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Reading Testimony, Witnessing TraumaConfronting Race, Gender, and Violence in American Literature$
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Eden Wales Freedman

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781496827333

Published to University Press of Mississippi: September 2020

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781496827333.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM Mississippi SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.mississippi.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University Press of Mississippi, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in MSSO for personal use.date: 20 April 2021

“You Cant Understand It”

“You Cant Understand It”

William Faulkner’s Anti-Witnessing of Race and Gender

(p.77) Chapter 2 “You Cant Understand It”
Reading Testimony, Witnessing Trauma

Eden Wales Freedman

University Press of Mississippi

This chapter analyzes how Faulkner’s work (anti-)witnesses American trauma, race, and gender. Explicitly, the chapter explores how Faulkner’s Afra-American characters (e.g., Dilsey Gibson in The Sound and the Fury, the “womanshenegro” in Light in August, and Clytie and Eulalia Bon in Absalom, Absalom!) are co-opted to speak to a primarily white and androcentric perspective. They thus reveal more about the position and privilege of white men living in the American South than about the marginalization of black women in the same geocultural space. The chapter also argues, however, that a redeeming feature of Faulkner’s work is that his texts impel readers to dual-witness where and when he, as author, does not. A benefit, then, to reading Faulkner’s work is that, in considering its problematic treatment of trauma, race, and gender, readers can learn to recognize the dangers of anti-witnessing and to practice dual-witnessing, even when characters and storylines do not.

Keywords:   androcentric, black women, William Faulkner, reader response, white privilege

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