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Faulkner and Welty and the Southern Literary Tradition$
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Noel Polk

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9781934110843

Published to University Press of Mississippi: March 2014

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781934110843.001.0001

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Testing Masculinity in the Snopes Trilogy

Testing Masculinity in the Snopes Trilogy

(p.44) Testing Masculinity in the Snopes Trilogy
Faulkner and Welty and the Southern Literary Tradition

Noel Polk

University Press of Mississippi

This chapter examines the problematics of masculine enactment and empowerment in William Faulkner’s fiction, and, more specifically, considers the extent to which Faulkner’s characters feel bound, thwarted, and driven by cultural definitions of masculinity and femininity. It first looks at one of Faulkner’s novels, Absalom, Absalom!, in which race provides a narrative “out” for Quentin and Shreve’s otherwise failed attempts to explain why Henry Sutpen kills Charles Bon. The chapter then comments on Judith Butler’s discussion of gender identity as part of an “epistemological inheritance of contemporary political discourses of identity,” of which binary oppositions between male and female, between “I” and “Other,” are a significant part. It also explores the ways culture shapes and controls the sexual lives of men by focusing on the character of Eula Varner Snopes, especially in The Hamlet (1940) and The Town (1957). The chapter argues that Faulkner’s male characters view sex as mostly a duty, a heavy responsibility to convention and tradition.

Keywords:   masculinity, William Faulkner, femininity, Absalom, Absalom!, race, Judith Butler, gender, gender identity, sex

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