Date of Project
College of Arts and Sciences
Dr. Connor Picken
The novels of William Faulkner and Toni Morrison are nothing if not haunted. Though the authors themselves remain, in many ways, diametrically opposed, their works remain inextricably entangled due to the looming specter of history that hangs over their pages. Perhaps more-so than any other writers in the 20th Century, these two towering figures of American fiction took seriously the task of unpacking the migrainous burden of history. Read together, they offer differing perspectives on the nature of writing one's own past, and how this is informed by race and class. Specifically, Faulkner's novel Absalom, Absalom! has long been regarded as the example par excellence of meta-narration and the construction of historical consensus. Morrison's novel Beloved, by contrast, is a story about those that have been deemed other by traditional accounts of history, and in that sense, its absence of meta-narration is deafening. Nevertheless, despite the disparate nature of these viewpoints, a fruitful dialogue between the two can be constructed through the mediation of two major thematic concerns: time and narrative. As conceived of by Faulkner and Morrison, narrative is greatly informed and shaped by time, and the two together serve as the constitutive elements of history itself. What this work will look to do is use these two themes to fully construct the new, pragmatic vision of history that is hinted at in Beloved. Whereas the vision of historiography critiqued by Faulkner in Absalom, Absalom! is immanently othering, this alternative approach to history is centered primarily for the other.
Hardin, Luke, "Lost Voices: William Faulkner, Toni Morrison, and the Nature of History" (2020). Undergraduate Theses. 51.