Eng.- 533 Methods of Research

Absalom, Absalom!: Annotated Bibliography

Brooks, Peter. “Incredulous Narration: Absalom, Absalom!” Comparative Literature, vol. 34, no. 3, 1982, pp. 247–268. http://0-www.jstor.org.oak.indwes.edu/stable/1770556.

Brooks compares Absalom, Absalom! modes of narrative to expert Roland Barthes theory stating: “narrative is a method of coding implicit in all narratology”. Brooks argues that Faulkner builds confusion in the reader by using both ‘proairetic’ and ‘hermeneutic’ codes of narration simultaneously, causing the narrator to interrupt the chain of events in order to interpret the motives and intentions behind the actions effectively heightening the suspension of the life and motivations of Sutpen’s character but also creating a work difficult to interpret for the common reader.

Brooks focus on the narrative structure in Absalom, Absalom! makes this article a valuable resource. It could be best utilized as a reference material that offers a formal explanation of the specific technique Faulkner uses. The article would also be helpful if incorporated into a research paper where one would focus on the way in which the various voices found in the work help to develop the story’s overall plot.

Egan, Philip J. “Embedded Story Structures in Absalom, Absalom!” American Literature, vol. 55, no. 2, 1983, pp. 199–214. http://0-www.jstor.org.oak.indwes.edu/stable/2926281

Eagan seeks to present the significance of the nine spoken narratives found in Absalom, Absalom! arguing that each offer a smaller aesthetic whole coordinated within the larger whole of the work. Eagan insists that these small enclosures are significant both as individual aesthetic units and as manifestations of the speaker’s personality. Combined the tragic biographies and circular structures found within the embedded stories reveal the overall tragic vision of the work by presenting it in many small variations.

Eagan’s article is a valuable reference material because it offers an in depth explanation of the nine spoken narratives with in the work. It is a unique source because most critics have solely focused on the four narrators rather than the time in which they told their versions of the story. This article then presents itself as an opportunity to raise the argument that the time and place of the spoken narrative also help to shape the narrator’s perspective.

Levins, Lynn Gartrell. “The Four Narrative Perspectives in “Absalom, Absalom!”” PMLA 85.1 (1970): 35-47. Web.

Levins studies the interrelationship of form to its meaning as it applies to Absalom, Absalom!. By citing the four narrative perspectives Levins focuses his argument on Faulkner’s use of form noting how it does not differ from narrator to narrator, instead Faulkner chooses to make stylistic changes; allowing each narrative to take on a different literary genre- the gothic, the Greek tragedy, the chivalric romance, and the tall tale. Levins argues that this choice was to further promote Faulkner’s intention for the reader to believe Sutpen’s story is fact, but the history of events has been an interpretive act of the imagination that changes from one story teller to the next effectively transforming history into legend.

  Levins article can be a valuable tool when shaping an argument regarding narrative structure in Absalom, Absalom!. This article would be useful when trying to explain the motives of the characters and how it has affected their respective narratives. The character analysis Levins conducts on each of the narrators would be a useful tool when arguing the various ways in which personal motivations shaped the narrator’s perspective of Thomas Sutpen.

Minter, David L. Faulkner’s Questioning Narratives: Fiction of His Major Phase, 1929-42. Illinois: University of Illinois Press.2004.

Minter’s critique of Faulkner’s work argues that Faulkner’s fictitious canon is a celebration of an entire range of passive and active articulation. Minter narrows his scope to that of Absalom, Absalom! and interprets the work to be a higher level of art that Faulkner had ever participated in. Minter argues that Faulkner’s use of narrative allows him to take small details regarding Thomas Sutpen’s life and shape them into new changing patterns, that ultimately trigger a new round of change and exchange.

    Several chapters of Minter’s book could be included in a work to interpret the narrative structure of Absalom, Absalom!. One can decide to cite Minter’s work to prove background information regarding Faulkner or an individual may choose the passages that focus solely on the narrative structure of Faulkner’s novel specifically the questions it raises for readers.

Rimmon-Kenan, Sholomith. “William Faulkner Absalom, Absalom! ’Something is Always Missing’” Narrative Theory: Special Topics Vol.2 Ed. Bal, Mieke. New York: Taylor and Francis,2004.197-210

Rimmon- Kenan reviews the narrative structure of Absalom, Absalom! and denotes the conflicting views of the relation between narration, representation, and subjectivity. Posing a case for the fact that none of the narrators had actually attended any of the events that they are telling the story of – and are only retelling what they heard from someone else (Compson, Quentin, and Shreve) , or attempting to remember events that they did not attend and were to young to remember (Rosa) – causes them to invent answers for missing questions, supported by textual evidence this leads Rimmon- Kenan to argue that the effect of these chains of narrators is that it creates a distance between the teller and the tale and it casts doubt on the reliability of the narrator because they are reporting on events they do not know.

   An important aspect of Absalom, Absalom! is the unreliability of the narrators, this article would be an ideal source in presenting this argument to the reader. Fortunately, Rimmon-Kenan structures his paper in a way that illuminates the various reasons why a reader should be skeptical of taking one of Faulkner’s narrators as an authoritative figure that can be trusted.

Rio-Jelliffe, R. “‘Absalom, Absalom!” as Self-Reflexive Novel.” The Journal of Narrative Technique, vol. 11, no. 2, 1981, pp. 75–90. http://0-www.jstor.org.oak.indwes.edu/stable/30225016.

