Critical History of "As I Lay Dying"
28 November 2011
Critical History Assignment
Many of William Faulkner’s books, especially ‘As I Lay Dying’ focused on the South in the aftermath of the Civil War. The themes of his and other Southern authors included: a common Southern history, the significance of family, a sense of community and one’s role within it, the Church and its burdens and rewards, racial tension, land and the promise it brings, one’s social class and place, and, sometimes, the use of the Southern dialect. The criticism of the novel has changed over the years with critics using everything from Psychoanalytic theory to Marxist theory to explain the importance of language and the historical content behind the novel. In his article, “Voice in Narrative Texts: The Example of As I Lay Dying,” Stephen M. Ross investigates the use of voice through the perspective of the fifteen first person narratives in As I Lay Dying. Ross highlights the use of two distinct types of voice: mimetic and textual. Ross goes on to examine mimetic on three levels of discourse, the first being dialogue. Dialogue represents the narrative voice that is heard, so to speak, by other characters. Ross also concedes that dialogue can never completely be represented as it is being portrayed in an entirely new medium, the written, as opposed to the spoken, word. The second mimetic discourse examined by Ross is the use of narrative. However, Ross argues that the narrative discourse is inconsistent and implausible, and aids in the breaking down of the actual voice of the narrator. There is a disconnect between what the narrator could portray as a person versus as a narrator. The third and final mimetic discourse is authorial discourse. This authorial discourse disturbs and confuses the relationship between creator and speaker. In these ways, Ross argues that As I Lay Dying both enhances and challenges mimetic voice. The second part of Ross’s article investigates textual voice. This
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