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Faulkner and Whiteness$
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Jay Watson

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9781617030208

Published to University Press of Mississippi: March 2014

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781617030208.001.0001

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date: 19 September 2018

Genealogies of White Deviance

Genealogies of White Deviance

The Eugenic Family Studies, Buck v. Bell, and William Faulkner, 1926–1931

(p.19) Genealogies of White Deviance
Faulkner and Whiteness

Jay Watson

University Press of Mississippi

This chapter examines genealogy as a motif from early in William Faulkner’s career and its link to the mainstream eugenics movement in the United States. It looks at Faulkner’s construction of lineages for the Snopes, Sartoris, Compson, Bundren, and Goodwin clans that were for the most part studies in aberrant forms of whiteness. The chapter suggests that Faulkner’s preoccupation with white deviance, dysfunction, and decline is consistent with that of the eugenics movement. It considers a number of Faulkner’s novels in which he tackles socially undesirable white behavior, from Father Abraham (1926) to Sanctuary (1931). The chapter also discusses the eugenics movement’s turn to the South in the 1920s, and considers the Supreme Court case Buck v. Bell (1927), which tested the constitutionality of Virginia’s new eugenic sterilization act. Finally, it argues that Faulkner brings to his family studies an emphasis on and respect for the interiority of his subjects that was often absent in eugenics discourse.

Keywords:   genealogy, William Faulkner, eugenics movement, whiteness, deviance, Father Abraham, Sanctuary, South, Buck v. Bell, family studies

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