Rio-Jelliffe views Absalom, Absalom! as a novel that uses narrative to rehearse the creative process and the nature of fiction through multiple angles. Rio-Jelliffe argues that the work illustrates the double nature of narrative, he cites the deception inherent in fiction and supports his claim through textual evidence that denote the way in which fabricated, unreal narrative casts ineradicable tracings of truth. Focusing solely on the wide range of narrative voices presented in Absalom, Absalom! Rio-Jelliffe argues that the function of these voices is to create a reductive, counterbalancing irony within the novel. Rio Jellife claims that Faulkner produces the work in this way in order to show readers that there is both freedom and power within the imagination, making it the supreme creative force.

  There are quote worthy citations in this article that perfectly explain the ways in which the text reflects a self-reflexive novel. Rio-Jelliffe’s interpretation of Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! would be an excellent source that could be included to provide support for the argument that Faulkner’s narrators are fallible, and apt to false testimony throughout the novel.

Ruppersburg, Hugh M. Voice and Eye in Faulkner’s Fiction. Georgia: University of Georgia Press,2008. 7-30

Ruppersburg analyzes Faulkner’s use of voice in his works and poses the argument that various narratives permit Faulkner to reconcile his compulsion for authorial impersonality with a conviction underlying all his work- that individual experience embodies basic truths of the human condition. Ruppersburg states that characters are fallible human beings and that because of this their observations and experiences do not always reflect reality. The structure of Absalom, Absalom!  is almost exclusively dictated by point of view of the narrator which causes the reader to be confused as to what actually happened and what was imagined.

  Ruppersburg’s interpretation of Absalom, Absalom! would be an ideal source to support claims regarding the truthfulness of the narrators within the text. The source uses Faulkner’s entire canon of works to support his claim, however it would be effective as a supporting argument if used to prove that Faulkner has a pattern that can be supported by a peer reviewed critic.

Scott, Arthur L. “The Myriad Perspectives of Absalom, Absalom!” American Quarterly, vol. 6, no. 3, 1954, pp. 210–220. http://0-www.jstor.org.oak.indwes.edu/stable/3031395.

Scott creates an argument for Absalom, Absalom! by comparing its unique literary techniques to aspects most commonly found in Cubist paintings. Focusing on the varying perspectives of the narrators, and the unknown shifts of perspectives Scott argues that Faulkner chooses to use these seemingly peculiar literary techniques in order to both add suspense by reversing the depiction of cause and effect, and in order to portray the interaction of time -demonstrating the effect of the old upon the new.

     Scott’s article is one that focuses on the shift of perspectives throughout the novel. It would be a useful work to cite when arguing how narrative perspectives effect the novel as a hole. Scott’s piece also discusses the similarities that Faulkner’s work shares with artistic movements during that time, these similarities can be cited as evidence of Faulkner’s reasoning for creating multiple narratives, not because they are fallible but because each perspective can be arranged in such a way that it gives an entire story. 

Urgo, Joseph R. “Absalom, Absalom!: The Movie.” American Literature, vol. 62, no. 1, 1990, pp. 56–73. http://0-www.jstor.org.oak.indwes.edu/stable/2926782.

Urgo focuses his research around Faulkner’s time in Hollywood and argues that Absalom, Absalom! was deeply influenced by this segment of his career. Urgo states that the primary difference between Absalom, Absalom! and other works by Faulkner is Faulkner’s use of narrator perspective as tools that fold one over another in order to create a single recognizable text or series of pictures by Quentin and Shreve rather than the reader. Using textual evidence and secondary sources Urgo poses the argument that Quentin plays the role of producer by suppling the story of Sutpen’s life and Shreve then directs the story. 

    Urgo’s interpretation of the text includes biological information regarding Faulkner, which is pertinent in explaining the motivations of the author. In addition to this the article can be used to present ways in which the four narratives interact with one another so that only combined can they provide a full view of who Thomas Sutpen was.

Vernon, Alex. “Narrative Miscegenation: ‘Absalom, Absalom!” as Naturalist Novel, Auto/Biography, and African-American Oral Story.” Journal of Narrative Theory, vol. 31, no. 2, 2001, pp. 155–179. http://0-www.jstor.org.oak.indwes.edu/stable/30225761.

Vernon’s interpretation argues that the narrative structure with in the text take on distinct literary genre’s including naturalist, biography/auto-biography, and the oral tale. Vernon applies textual evidence along with expert opinion in order to support his claims regarding Absalom, Absalom!. Vernon proposes the idea that Faulkner’s choice of narrative structure proposes a theory regarding the capabilities of human memory-memory serves not its present but future.

Vernon’s ideas regarding the work as an autobiography which argue that the story is actually Quentin Compson’s suicide note is most thought provoking. Citations regarding Quentin’s motives would be the best use of this piece, as it would provide support for his character development and how it shapes the impression readers receive of Thomas Sutpen.

Concluding Reflections
William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! initially began as a troublesome read. Though the plot proved itself to be captivating, the most immediate reaction to the text was confusion; one major reason for this was the constant shift of perspective throughout the text. While reading Absalom, Absalom!  it was difficult to decipher who was talking at what time, and if that narrator had the authority to capture the essence of Thomas Sutpen and his individual motivations. These early issues faced when reading the text made a focus on narrative structure a seemingly natural choice, and after conducting research regarding the subject in relation to Faulkner’s work a greater understanding of the text began to resonate. If the opportunity arose, these sources would be best utilized to argue the ways in which narrative structure, even when unreliable, shape the overall impression one has of Thomas Sutpen. Further proving the ideology that perception is indeed reality, and that truth is subjective.

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