The shadow of the branch: defamiliarization and reader-response in the novels of William Faulkner

Marshall, Alexander Joseph, Department of English, University of Virginia
Day, Douglas, Department of English, University of Virginia
Howard, Alan, Department of English, University of Virginia

"The Shadow of the Branch: Defamiliarization and Reader-Response in the Novels of William Faulkner" examines the ways Faulkner disrupts habitual patterns of reading and forces active reader participation in the creative and re-creative processes. First I establish a historical context (e.g., Zeus/Semele, Sterne, Dickinson, Tolstoy, Symbolists, Modernists) and a theoretical framework (e.g., Shklovsky, Iser) by which to understand defamiliarization in its many forms and how it functions in the reading process. I then argue that Faulkner arrived at these aesthetics via the novels of Tolstoy and particularly the poetry of the French symbolists. The third section traces the evolution of these theories and practices through Faulkner's first three novels; then, close readings of The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, and Absalom, Absalom! show the importance of defamiliarization in shaping the narrative world of his major contributions. Each novel obviously dictates the nature of its chapter, but my approach is generally the same: close readings of cruxes attempt to show how various kinds of indirection and defamiliarization work on both the story and discourse levels. I argue that and attempt to explicate how and why Faulkner defamiliarizes diction (neologisms, portmanteau and compound words, etc.) , semantics (catachresis, synaesthesia, idiolect, etc.), syntactics (fragmentation, fusion, anacolutha, etc.), points of view (stream of consciousness, interior monologue, indirect free style), mechanics and chronologies on the discourse level, and characters, settings, events, and conventions on the story level. The readings illustrate in detail how the Symbolist influences function in specific novelistic contexts to both engage full reader participation and develop particular narrative and thematic concerns.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Faulkner, William, 1897-1962, Criticism and interpretation
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