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'Absalom, Absalom!': the extension of dialogic form.

Absalom, Absalom! was published in 1936, shortly after the first appearance of Mikhail Bakhtin's Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics. Although Faulkner was unaware of Bakhtin, he did know something of Dostoevsky: in 1931 he seems to have criticized The Brothers Karamazov on the grounds that the author should have "let the characters tell their own stories instead of filling page after page with exposition"(1) - and he was certainly sensitive to those contemporary "changes in reality itself" to which Bakhtin was to refer on a later occasion.(2) Above all, he had already developed both in practice (The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying) and in terms of an analogy with musical counterpoint a concept of dialogic narrative that achieved perhaps its fullest expression in Absalom, Absalom! itself.

Bakhtin's description of the Dostoevskean polyphonic novel certainly matches up with Absalom, Absalom! at many points:

It is constructed not as the whole of a single consciousness, absorbing other consciousnesses as objects into itself, but as a whole formed by the interaction of several consciousnesses, none of which entirely becomes an object for the other; this interaction provides no support for the viewer who would objectify an entire event according to some ordinary monologic category (thematically, lyrically or cognitively) - and this consequently makes the viewer also a participant. Not only does the novel give no firm support outside the rupture-prone world of dialogue for a third, monologically all-encompassing consciousness - but on the contrary, everything in the novel is structured to make dialogic opposition inescapable. (p. 18) Bakhtin's emphasis on the plurality of consciousnesses, in particular, is not significantly different from Faulkner's often-quoted assent to the proposition that the characters' views of Sutpen represented "thirteen ways of looking at a blackbird with none of them right."(3) Similar, too, are Bakhtin's emphasis on the viewer as participant and Faulkner's assertion that "when the reader has read all these thirteen different ways of looking at the blackbird, the reader has his own fourteenth image." But, whereas Bakhtin insisted on the viewer's inability to encompass dialogic multiplicity within any kind of monologic category, Faulkner said of the reader's fourteenth image: "I would like to think [that it] is the truth."

Faulkner criticism has characteristically attempted to reconcile the conflicting narratives of the novel, attributing "inconsistencies" to the narrators' limited viewpoints or (usually as a last resort) to Faulkner's carelessness. Most of these critics offer their own "fourteenth image" of the truth,(4) a few conclude that the truth is unknowable,(5) but they concur in seeking to establish hierarchies of reliability, thereby precluding any consideration of the novel as a truly polyphonic world within which all consciousnesses are accorded "equal rights."(6) Such "philosophical monologization" (to use Bakhtin's term, p. 9) - the imposition upon the text of a single, commonsensical "meaning" - remained an acceptable enough approach during the New Criticism-dominated sixties and seventies. Within the last decade, however, the post-structuralist emphasis on plurality and indefiniteness has led some critics to link the "truth" of Absalom, unknowable in and of itself, with Derrida's transcen-dental signifier; hence "meaning" emerges not as an absolute signified (the "facts" of the story) but in the infinite play of signifiers.(7)

Regardless of vocabulary or theoretical approach, such analyses of the novel's discourses have proved to be limited in scope. The thirteen ways of looking at a blackbird have been reduced to four or, at most, five. Critical attention has traditionally focused on Rosa Coldfield, Mr. Compson, Quentin, and Shreve as character-narrators,(8) although, more recently, the unidentified third-person narrator has sometimes been added to the group.(9) Reference has occasionally been made to the contribution of the Chronology and Genealogy to the novel as a whole,(10) but virtually no attempt has hitherto been made to analyze the chronologer and genealogist - to say nothing of the map-maker - as distinct narrators,(11) independent not only of the third-person narrator but also of each other and hence functioning as individual consciousnesses within a deliberately created polyphonic structure that extends beyond the boundaries of what tends to be denominated as the novel "proper."

At what point in the compositional process Faulkner decided to include these final three narratives is not known. The map would seem to have been part of the early plan for the novel, since a version of it is included in the salesman's dummy.(12) On the other hand, the Chronology and Genealogy were apparently late additions: neither forms part of the surviving holograph manuscript, the typescript setting copy, or even the corrected galleys,(13) and it is tempting to think that the Chronology at least was inserted at the last-minute insistence of Faulkner's Random House editors, who had from the start found the novel peculiarly impenetrable.(14) But it is by no means clear that the Chronology provides the kind of certainty, in terms of indisputable, objective "facts," that a frustrated reader (or editor) might seek. As numerous critics have pointed out, the Chronology is inconsistent, both in itself and in relation to the preceding narratives.(15) The most frequently remarked contradictions involve the years of Ellen's birth and death, the year and place of Bon's birth, the spelling of the name of Bon's son, the disease which kills both Judith and Bon's son, and the year of Rosa and Quentin's visit to Sutpen's Hundred. With the exception of the place of Bon's birth, these are the details of the Chronology which Noel Polk in his new edition of Absalom emends to agree with what he describes as "the dates and facts of the novel."(16)

