Date of Award

12-2010

Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

English

First Advisor

Nadia Nurhussein

Second Advisor

Cheryl Nixon

Third Advisor

Shaun O'Connell

Abstract

This thesis examines themes of modernity and the effects of consumer culture and changing social hierarchy in the Deep South as expressed in William Faulkner's novel Sanctuary. While issues of race are often considered the dominant theme in Faulkner's work, Sanctuary stands as a key example of the writer's equally salient, and eventually dominant, concern: the physical and social change of the Old South into the New, what Faulkner would call Mississippi's "current trends." Sanctuary proves the most stark and violent example of the culture clash between the old, landed Aristocracy and the newly ascendant working class in Faulkner's work, a clash made all the more crucial in our understanding of Faulkner's career given his insistence that Sanctuary was deliberately designed to be the "most horrific tale" the writer could imagine. Populist politicians that Faulkner abhorred are parodied by the Snopes clan, and racist mob-violence is ironically committed against a white man, all examples of the social upheaval that rocked a South not prepared for floods of moonshine, noisy jazz and speeding roadsters and threatened by a villain made of Futurist angles.

In parsing the complicated message that Faulkner is trying to deliver about violence and class difference in the South my thesis also calls for a new reading of the novel's controversial heroine, Temple Drake, a young Ole Miss co-ed who is raped by the novel's gangster villain, Popeye. Much of the criticism on Sanctuary has positioned Temple as a "lover of evil," who embraces her rapist and the dark underworld he moves in; this thesis argues that Temple Drake must instead be understood as a symbol of the Old South, violated by the New, not an accomplice of evil but rather an ironic example of its waxing presence in the South.

Comments

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