Cover for MINTER: Faulkner's Questioning Narratives: Fiction of His Major Phase, 1929-42. Click for larger image

Faulkner's Questioning Narratives

Fiction of His Major Phase, 1929-42
Awards and Recognition:

A Choice Outstanding Academic Title, 2003.

An examination of Faulkner’s writings by one of the best known Faulkner specialists

Selected as an Outstanding Academic Book by Choice magazine

Focusing on the core novels, including The Sound and the Fury, Absalom, Absalom!, Sanctuary, Light in August, and Go Down, Moses, David Minter illuminates the intriguing workings of William Faulkner's mature fiction: the tensions at play within the fiction and the creativity not only exhibited by the author but also extended to his characters and required of his readers.

Faulkner's achievement, Minter contends, was in combining daring experiments in form with searching examinations of grave social, political, and moral problems. His novels change and expand the role of the reader by means of proliferating narratives that lead to questions rather than answers and to approximation rather than resolution. As his characters remember, talk about, and reconstruct their own sometimes conflicting histories, Faulkner extends to the reader the possibility of creatively revising and completing his narratives. Minter shows how this process at times implicates the reader in the corruption and violence of the story, as when the reader is required to fill in--out of his or her own experience--the crucial gaps left in the narrative of Sanctuary.

Positioning Faulkner on the cusp between modernist and postmodernist writing, Minter shows how his methods undercut the self-contained exclusivity of the New Criticism by integrating the world of the novel with the reader's experience of history and culture. He also discusses Faulkner's use of the South as a model of unsuccess--a part of the United States characterized by the "un-American" experiences of poverty, defeat in war, and moral failure--and shows how Faulkner draws readers into a process of understanding and imaginatively revising two contradictory views of American history, one allied with the North and the other with the South.

An eloquent introduction to Faulkner's narrative preoccupations and methods, Faulkner's Questioning Narratives offers indispensable guideposts for navigating his narrative thickets as well as valuable insights into the central motifs and processes that define his fiction.


David Minter, Bruce and Elizabeth Dunlevie Professor Emeritus of English at Rice University, is the author of William Faulkner: His Life and Work, A Cultural History of the American Novel: Henry James to William Faulkner, and other books.

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