Other Literary Forms (Critical Survey of Short Fiction, Second Revised Edition)
William Faulkner published nearly twenty novels, two collections of poetry, and a novel-drama, as well as essays, newspaper articles, and illustrated stories. His early work has been collected and his University of Virginia lectures transcribed. As a screenwriter in Hollywood, he was listed in the credits of such films as The Big Sleep (1946), To Have and Have Not (1944), and Land of the Pharaohs (1955).
Achievements (Critical Survey of Short Fiction, Second Revised Edition)
William Faulkner is best known for his novels, particularly The Sound and the Fury (1929), Absalom, Absalom! (1936), and As I Lay Dying (1930), all of which have been translated widely. A Fable (1954) and The Reivers (1962) won Pulitzer Prizes, and A Fable and the Collected Short Stories won National Book Awards. Faulkner received the Nobel Prize in Literature for 1949.
Film versions have been made of several of his works: Sanctuary (1961), Intruder in the Dust (1949), The Sound and the Fury (1959), The Reivers (1969), and Pylon (1957; or Tarnished Angels). Others (Requiem for a Nun, 1951, and “Barn Burning”) have been filmed for television.
Such attention attests to the fact that Faulkner has been one of the most influential writers in the twentieth century—both in the United States, where his work suggested to an enormous generation of southern writers the valuable literary materials that could be derived from their own region, and in Europe, particularly in France. He has had a later, but also profound, effect on Latin American fiction, most noticeably in the work of Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez, who seeks, as Faulkner did, to create a fictive history of a region and a people. Faulkner’s work has also been well received in Japan, which he visited as a cultural ambassador in 1955.
Other literary forms (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
William Faulkner (FAWK-nur) published two volumes of poetry and several volumes of short stories. Most of his best stories appear in Knight’s Gambit (1949), Collected Short Stories of William Faulkner (1950), and the posthumously published Uncollected Stories of William Faulkner (1979). His early journalistic and prose pieces have been collected and published, as have his interviews and a number of his letters. Also published are several interesting minor works, including a fairy tale, The Wishing Tree, and a romantic fable, Mayday. New Faulkner material is steadily seeing print, much of it in the annual Faulkner issue of Mississippi Quarterly. Scholars are continually making public more information on Faulkner’s screenwriting in Hollywood, where he collaborated on such major successes as To Have and Have Not (1945) and The Big Sleep (1946). Several of his works have been adapted for television and film; notably successful were the 1949 film adaptation of Intruder in the Dust and the 1969 adaptation of The Reivers.
Achievements (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
When William Faulkner received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1949, he completed an emergence from comparative obscurity that had begun three years before. In 1946, when nearly all of Faulkner’s books were out of print, Malcolm Cowley published The Portable Faulkner. Cowley’s introduction and arrangement made clear “the scope and force and interdependence” of Faulkner’s oeuvre up to 1945.
Even in 1945, Faulkner was reasonably well known to the readers of popular magazines, his stories having appeared with F. Scott Fitzgerald’s and Ernest Hemingway’s in publications such as the Saturday Evening Post, Scribner’s Magazine, Harper’s Magazine, and The American Mercury. Despite his success in selling short stories and as a Hollywood screenwriter, Faulkner’s novels, except for the notorious Sanctuary, had little commercial success until after Cowley’s volume and the Nobel Prize. The notoriety of Sanctuary, which was widely reviewed as salacious, brought Faulkner to the attention of the film industry; it was his screenwriting that sustained him financially during the years of comparative neglect when he produced the series of powerful novels that constitute one of the major achievements of world fiction. The motion-picture adaptation of his first novel to appear after Cowley’s volume, Intruder in the Dust, was filmed in Faulkner’s hometown, Oxford, Mississippi, and released in 1949.
After the Nobel Prize, honors came steadily. Faulkner was made a member of the French Legion of Honor, received two National Book Awards, for A Fable and Collected Short Stories of William Faulkner, and received two Pulitzer Prizes, for A Fable and The Reivers. He traveled around the world for the U.S. Department of State in 1954. During 1957, he was writer-in-residence at the University of Virginia. Recognition and financial security, while gratifying, neither diminished nor increased his output. He continued writing until his death.
Faulkner has achieved the status of a world author. His works have been painstakingly translated into many languages. Perhaps more critical books and articles have been written about him in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries than about any other writer with the exception of William Shakespeare. Critics and scholars from all over the world have contributed to the commentary. Faulkner’s achievement has been compared favorably with the achievements of Henry James, Honoré de Balzac, and Charles Dickens; many critics regard him as the preeminent novelist of the twentieth century.
Contribution (Critical Survey of Mystery & Detective Fiction, Revised Edition)
William Faulkner is one of many literary novelists to use violent death (often under mysterious circumstances) as a central plot element. One thinks of Charles Dickens’s Bleak House (1852-1853) and The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1870), Fyodor Dostoevski’s Prestupleniye i nakazaniye (1866; Crime and Punishment, 1886) and Bratya Karamazovy (1879-1880; The Brothers Karamazov, 1912), Mark Twain’s The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson (1894), Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy (1925), and many more. Faulkner differs from those other novelists, however, in that he produced a fairly large body of work, written primarily during the decade of the 1930’s, which is identifiable as crime and mystery fiction. Faulkner read and admired the detective novel and wrote his first detective story, “Smoke,” in 1930. His story “An Error in Chemistry” won second place in the Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine contest in 1946. At least four of his novels and a number of his short stories employ crime and mystery as the basic structural elements of the plot. Because of the depth of his characterizations and the poetic quality of his prose, Faulkner’s crime stories have a resonance that mystery fiction seldom achieves. If one can overcome the natural reluctance to hedge in Faulkner with an epithet, one might argue that he is the most literate and the most American of all the mystery and detective writers.
Discussion Topics (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Develop the following statement with reference to The Sound and the Fury: Some of the seemingly impenetrable difficulties in reading William Faulkner’s prose disappear once his purpose is explained.
Is it meaningful to regard the past as a “presence” in Faulkner’s fiction?
How seriously should we take the parallels between Joe Christmas and Jesus Christ in Light in August?
What values does Faulkner affirm most stoutly as distinctly southern ones?
At what point in Faulkner’s literary career does his comic genius assert itself strongly? Does it appear to signal a fundamental change in his outlook?
Discuss Old Man as a kind of tall tale or extended joke.
Is Yoknapatawpha County merely a fictional equivalent of Lafayette County in Mississippi, where Faulkner lived, or does it have a larger significance? If so, what is it?
Bibliography (Censorship (Ready Reference series))
Bleikasten, Andre. The Ink of Melancholy: Faulkner’s Novels from “The Sound and the Fury” to “Light in August.” Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990. Concentrating on four of William Faulkner’s finest novels, Bleikensten offers a wide-ranging study of the writer and the limits of authorship. For a review of this work see Magill’s Literary Annual review.
Blotner, Joseph. Faulkner: A Biography. New York: Random House, 1964. This extensive but readable two-volume biography is the major source for details about Faulkner’s life. It contains many photographs and a useful index.
Brooks, Cleanth. William Faulkner: The Yoknapatawpha County. New Haven, Conn.: Yale...
(The entire section is 941 words.)