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Faulkner and FormalismReturns of the Text$
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Annette Trefzer and Ann J. Abadie

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9781617032561

Published to University Press of Mississippi: March 2014

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781617032561.001.0001

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“That City Foreign and Paradoxical”

“That City Foreign and Paradoxical”

William Faulkner and the Texts of New Orleans

(p.56) “That City Foreign and Paradoxical”
Faulkner and Formalism

Owen Robinson

University Press of Mississippi

Yoknapatawpha County, a rural, troubled place in northern Mississippi, is the principal setting for all but five of William Faulkner’s novels and many of his short stories. Yet Faulkner balances his intricate construction of this world by engaging with similarly complex others, notably New Orleans. In Absalom, Absalom!, he famously described New Orleans as “that city foreign and paradoxical.” All five of those errant non-Yoknapatawpha books may be considered New Orleans texts: Mosquitoes (1927), Pylon (1935), The Wild Palms (1939), A Fable (1954), and Soldiers’ Pay. This chapter examines Faulkner’s early sketches and his continued concern with characters, especially the textuality and language of the characters that were inspired by his stays in New Orleans in 1925 and 1926. It argues that Faulkner’s construction of the city functions as a polyphonic text, echoing with multiple voices from margin and center. Drawing on the work of Mikhail Bakhtin and dialogic criticism, the chapter concludes that Faulkner is interested in the function of language, particularly the relation between literary language and everyday language produced in a specific social milieu.

Keywords:   novels, William Faulkner, short stories, New Orleans, Absalom, Absalom, textuality, language, Mikhail Bakhtin, dialogic criticism

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