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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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5. Masculine Heroes   

13. Southern Renaissance

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Activities: Author Activities

William Faulkner - Author Questions

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  1. Comprehension: Who are the Bundrens? What is their position in their community? What do their neighbors seem to think of them? How does their community's impression of the Bundrens affect our impression of them?

  2. Comprehension: What drives Anse Bundren and his children to put themselves through all the trials required to bury Addie in Jefferson? Why don't the Bundrens just bury Addie at home? Do Anse and his children seem motivated by love and respect for their dead wife and mother, or are they driven by other forces?

  3. Comprehension: In the opening scene of "Barn Burning," in which Mr. Harris has accused Abner Snopes of burning his barn, Harris suggests the judge question Sarty about the incident, but the judge hesitates and Harris eventually changes his mind. Why don't these men want to ask Sarty to testify against his father? What does their reluctance to do so tell us about how they view the Snopes family?

  4. Context: Compare Faulkner's depiction of a poor white southern family in "Barn Burning" to the Southern Agrarians' praise of the rural, soil-centered life. How does the Snopes family match up with the Agrarians' ideals?

  5. Exploration: Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County can sometimes seem like the land that time forgot. This is especially true in As I Lay Dying, in which much of the plot unfolds in rural areas which, while geographically not far from the somewhat modern community of Jefferson, seem separated from the modern world by a much wider gulf. While historians of the 1920s and 1930s emphasize the increasing pace of industrialization and technological change that was reshaping the world between the wars, the citizens of Yoknapatawpha County seem oblivious. Yet, in a more indirect sense, the effects of these global changes are inescapably woven into Faulkner's texts. Discuss the ways in which the larger changes in the "outside world" contribute to Faulkner's imaginary world.

  6. Exploration: Because of the dark settings and disturbing themes of much of his writing, Faulkner is often regarded as a master of the southern gothic. How does Faulkner compare to other "gothic" writers, such as Edgar Allan Poe or Nathaniel Hawthorne? (See Unit 6.) In what ways are Hawthorne and Faulkner concerned with "the sins of the fathers"? How similar or different are their views of these "sins"?

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