advisor

Jaime Harker

Third Advisor

Jay Watson

Abstract

This thesis will examine William Faulkner's career-long engagement with popular discourses surrounding collegiate football, and American sports more generally. Although Faulkner is often viewed as a paragon of American high modernism, his development as a fiction writer during the "Gold Age of Sports" which spanned the 1920s fostered an attentiveness to popular sports writing that had a marked influence on several of his novels. More importantly, as much of writing about college football began to center on the South after the Southeastern Conference became the first collegiate organization to offer open athletic subsidies in 1935, Faulkner's concern with the sport becomes increasingly prominent in his fiction. The first chapter of this study, then, focuses on the "Wild Palms" portion of The Wild Palms; If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem (1939) to gain insight into Faulkner's complicated stance on the hotly debated issue of the professionalization of college football. The second chapter examines the curious Labove episode in The Hamlet (1940) to illustrate the way in which Faulkner was informed by popular discourses in pointing to college football, and sport more generally, as an agent of nationalization in the Depression-era South. Finally, the third chapter highlights significant moments in Intruder in the Dust (1948), The Town (1957), and The Mansion (1959) in which Faulkner indicates an affinity with progressive sportswriters in suggesting that the importance of sports in Southern culture might be used as a lever to quell racial tension and bring about the eventual integration of the region.

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