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American ObscurantismHistory and the Visual in U.S. Literature and Film$
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Peter Lurie

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780199797318

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199797318.001.0001

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Seeing in the Dark Houses

Seeing in the Dark Houses

History and Obscurity in Light in August and Absalom, Absalom!

Chapter:
(p.27) 1 Seeing in the Dark Houses
Source:
American Obscurantism
Author(s):

Peter Lurie

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780199797318.003.0002

This chapter uses historicist criticism of William Faulkner to suggest a limit to even the best approaches to this deeply historical writer. Attending to what his novels cannot say—or—see about history and racial understanding, I draw on Maurice Blanchot’s philosophy of language to show the category error that scholars make when assuming that Faulkner’s texts yield the historical secret lodged in the imagined structures and complicated texts Absalom, Absalom! and Light and August, each of which bore the title “Dark House” in manuscript form. The chapter shows the more meaningful aporias and lacunae surrounding race and racial meaning in each novel and the U.S. south—problems attendant on language and the effort to name. It offers a model for historical knowledge drawn from Blanchot and from film theory of fascination, a spellbound, rapt sense of wonder before traumatic events, one that elements of Absalom evoke in readers and posits in Quentin Compson.

Keywords:   William Faulkner, southern history, Rosa Coldfield, Thomas Sutpen, blackness, writing, opacity, Maurice Blanchot, fascination, film

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