…in the New York Review of Books
AMERICAN LITERATURE RESEARCH SEMINAR
INSIDE THE DARK HOUSE: William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom! & the writing of trauma
Richard Gray (University of Essex)
Thursday 21/1/16 at 4.30pm in the English Faculty Boardroom
Early in 1934, William Faulkner sat down at his desk and, in his characteristically spidery handwriting, wrote ‘A Dark House’ at the top of a blank page. It was a title that haunted him. For a while, it was the working title for the story that eventually became Light in August (1932). But now he was thinking of using it for another and even darker narrative: the novel that was eventually published two years later, in 1936, as Absalom, Absalom! The darkest of all Faulkner’s major novels, Absalom, Absalom! is also the most seamlessly concerned with trauma. This talk explores Absalom, Absalom! with specific reference to the personal, historical and intertextual elements that make it such a supreme and complexly layered example of the writing of trauma. ‘A book is… the dark twin of a man,’ Faulkner wrote in his second novel, Mosquitoes (1927). This talk considers how, in what is arguably the finest of his novels, Faulkner encounters a ‘dark twin’ that is at once personal and something that cuts across personal, spatial and textual boundaries.