'A Man, and a Good Man’: Youth and Misdirection in William Faulkner’s The Reivers.

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The publication of Nobel Laureate William Faulkner’s The Reivers: A
Reminiscence, on 4 June, may have been the major event in the literary
calendar of the summer of 1962, were it not surpassed by its author’s
death thirty two days later, on 7 July. Despite the author’s prominence at
the time and in the five decades since, The Reivers has attracted
relatively little critical assessment compared to the rest of Faulkner’s
output in fiction. Indeed, Anne Goodwyn Jones has identified only two
novels — Faulkner’s first, Soldiers’ Pay (1926) and Pylon (1935) — as
having received less critical attention than The Reivers. ‘One reason for
this lack of interest’, suggests Jones, ‘may be the novel’s apparent
simplicity’ (55).
In this article I situate Faulkner’s last novel within the framework of
his enormous cycle of interrelated texts in order to extrapolate the
manner by which it uses an affectation of youth to simultaneously
present and undermine a conservative blueprint for the construction of
historical narrative. The misdirection afforded by the mask of
youthfulness has encouraged several Faulkner scholars to engage with
the text on less serious terms than is common in the study of his work.
Published as it was at the beginning of the most politically explosive
decade in the American twentieth century, The Reivers interrogates the
conservative standpoint on issues of race and gender equality. Through
readings of the manner through which the senses are used to describe
racial difference in the text, I expose the text itself as a masked exposé of
dogmatic historicising of the American South.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)46-57
Number of pages13
JournalPeer English
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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