Listen to them being ghosts: The Ethics of Spectrality in Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom!

King, Ethan, English - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Brickhouse, Anna, Department of English, University of Virginia

My effort in this thesis is to trace out how Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! formulates ethical injunctions around the figures of ghosts, who across time and space call for us to “listen to them being ghosts” and to take responsibility for their historical elisions (Faulkner 8). To do so, I explore the relationship between the ontological conditions of spectrality, understood as both the visualization of an invisibility and the untimely return of the past, and other regimes of vision and historical narrativization that reveal the entanglement of the past and present and that conjure ethical notions of how we formulate our responsibility toward a past marred by historical erasures. Specifically, I examine how Faulkner’s fictional photographs, with their narrative and temporal suspensions as well as with their paradoxical problems of approximating visibility, negotiate the liminal paralysis of ghosts caught in between life and death.

MA (Master of Arts)
Photography, Absalom Absalom, Ellen Coldfield Sutpen, Critical Race, Ethics, Historiography, William Faulkner, US South, Gender and Sexuality, Modernism, Ekphrasis, Charles Bon, Spectrality
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