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Faulkner and Gender

A study of gender in the works of the Nobel Prize author. Thirteen original papers from the annual Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference held in 1994 at the University of Mississippi


These thirteen original essays from the annual Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference, held in 1994 at the University of Mississippi, examine William Faulkner's texts in terms of their surprising range of gender portrayals.

The collection explores such themes as the male homosocial urge ay the heart of warfare, the blurring of gender distinctions in Faulkner's “epicene” figures, the function of cross-dressing as a form of defiance of traditional hierarchies. Several of the essays see in Faulkner a challenge to the “culture” vs. “nature” dichotomy itself, suggesting that sex may be a product of gender rather than its origin, that the line between the biological given and the social performance may be even more tenuous than we have assumed.

More than any other of the various contextualist approaches brought to bear on Faulkner's work, the focus on gender exemplifies the theory of the cultural construction of reality. Recent literary criticism, in large part owing to the emergence of feminism, has convincingly argued the difference between gender and sex, between the acculturated and the naturel. Among the results of the attention to gender in Faulkner studies is a fresh sense of fictional character as a site of multiple, sometimes clashing, personae, each gender role a signifier threatening to float free, speaking the reigning discourse, but always with a touch of conscious or unconscious parody.