There are, however, two major difficulties with such an editorial policy. First, the "corrections" are highly selective: remaining unresolved are discrepancies between the Chronology and the earlier narratives with respect to the birth-dates of Sutpen, Clytie, and Judith; the year of Sutpen's running away from home; and the year of Wash's move into the abandoned fishing camp.(17) Even the Chronology's most glaring internal inconsistency, between the statements that Sutpen was born in 1807 and that he was fourteen in 1820, is allowed to stand. Second, Polk's "dates and facts of the novel" - by which he means the preceding nine chapters - have intrinsically no more authority than those of a chronology which is also "of the novel," as Polk himself implicitly acknowledges by choosing to privilege sometimes the earlier narratives (when he emends) and sometimes the Chronology (when he does not emend). In any case, there is the further complication of which earlier narrative to privilege. In emending the dates of Ellen's birth and death, the date of Bon's birth, and the spelling of Bon's son's name, Polk is evidently accepting the authority of the tombstones as described by the unidentified third-person narrator(18) - the same authority he chooses not to follow when he leaves unemended the Chronology's specification of Bon's birthplace.(19) But the details of the tombstones do not always agree with those of the other pre-Chronology narratives: according to his tombstone Bon was thirty-three years and five months old on May 3, 1865, hence born in late November or early December 1831; according to Shreve, however, Bon was twenty-eight when he arrived at the University of Mississippi in the fall of 1859 (pp. 307, 312 [pp. 246, 250]), hence born in late 1830 or before the fall of 1831.

A close reading of the novel discovers a dizzying number of such contradictions - both within the individual narratives and between them - and suggests the futility of any attempt to create a definitive chronology. David Paul Ragan's independently constructed Chronology (pp. 166-178), a valuable aid in that it includes almost all the novel's numerical discrepancies, seems ultimately unpersuasive both because of its (acknowledged) subjective hierarchization - "Where the testimony of one character contradicts another's, the episode is dated by the source which seems more reliable" (p. 165) - and because this hierarchization is itself inconsistent: why is the unidentified third-person narrator privileged over the chronologer and genealogist in determining the year of Ellen's death (Ragan, p. 173)(20) but not over the genealogist in determining the year(s) of Shreve's and Quentin's birth? (Ragan, p. 176; see below, p. 287). The contradictory details refuse to be reconciled: monologization becomes impossible.

The factual discrepancies do of course contribute to the text's persistent and evidently deliberate problematization of "truth" and history, to its virtual denial of the very possibility of objective knowledge of the past. It would, however, be absurd to claim that all contradictions were consciously inserted, especially when Faulkner's revisions in the typescript setting-copy suggest that he was attempting to render the first five narratives more or less consistent, at least with respect to dates and ages.(21) Clearly some of the inconsistencies must be owing to authorial oversight. For example, in preparing the typescript setting-copy Faulkner repeatedly altered the period of Rosa's hatred of Sutpen from forty-five years (as specified in the manuscript) to forty-three years; presumably, therefore, the two references to forty-five years surviving in the published text are only significant as indicators of Faulkner's fallibility.(22)

At the same time, some inconsistencies, especially in the Chronology, do appear to have been intentional. To support this claim it is necessary to examine the relationship between the surviving manuscript and typescript chronologies(23) and the published novel. Although I have not had access to the typescript chronology, it would appear from Ragan's comments that it is a working document, listing not only the years in which significant events occur but all the years between 1807 and 1910, and that in at least some of its details it corresponds more closely to the chapters of the published novel than do either the manuscript chronology or the published Chronology: the year of Rosa and Quentin's visit to Sutpen's Hundred, for example, is given as 1909 (Ragan, p. 164). This indication that the typescript chronology may have been produced fairly late in the novel's composition history is reinforced by Ragan's suggestion that it was "used during the preparation of the typescript setting copy to keep dates and ages straight" (p. 13) and not contradicted by Faulkner's having inscribed the chronology - together with three other (presumably also superseded) typescript pages - to Meta Carpenter just a few weeks before the final typescript of Absalom, Absalom! reached Random House.(24)

The manuscript chronology was also a working document, written on different paper from that of the surviving manuscript of the novel, listing (like the typescript chronology) all the years from 1807 to 1910, and often inserting information as to the characters' ages. In this instance, however, the evidence points to its having been prepared by Faulkner before or during the initial composition of the novel. It includes, for example, an 1835 entry, "Finished house," which draws attention to Sutpen's Hundred as object and symbol in much the same way as did the novel's abandoned title, "Dark House"(25) and many of its details concur with those in early manuscript versions of the novel's chapters: Sutpen's first wife, for example, is said to have had Negro blood(26) (in later versions this remains speculative) and the years of Ellen's death and of Rosa and Quentin's visit to Sutpen's Hundred are listed as, respectively, 1862 and 1910.(27)

Significantly, these are also the dates assigned to these events in the published Chronology, and close inspection in fact reveals that at no point does the dating of the two conflict. It seems probable, then, that the (evidently no longer extant) setting copy of the published Chronology was based on the manuscript chronology. If, as its absence from the surviving proofs of the novel suggests, the Chronology was a late addition, then Faulkner could have hurriedly - and carelessly - constructed it from the first thing that came to hand, the more recently compiled typescript chronology given to Meta Carpenter being now beyond his reach. But since he had recently worked through the setting copy of the novel, altering dates and ages as he went, and since he had presumably also just read the proofs,(28) he can scarcely have been unaware that the Chronology he was submitting contained numerous inconsistencies, including several - such as the 1910 date of the final entry - of a very obvious kind. Faulkner, it seems necessary to conclude, in some sense chose to have the last laugh - either at his editors, if indeed the Chronology was included at their insistence, or, if not, simply at his closure-oriented readers. After reading Quentin's (non-)answer to Shreve's "Why do you hate the South?", a repeated "I don't hate it!," which both affirms and repudiates and in so doing questions the very possibility of definitive resolution, the readers of the first edition were confronted by a blank page, seemingly signalling the end of the novel. On turning over the leaf, however, they discovered-perhaps with a sense of anti-climax or, more probably, with one of relief - a list of apparent "facts," embodying the kind of objective truth consistently denied by the preceding text. But instead of a tool with which to formulate a monologic reading, the Chronology quickly revealed - and reveals - itself to be yet another voice in the polyphonic discourse.

To recognize another voice is more straightforward than to define it. Some critics have suggested that the Chronology's inconsistencies could reflect Faulkner's changing conception - or even his correction - of the preceding text.(29) Such would certainly seem to be the case with the "Compson Appendix""s contradictions of The Sound and the Fury, which were repeatedly pointed out to Faulkner before publication yet nonetheless retained.(30) Writing on February 18, 1946, to Malcolm Cowley, who was preparing the volume in which the "Appendix" first appeared, Faulkner said:

Would rather let the appendix stand with the inconsistencies, perhaps make a statement (quotable) at end of the introduction, viz: the inconsistencies in the appendix prove that to me the book is still alive after 15 years, and being still alive is still growing, changing; the appendix was done at same heat as the book, even though 15 years later, and so it is the book itself which is inconsistent: not the appendix. That is, at the age of 30 I did not know these people as at 45 I now do; that I was even wrong now and then in the very conclusions I drew from watching them, and the information in which I once believed.(31)

The Absalom Chronology, however, was not published fifteen (properly seventeen) years after the novel but was a part of it from the time of its first appearance. Faulkner did not have much time for getting to know his characters better between the correction of proofs (lacking the Chronology) in August 1936 and the submission of the Chronology some time before the novel's publication in October. In any case, the close correspondence between the details of the Chronology and those of the manuscript version of the novel - not only those discussed above but also the specification of smallpox as the cause of the deaths of Judith and Charles Etienne St. Velery Bon and, indeed, the spelling "Velery" itself(32) - makes it sufficiently clear that the Chronology reflects Faulkner's earlier conceptions rather than his later.

As an expansion of the text's dialogic structure, however, the inclusion of the Chronology does of course embody Faulkner's late intentions. Whether or not he conceived of this late voice as being that of a specific new character-narrator is debatable. When first confronted by Cowley with the inconsistencies of the "Compson Appendix" (several months earlier than the letter already quoted), Faulkner replied:

the purpose of this genealogy is to give a sort of bloodless bibliophile's point of view. I was a sort of Garter King-at-Arms, heatless, not very moved, cleaning up "Compson" before going on to the next "C-o" or "C-r."... This Garter K/A ... knew only what the town could have told him ...(33)

It is interesting that Faulkner should use the technical term "point of view" in speaking of the "bloodless bibliophile," who could certainly be cast in the role of the Absalom chronologer, and the Chronology itself undoubtedly reads more like the compilation of a "heatless, not very moved" Garter King-at-Arms than like - as Duncan Aswell put it - "the lucubrations of some crazy and drunken Kinbote wilfully misinterpreting his Southern Shade" (p. 80). What is initially most arresting about the Chronology, indeed, is its apparent cold precision, in such dramatic contrast to the baroque extravagance of the preceding chapters.

That contrast immediately raises questions of narrative authority.(34) Certainly the Chronology with its short, uniform, matter-of-fact sentences seems to promise an objectivity the text has hitherto denied. Although most critics have assumed that the unidentified third-person narrator of the preceding chapters is both omniscient and reliable(35) - even authorial(36) - such confidence is undercut by the narrative's viewpoint and style, even before its internal inconsistencies are discovered. At no point does the third-person narrator function in conventional omniscient terms, subordinating the other voices and directing the reader toward a monological response. Nor, in terms of style, is the third-person narrative clearly distinguishable from the others:(37) it seems significant that in revising the manuscript Faulkner on at least one occasion apparently assigned to Mr. Compson by a simple shifting of quotation marks what was originally unidentified third-person narration. (38) But if the Chronology is in viewpoint and style so sharply differentiated from the third-person narrative of the preceding chapters - so much so that it seems simplistic to assume that the narrators of both are the same(39) - it soon becomes apparent that they are similar in their refusal to provide definitive answers. The very obviousness of several of the Chronology's inconsistencies is essential here: the astute reader needs to be able to recognize quickly that the Chronology's authority is specious, that it is not a documentary repository of "truth" but rather another voice in the dialogue - with equal but by no

means superior rights.

To reach similar conclusions about the Genealogy is perhaps a more rapid process. Readers who have remarked some of the Chronology's inconsistencies are likely to retain few illusions about narrative infallibility at the point when, on turning over the last page of the Chronology in the first edition, they are confronted by the Genealogy's orderly collection of supposed facts. Some confidence is certainly inspired by the Genealogy's very avoidance of several of the questions raised by the Chronology: not mentioned, for example, are the dates of Sutpen's departure from home and Wash Jones's arrival at Sutpen's Hundred, the date and place of Bon's birth, the cause of Judith's and Charles Etienne's death - or, indeed, the ancestry of Eulalia Bon's mother.(40) So, too, an impression of dependability is paradoxically created by the acknowledgement of non-omniscience, such phrases as "Date and location of birth unknown" serving to suggest that only verifiable facts have been included. However, a quick perusal of all the entries reveals that, like the six preceding narratives, the Genealogy is not consistent within itself: 1910 is recorded as the year of Henry and Clytie's death and Jim Bond's disappearance from Sutpen's Hundred - in his edition of Absalom Polk "corrects" to 1909 the first two but for some reason not the third(4l) - while 1909-1910 is specified as the period of Quentin's attendance at Harvard and 1910 as the year of both his death and Rosa's (see below, p. 290).

Instead of resolution there is thus heightened confusion, with the Henry, Clytie, and Jim Bond entries reinforcing the Chronology's dating and the Quentin and Rosa entries the dating of the preceding chapters. The uncertainty with respect to the spelling of Bon's son's name is similarly increased, since the Genealogy follows neither the tombstone's "Saint-Valery" nor the Chronology's "St. Velery," introducing instead "de Saint Velery." New questions, too, are raised about the ages of Quentin and Shreve: the unidentified narrator of the pre-Chronology narratives states that in January 1910 Shreve is "nineteen, a few months younger than Quentin" and that "both [were] born within the same year" (pp. 294, 258 [pp. 236, 208]), while the genealogist records Quentin's year of birth as 1891 and Shreve's as 1890. According to the Genealogy, then, Quentin is the younger of the two and, moreover, could not have been twenty - as both the unidentified narrator and Quentin himself claim (pp. 10, 11, 14, 324, 372, 377 [pp. 5, 7, 9, 259, 297, 301]) - in the fall and winter of 1909-10, or even 1910-11.

Perhaps what is most interesting about this latest denial of certainty is its essential difference from all the preceding narratives. Although the precise, matter-of-fact sentences of the Genealogy are stylistically similar to those of the Chronology, there the resemblance essentially ends. The Genealogy seems still more distinctly the work of a "bloodless bibliophile" than does the Chronology - or, indeed, the "Compson Appendix" itself. The Chronology had touched upon motivation in at least the one instance of its linking Sutpen's abandonment of his first wife to his discovery of her Negro blood, but in the Genealogy no motives are mentioned and the sensationalism of the pre-chronology narratives has been virtually eliminated: the bare statements of death - "Died in New Orleans, date unknown," "Died, Jefferson, 1864," "Died, Sutpen's Hundred, 1869," and so forth - contain no suggestion that Eulalia Bon's lawyer murdered her, that Goodhue Coldfield starved himself to death, or that Wash Jones killed his granddaughter with a butcher knife. Even the Chronology, although offering few details, does not present such a sanitized view: if no mention is made of Wash's bloody scythe the Chronology does record that Sutpen is murdered. So, too, the Chronology refers to Sutpen's "repudiation" of his first wife (in the Genealogy he is said to have "divorced" her), his "insult" to Rosa, and his "taking up" with Milly. In the Genealogy the absence of such terminology and the arbitrary selectivity of information result not only in a semblance of respectability but also in a curious uniformity.

The Charles Bon and Henry Sutpen entries, for example, seem almost interchangeable: excepting Bon's engagement, the pattern of their lives - birth, university attendance, military service, death - is identical. Once again the reader is confronted with a different view: there is no suggestion of fratricide - though the potential for incest is acknowledged in the reference to Bon's engagement - or even of the profound dissimilarity in background and attitude of the two men so repeatedly emphasized in the pre-Chronology narratives. As for Sutpen himself, he figures in the Genealogy as an example of respectable upward mobility, having risen above his "poor white" background to become a plantation owner and commissioned officer:


Born in West Virginia mountains, 1807. One of several children of poor whites, Scotch-English stock. Established plantation of Sutpen's Hundred in Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi, 1833. Married (1) Eulalia Bon, Haiti, 1827. (2) Ellen Coldfield, Jefferson, Mississippi, 1838. Major, later Colonel, - th Mississippi Infantry, C.S.A. Died, Sutpen's Hundred, 1869.

But it is only in this opening entry that Sutpen appears to have achieved that success which he - at least according to the pre-Chronology narratives - so zealously sought; subsequent entries reveal his failure to establish the desired dynasty. The immediate impression created by the Genealogy's impersonal orderliness is by no means one of disintegration, and yet it is paradoxically this very listing process which in its succinctness and ostensible "objectivity" most strongly emphasizes the collapse of Sutpen's design. If there is no suggestion that Bon is part Negro, there are direct statements that he is Sutpen's son and that he becomes engaged to Judith. But even the threat of incest is reduced to insignificance as one by one the deaths of Sutpen's descendants - Bon, Henry, Judith, Clytie, Milly's daughter, and Charles Etienne - are duly recorded until the final family entry is reached:


Son of Charles Etienne de Saint Velery Bon. Born, Sutpen's Hundred, 1882. Disappeared from Sutpen's Hundred, 1910. Whereabouts unknown.

The ancestral home is deserted; the only surviving heir is an idiot Negro(42) bearing the name neither of his father and grandfather nor of his great-grandfather.

As in each of the preceding narratives, Sutpen's is the dominant presence: his surname occurs seventeen times in the Genealogy, that of his plantation - which of course also includes his surname - an additional sixteen times. Quentin, the only Compson accorded a genealogical entry, is defined not in terms of his own family but of his family's relationship to Sutpen: "QUENTIN COMPSON. Grandson of Thomas Sutpen's first Yoknapatawpha friend." The very presence of entries for both Quentin and Shreve is significant, nonetheless, for while the Chronology restricts itself to details of the Sutpens and those intimately connected with them, incorporating a reference to Quentin only in the final, postscript-like entry,(43) the Genealogy moves beyond the active participants in the Sutpen story to those affected by it. More importantly, the Quentin, Shreve, and (to a lesser extent) Jim Bond entries extend the discourse beyond the previously imposed temporal and spatial - and, indeed, moral and intellectual - limits.

The Quentin entry concludes "Died, Cambridge, Mass., 1910." For readers unfamiliar with The Sound and the Fury, published seven years before Absalom, the statement would be at the very least startling and likely to raise more unanswered questions than any of the preceding narratives. For all readers the entry draws attention to the 1909/1910 confusion, since if Henry and Clytie die in 1910 (in December, according to the preceding narratives) and if (again, according to those earlier accounts) Quentin is talking to Shreve in Cambridge the following January, Quentin's year of death cannot also be 1910. It is true that, read in isolation, the Genealogy is inconsistent, since it makes no reference to Quentin's visiting Sutpen's Hundred before leaving for Harvard. At the same time, given the location of the Genealogy within a linked series of narratives, it must necessarily be situated within that discourse, in which case the internal inconsistencies are so blatant as again to suggest that they must have been intentional.

Undoubtedly intentional is the indirect evocation of The Sound and the Fury in the Quentin entry. In a letter to Harrison Smith, tentatively assigned to February 1934 in Selected Letters, Faulkner was quite specific about his reasons for using Quentin in his new novel:

Quentin Compson, of the Sound & Fury, tells it [the Sutpen story], or ties it together; he is the protagonist so that it is not complete apocrypha. I use him because it is just before he is to commit suicide because of his sister, and I use his bitterness which he has projected on the South in the form of hatred of it and its people to get more out of the story itself than a historical novel would be [sic]. (Selected Letters, p. 79)

In the process of composition Faulkner's conception of narrative viewpoint underwent considerable modification,(44) but it is evident that from an early stage he was acutely aware of the text's time present in relation to the moment and manner of Quentin's death. The Genealogy's reference to that death certainly invites the reader to bring material from the earlier novel to bear on the later, to define Quentin's response to the Sutpen story - and to the South as a whole - in relation to his own history, to make connections between the Quentin-Ames-Caddy and Henry-Bon-Judith triangles, and so forth. While this is not the place to examine the interrelationships between the two novels - many of which have been invoked in Estella Schoenberg's Old Tales and Talking(45) - it does seem appropriate to point out that this intertextual exploitation accentuates the open-ended polyphony of Absalom. But if The Sound and the Fury can be read as yet another autonomous voice in the dialogue, so too can the "Compson Appendix," published in 1946, ten years after Absalom. That "Appendix" may in some respects have been modelled on the Absalom Genealogy, and in its presentation of Quentin and his obsession with family honor it seems at least as closely associated with the later novel as with the earlier.

The Genealogy further expands the Absalom discourse to include not only other Faulknerian texts but also the "texts" of potentially actual lives: of Jim Bond it says "Whereabouts unknown" and of Shreve "Now a practising surgeon, Edmonton, Alta." It is the "Now" of the Shreve entry which most forcibly shatters any sense of the safely distanced historicity of Absalom, especially for the original readers of the first edition, published in 1936 when, according to the Genealogy, Shreve would have been forty-five or forty-six - certainly a possible age for a practising surgeon. So, too, previous narratological limits are exceeded by the reference to Shreve's military service: "Captain, Royal Army Medical Corps, Canadian Expeditionary Forces, France, 1914-1918." The discourse moves beyond Yoknapatawpha and Quentin and Shreve's Harvard room (which in many respects seems but an extension of the South) to Europe, beyond the American Civil War to the Great War, a global conflict personally experienced at some level by virtually all the original readers of Absalom. This deliberate intrusion into the readers' spatial and temporal "reality" blurs fictional boundaries and, in suggesting that Shreve is a "real" person, lays claim to a certain amount of factual authority.

If ultimately this authority is questioned - not only because of the Genealogy's dating inconsistencies but also because of the very fact that all the preceding narratives have proved unreliable - the Genealogy nonetheless emerges as a new voice, one which invites readers to bring their own world "texts" to bear on the text (literally) in hand. The result is a fundamental reassessment of Shreve's character, for the readers' knowledge of the First World War makes it clear that Shreve must have immediately volunteered and served to the very end of a war more European than Canadian. In spite, therefore, of his insistence on a Canadian lack of history - or, as he says, "if we have got it, it all happened long ago across the water and so on now there aint anything to look at every day to remind us of it" (p. 361 [p.289]) - he was evidently as conscious of and loyal to his personal heritage as any Southerner could be.(46) Furtermore, Shreve's service in a life-preserving capacity - contrasting so markedly with Quentin's suicide - implies an acceptance of such occasion for morbid self-dramatization.(47) Once again the reader's response is shaped and modified by a different perspective.

And thus at last is reached the final narrative - the map which, in both the first edition and Polk's new edition,(48) folds problematically out beyond the confines of the volume itself into the "real" world. Following immediately after the Genealogy's concluding projection of Shreve into the reader's time and space, the map again raises questions about fictionality. As with the statement that Shreve is "Now" practicing in Edmonton, the map's references to such actual places as the Talahatchie River and Memphis serve to locate the narrative within a recognazable context and suggest factual authority. But fiction jostles fact in the map's very title - "JEFFERSON, YOKNAPATAWPHA CO., MISSISSIPPI" - while the somewhat paradoxical inscription "WILLIAM FAULKNER, SOLE OWNER * PROPRIETOR" simultaneously proclaims Yoknapatawpha's fictionality and ascribes to the map itself an authorial authority denied the preceding narratives. However little justification there may be for equating Faulkner with the anonymous narrator of the nine chapters, with the chronologer, or with the genealogist simply on the grounds that they speak in the third person and are not specifically identified as character-narrators, a case could certainly made for positing him as the narrator of the cartographical discourse. At the same time, it might be questioned whether William Faulkner, the sole owner and proprietor of Yoknapatawpha County, is any more the actual William Faulkner, the man born in 1897, than the Mr. Poe of the preface to The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym is the actual Edgar Allan Poe. Ultimately, there is no reason to assume that this final narrative possesses any more authority or is any more reliable than the others. But as an independent voice it does, once again, provide a new perspective - one which has hitherto lacked critical attention.

Moving beyond the Genealogy's single indirect allusion to The Sound and the Fury, the map incorporates numerous refernces to earlier Faulkner novel and stories. In fact Absalom is evoked no more frequently than any other work - less often, indeed, than Sartoris. The events of Absalom are thus presented as part of a larger whole, and are necessarily defined by this new context. It would be inappropriate to discuss here the ways in which Faulkner's various earlier works can be said to modify the reader's interpretation of Absalom - perhaps even to the extent of being considered equal voices within an intertextual polyphonic structure - but the immediate effect of this contextualization is clearly a subordination of the Sutpen story. Sutpen's presence has dominated all the preceding Absalom narratives, but on the map his family appears as just one of many, his plantation is reduced to a mere dot, and he is himself mentioned in only two of the five Absalom allusions - specifically, "FISHING CAMP HERE WHERE WASH JONES KILLED SUTPEN, LATER BOUGHT AND RESTORED BY MAJOR CASSIUS DE SPAIN" and "CHURCH WHICH THOMAS SUTPEN RODE FAST TO."(49) Figuring now only as someone who in life was an impatient and reckless driver and who at his death was defeated, Sutpen is stripped of all larger-than-life dimensions: the demon is reduce to the level of an ordinary man.

Although the map invites such a reassessment of the Sutpen story - as, indeed, to a lesser extent does he Genealogy - it is plainly not intended to negate the earlier narratives. Nor would it be appropriate for it to do so. Whether Sutpen's Hundred is a world in and of itself, a part of the reader's "real"world, a dot on a map, or something altogether different cannot be definitively determined. Such monologic categorization continues to be denied right to the end of this most polyphonic of Faulkner's texts.

But even with the map the multiple voices are not quite exhausted. Following the blank free end-paper in the first edition is the inside back flap of the dust-jacket on which are listed, appropriately enough, a number of other Faulkner works, most of them associated with one or more of the map's locations. While it seems reasonable to assume that Faulkner was not responsible for this list - or, indeed, for the front flap's "blurb," with its disorienting references to "Stephen" Sutpen and the "relative of this strange family," Quentin Compson - both nonetheless function as voices in the dialogue. As this additional set of irreconcilable inconsistencies at once emphasizes and expands the problematization of historical knowledge, so the list of previously published Faulkner works draws attention to the intertextual discourse.

Intertextuality of an even broader kind is called into play by the five texts advertised on the back of the first edition dust-jacket: Havelock Ellis's Studies in the Psychology of Sex, Proust's Remembrance of Things Past, Melville's Moby Dick, Joyce's Ulysses, and Nine Plays by Eugene O'Neill - three of which (Proust, Melville, Joyce) have frequently been discussed in relation to Faulkner's work and career and the remaining two (Ellis, O'Neill) at least occasionally so.(50) And thus the discourse expands almost illimitably, backwards as well as forwards, and the ending of Absalom seems but a beginning, its dialogue infinitely continued in preceding and subsequent works by Faulkner himself and by other writers and in the lucubrations of successive generations of literacy critics.

(1) Lion in the Garden: Interviews with William Faulkner 1926-1962, ed. James B. Meriwether and Michael Millgate (New York: Random House, 1968), p. 18. (2) In "Toward a Reworking of the Dostoevsky Book" (1961) Bakhtin wrote: "After my book (but independently of it) the ideas of polyphony, dialogue, unfinalizability, etc., were very widely developed. This is explained by the growing influence of Dostoevsky, but above all, of course, by those changes in reality itself which Dostoevsky (in this sense prophetically) succeeded in revealing earlier than the others" (Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics, trans. Caryl Emerson [Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984], p. 285). (3) Faulkner in the University: Class Conferences at the University of Virginia 1957-1958, ed Frederick L. Gwynn and Joseph L. Blotner Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1959), pp. 273-274. (4) E.g., Cleanth Brooks, William Faulkner.- The Yoknapatawpha Country (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1963), pp. 309-317, 424-443; and Elisabeth Muhlenfeld, "We Have Waited Long Enough': Judith Sutpen and Charles Bon," Southern Review, 14 (1978), 66-80. (5) E.g., Floyd C. Watkins, "What Happens in Absalom, Absalom!?" Modern Fiction Studies, 13 (1967), 79-87; and Albert J. Guerard, The Triumph of the Novel: Dickens, Dostoevsky, Faulkner (New York: Oxford University Press, 1976), pp. 302-339. (6) Bakhtin defines polyphony as "a plurality of consciousnesses, with equal rights and each with its own world" (p. 6; italics omitted). (7) See, e.g., John T. Matthews, The Play of Faulkner's Language (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1982), pp. 115 ff. (8) See, e.g., Arthur L. Scott, "The Myriad Perspectives of Absalom, Absalom!" American Quarterly, 6 (1954), 210-220; Lynn Gartrell Levins, Faulkner's Heroic Design: The Yoknapatawpha Novels (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1976), pp. 7 ff.; Claudia Brodsky, "The Working of Narrative in Absalom, Absalom!: A Textual Analysis," Amerikastudien, 23 1978), 240-259; and Frangois Pitavy, The Narrative Voice and Function of Shreve: Remarks on the Production of Meaning in Absalom, Absalom!" in William Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom!": A Critical Casebook, ed. Elisabeth Muhlenfeld (New York: Garland, 1984), pp. 189-205. (9) See, e.g., Richard Forrer, Absalom, Absalom!: Story-telling as a Mode of Transcendence," Southern Literary Journal, 9 1976), 22-46; James H. Matlack, "The Voices of Time: Narrative Structure in Absalom, Absalom!" Southern Review, 15 (1979), 333-354; Susan Resneck Parr, "The Fourteenth Image of the Blackbird: Another Look at Truth in Absalom, Absalom!" Arizona Quarterly, 35 1979), 153-164; Thomas E. Connolly, Point of view in Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom!" modern Fiction Studies, 27 (1981), 255-272; Hugh M. Ruppersburg, Voice and Eye in Faulkner's Fiction (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1983), pp. 95 ff;, and Robert Dale Parker, "The Chronology and Genealogy of Absalom, Absalom!": The Authority of Fiction and the Fiction of Authority," Studies in American Fiction, 14 1986), 191-198. (10) See, e.g., Duncan Aswell, "The Puzzling Design of Absalom, Absalom!" Kenyon Review, 30 (1968), 67-84; Parr; Parker; and David Paul Ragan, William Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom!": A Critical Study (Ann Arbor, Michigan: UMI Research Press, 1987), pp. 164-165. (11) The sole exception appears to be Aswell (sec below, pp. 285-286). (12) Carl Petersen, Each in Its Ordered Place: A Faulkner Collector's Notebook (Ann Arbor, Michigan: Ardis, 1975), p. 67. (13) Noel Polk, Introduction, William Faulkner Manuscripts 13:"Absalom, Absalom!" Typescript Setting Copy and Miscellaneous Material (New York: Garland, 1987), p. x. (14) See Muhlenfeld, Introduction, William Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom!", pp. xxxii-xxxiii. (15) See, e.g., Brooks, pp. 424-426; Michael Millgate, The Achievement of William Faulkner I 966; rpt. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1989), pp. 323-324; Aswell, pp. 80-81; Parr; Parker; and Ragan, pp. 163-178. (16) "Absalom, Absalom!": The Corrected Text (New York: Random House, 1986), p. 305. (17) Ragan lists most of these discrepancies (pp. 166 ff.). (18) Absalom, Absalom! (New York: Random House, 1936), pp. 188, 190, 191 [Absalom, Absalom!: The Corrected Text, pp. 153, 155]; subsequent references to the novel appear in the text. Since the uncorrected text is frequently crucial to my argument, quotations are from the 1936 first edition, but references to Polk's 1986 edition are included in square brackets. (19) The tombstone names New Orleans, the Chronology Haiti. Shreve's narrative also implies that Bon's earliest years were spent in Haiti: he imagines Bon trying to discover "the meaning of his whole life, past- the Haiti, the childhood, the lawyer, the woman who was his mother" p. 313 [p. 250]). (20) Ellen's year of death is 1862 in the Chronology and Genealogy and 1863 on the tombstone described by the third-person narrator (p. 188 [p. 153]). Both Rosa and Mr. Compson at one point suggest the date was 1862 pp. 15, 85 [pp. 10, 66]), at another 1863 (pp. 106, 134, 135 [pp. 84, 107, 1081]). The confusion can perhaps be attributed, at least in part, to Faulkner's revision, since in the manuscript of the novel the tombstone apparently reads 1862; see Gerald Langford, Faulkner's Rision of Absalom, Absalom!": A Collation of the Manuscript and the Published Book (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1971), p. 197 [MS 88/23]. (21) "See, e.g., William Faulkner Manuscripts 13, pp. 24, 37, 50, 84, 87, 88, 102, 116, 121, 172, 174, 179, 225, 234, 250, 253, 254, 255, 258, 259, 263, 312. (22) As Langford argues (p. 3). (23) The manuscript chronology is in the Alderman Library, University of Virginia, and is reproduced in William Faulkner Manuscripts 13; the typescript chronology is in the James B. Meriwether collection (see Ragan, p. 195, n. 2). (24) Ragan gives the date of the inscription as "May 15, 1935" (p. 12), but since Faulkner appears not to have met Meta Carpenter until some months later I assume that the year should properly be 1936. (25) See Faulkner to Harrison Smith [February 1934?], Selected Letters of William Faulkner, ed. Joseph Blotner (New York: Random House, 1977), p. 78; and Muhlenfeld, Introduction, William Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom!" pp. xvi, xviii. (26) See Muhlenfeld, Introduction, William Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom!" p.xxxi; a false start for chapter VIII apparently reads:

"So Henry and Bon knew about the incest ... but not about the miscegenation,"

Shreve said....

Yes," Quentin said. "They didn't know that. Just the incest. Folks said that Colonel

Sutpen believed that would be enough, sufficient."

Given that the manuscript chronology also records that "Henry finds Charles is negro," it could belong to an even earlier period than this false start. (27) "See n. 20 and Langford, p. 46 [MS 3/15]. (28) Although his failure to restore the extensive cuts made in the setting copy by the Random House editors may indicate that he did not read the proofs at all closely. (29) E.g., Millgate, The Achievement of William Faulkner, pp. 323-324; Polk, Introduction, William Faulkner Manuscripts 13, p. x; and Ragan, p. 164. In a later article Millgate refers to the inconsistencies as deliberate," though he does not develop the point; see Faulkner and The South: Some Reflections," in The South and Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha: The Actual and the Apocryphal, ed. Evans Harrington and Ann J. Abadie (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1977), p. 209. (30) Malcolm Cowley, The Faulkner-Cowley File: Letters and Memories, 1944-1962 (New York: Viking Press, 1966), pp. 41 ff. (31) Selected Letters, pp. 222-223. (32) See Langford, pp. 220 [MS 96/34-36], 33. (33) 27, 1945, Selected Letters, p. 206. (34) Robert Dale Parker is also concerned with the nature of fictional authority, but comes to a somewhat different conclusion because of his assumption that the unidentified third-person narrator, chronologer, and genealogist represents the "omniscient author's voice" (p. 192). (35) E.g., Forrer, Matlack, and Ruppersburg; Connolly and Parr also assume this narrator is reliable. (36) E.g., Parker. (37) Pitavy convincingly argues that the style of the (pre-Chronology) narratives is often homophonic (pp. 199 ff.). For Faulkner's frequent alteration of narrative point of view in the manuscript, see Langford, pp. 21, 33-34, 36, and 39. (38) See Langford, pp. 21, 73 [MS 18128]. (39) As, e.g., Parker does. (40) The dates of Sutpen's birth add Ellen's birth and death are included and agree with the chronology. (41) Polk also emends the name of Henry and Bon's military unit, the dates of Ellen's birth and death, and the name of Bon's son. (42) The Genealogy does not itself refer to Jim Bond's mental limitations, but his black ancestry is indicated in the preceding entry's statement that Charles Etienne, himself the son of Bon's octoroon mistress, "Married a full-blood negress." (43) The two-part 1910 entry is separated from the others and the year itself centred on the page as a kind of heading rather than located, like all preceding years, at the left margin. (43) See Langford, pp. 21 ff.; and Muhlenfeld, Introduction, William Faulkner's " Absalom, Absalom!" pp. xxvii ff. (44) Old Tales and Talking: Quentin Compson in William Faulkner's "Absalom, Absalom!" and Related Works (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1977). (46) As Millgate points out in "Faulkner and History," in The South and Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha, p. 25. (47) I am indebted for this point to Professor Michael Millgate, with whom I have been able to discuss the novel on a number of occasions. (48) At least in the 1986 hardcover volume. In the Library of America volume, Novels 1936-1940 (New York: Library of America, 1990), the map precedes the first page of Absalom, which is itself the first of the four novels included. (49) The other three are "SUTPEN'S HUNDRED, 12 MI.,""MISS ROSA COLDFIELD'S," and "HOLSTON HOUSE." Of the five, only Sutpen's Hundred and the fishing camp are included in the revised and professionally drawn map, dated 1945, which appeared inside the front cover of The Portable Faulkner (New York: Viking Press, 1946); see also Faulkner's own drawing of the 1945 map, reproduced on the front end-paper of Louis Daniel Brodsky and Robert W. Hamblin, Faulkner: A Comprehensive Guide to the Brodsky Collection. Volume I: The Bio-Bibliography (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1982). (50) For Ellis see, e.g., Mick Gidley, "Another Psychologist, a Physiologist and William Faulkner," Ariel, 2 (1971), 78-86; for O'Neill see, e.g., Judith B. Wittenberg, "Faulkner and Eugene O'Neill," Mississippi Quarterly, 33 (1980), 327-341.
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Title Annotation:Special Issue: William Faulkner
Author:Dalziel, Pamela
Publication:The Mississippi Quarterly
Date:Jun 22, 1992
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