Faulkner's Sanctuary : radical evil and religious vision ; But do they speak our language in the nursing school? myths and methods of teaching technical writing

Moore, Robert R., Department of English, University of Virginia
Kolb, Harold, Department of English, University of Virginia
Beaurline, Lester, Department of English, University of Virginia
Howard, Alan, Department of English, University of Virginia

Faulkner's Sanctuary: Radical Evil and Religious Vision

Faulkner reveals himself throughout his fiction to be a moralist concerned with the individual's capacity for ennobling, life-affirming action. Tension arises in his early works when he portrays the need for such action against a society hostile to ideals and given to violence and selfishness. His writing focuses upon questions of human possibilities within human limitations. Most critics have taken Sanctuary to reflect Faulkner's pessimistic answer to such questions. In its preoccupation with evil, they find a despairing vision, an indication that Faulkner had concluded man was prisoner to forces beyond his control.

Evil does appear so omnipotent, inescapable, and random within the world of the novel that resistance seems futile. Nevertheless, Sanctuary need not be read as deterministic naturalism. Faulkner has created a myth, a survey of the evil man experiences both within and without himself. Paul Ricoeur’s The Symbolism Evil, which studies early religious myths of the origin and existence of evil, offers insight into the language by which men express their experience of evil. This insight helps us understand Faulkner's exploration of evil and its relation to the questions central to his fiction.

Although, in his characterization of Popeye, Faulkner creates an evil which infects from without, he is more concerned with the reaction of others to meeting such evil. Through his central narratives of Temple Drake and Horace Benbow, he shows individuals' responding to external evil with pride, guilt, and, finally, despair. In attempting to seek sanctuary from evil without, they discover an evil within themselves from which they cannot escape.

Faulkner intends Sanctuary's shocking episodes to move the readers to similar discoveries about themselves. Concerned with our awakening to evil as a reality, he adopts a strategy to expose us as voyeurs, subject to the same impulses as the characters within the novel. He triggers conventional responses and expectations within us, then confounds them to explode our faith in rational explanations for what we have encountered. We see finally that Temple and Horace are reduced not by Popeye but by the evil they have generated within themselves. In awakening to their potential for evil, they feel themselves entrapped by inward desires they cannot control. They despair, and in their despair we find their defeat.

Faulkner convinces us there is no asylum from evil, but does he share his characters' despair? If we attend to the process rather than to the fact of their defeat, we recognize that Temple and Horace fall to their own despair. They turn inward in hopelessness, cutting themselves off from others. But such a sense of one's own limitation need not result in despair; Ricoeur's concept of the servile will suggests that man's recognition of his self-insufficiency is a pre-condition for achieving salvation. In offering the negative examples of Horace and Temple, Faulkner may be intimating a similar necessity.

There is, however, more direct evidence. Within this myth of evil, Faulkner offers the character of Ruby Lamar, whose love for her common-law husband allows her to escape the entrapping self-involvement which defeats Horace and Temple. He indicates that, in moments of self-sacrificial love, of selflessness in a world of selfishness, lies the path to regaining hope. We need not conclude Faulkner intends a didactic Christian message to recognize that he draws upon the Christian myth for his model. He enacts in his narrative his belief that the individual can save himself from evil, not by withdrawing, but by reengaging life, acutely aware of his own limitations. His religious vision, then, is one of a Christian humanism, touched with Calvinism, which celebrates involvement with life-as-it-is while refusing to disguise the suffering which attends such involvement.

But Do They Speak Our Language in the Nursing School? Myths and Methods of Teaching Technical Writing

Technical writing programs, tenuous marriages of the humanities and the professions, too often have failed because the parties involved assumed such writing demands skills radically different from those called for in the expository writing of the humanities. Professional school faculties and English instructors asked to teach such courses have not always recognized that the special quality of technical writing arises not from a fundamental difference in the nature of the discourse but from varying circumstances which require written communication of professionals.

Frequently, they have argued that objective reporting requires an unobtrusive, even invisible reporter. They have dismissed style as embellishment, the interference of the writer with his material. Language, however, is not absolutely objective; writers impose themselves on their materialJn the organization and expression of their writing. Good writing in the professions and the humanities is that which communicates the meaning the author intends to the audience for which he intends it. To communicate successfully, the writer must produce readable prose, that is he must have command of such elements of style as tone, concise expression, and diction.

Composition, for the professional as for other students, may be approached as a process which involves a sequenced series of skills. One model that isolates these skills for teaching purposes is based on self-directed questioning. The writer determines what he can say about his subject, what he wants to say about it, and to whom he wants to say it before he concerns himself with sentence structure or misplaced commas. He precedes his actual rough draft with exercises that help him focus and organize his subject. This self-questioning technique can continue throughout the process as the writer chooses among alternative tones, precise diction, or organizational strategies. It can enable him to assume his reader's viewpoint to consider better the impact of his writing.

The English instructor, then, may approach technical writing courses much as he does other composition classes; but if he is to know what skills to stress, he must understand the nature of the writing demanded of his students in their professional areas. The writing workshop can accommodate students' individual needs by using the writing they do in their professional work to teach basic writing skills. The workshop channels students' motivations by involving them actively in the process of composition and in reviewing others' writing critically. It extends their sense of audience beyond the instructor to their peers and helps them develop a critical eye for assessing their own writing.· The instructor creates a cooperative atmosphere for critical exchange, loosely defines patterns for questioning efforts at each stage of writing, and supplements the work of the professional areas with assignments designed to give students further practice in specific skills.

Writing programs do not operate in a vacuum. English instructors need to familiarize themselves with typical writing situations and with the best writing of the professional disciplines in which they will be teaching. At the same time, if the program is to have a continuing impact, the qualities promoted in the composition classroom must be reinforced later by those faculty members or professional supervisors who will be reviewing the students' subsequent writing. Administrators of professional schools or in-house continuing education programs might consider faculty or supervisor workshops in methods of responding to writing as one further step toward developing improved writing among professionals. With minor accommodations by each side, not unlike those necessary to the survival of any marriage, this union of the professions and the humanities can and will succeed.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
Issued Date: