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Faulkner in the Eighties: An Annotated Critical Biography.

By John E. Bassett. "Scarecrow Author Bibliographies, No. 88." Metuchen, New Jersey, and London: Scarecrow Press, 1991. 322 pp. Index.

There are 1,816 entries in this -- the third bibliography of work on Faulkner's life and fiction by John Bassett -- and he sees no decrease in attention in the years ahead. "Whether the scholars remain favorable towards Faulkner or not, he has become the American novelist. To analyze canon and canon-formation is in part to address Faulkner. To study race, class, and gender in American fiction is to address Faulkner. To study conventions and codes in narrative discourse, their evolution and communicative dimensions, is to address Faulkner. Besides," he concludes, "it is convenient for academics from the right to the left to have such excuses to read Faulkner's fiction, for they all seem to enjoy it" (p. 20).

No one is better equipped to make such judgments. In accord with other bibliographies in the Scarecrow series, Bassett has placed all his annotated (and unannotated) entries into a single referencing system, unlike William Faulkner: An Annotated Checklist of Criticism (David Lewis, 1972) and Faulkner: An Annotated Checklist of Recent Criticism (Kent State, 1983), which covered largely the work published in the 1960s and 1970s respectively. There an alphabetical breakdown of references used in tandem with the table of contents would identify the subarea of Faulkner being listed. But this new addition by an astute and careful reader who is without exception diligent and judicious has such a detailed index of critics and such a subdivided table of contents that very little if anything is lost in the transition. Like the earlier works, this bibliography employs Bassett's standard classifications: book-length studies on Faulkner; studies of individual novels; studies of individual short stories, poetry, and miscellaneous writings; topical studies; book reviews, and dissertations; and, in conclusion, additional works received too late to be entered in the main listing. In each instance, works are listed chronologically by year and alphabetically by author within years, so that interior references are also relatively easy to locate.

As before, Bassett provides exceptionally thorough cross-referencing, so that essays are listed separately and in collections, and reprinted essays appear both individually and by anthology. Every title that has some claim to attention is briefly annotated, and Bassett's comments are always summary and objective, often quoted, and never evaluative. Given the subject matter of entries, readers have to judge for themselves what to make of what they choose to search out. Indeed, one of Bassett's gifts is his unfailing adeptness at every critical method and his stubborn refusal to give any of them priority. He is also acute at seeing the influence of one study on another, so that a reader who finds one work helpful can establish his own private network of resources throughout the reference guide.

There are two welcome additions to this volume over the previous ones. First, there are a number of entries of works in other languages, following the same format (#1717-1796; pp. 285-292). Second, there is a full 20-page introduction which serves as an extraordinarily useful guide to all of the secondary work on Faulkner, from the early New Criticism of Brooks to the latest deconstructive study using Derrida or the psychoanalytic using Lacan. Indeed, by noting precisely what theories books choose (and noting where some are "eclectic" or unique), he is able to chart the whole development of the body of work which Faulkner's writing has produced since the late 1960s. Placed in perspective, we can see just how Faulkner criticism has developed, grown more exacting and more sophisticated as it has grown more varied (and practical). Bassett is helpful in pointing to previous bibliographies -- such as those by Thomas L. McHaney for G. K. Hall and Louis Brodsky in the multi-volume series on his private collection -- and other serial publications: the books from the Oxford conferences sponsored by the Department of English and the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi; the International Conference Series; and the current journals in Japan and the United States.

He closes -- with every right -- on a prediction: "Faulkner study in the next decade will be governed by at least three factors. First, there is such an established Faulkner institution, partly at several key Southern universities, but spreading out nationally, that a decline in research on and explication of Faulkner's work is unlikely. It will preclude any decline in sympathetic publication about Faulkner for some time to come. Secondly, the international momentum will continue to bring from abroad more and probably better commentary each year, not only from Japan but from all over the world. Finally, the |new Americanists' will have to deal with Faulkner, even if they balance interpretation of what the novels mean against analysis of how they have meant" (p. 20). If social, economic, racial, and gender history is swiftly encroaching on literary study, Faulkner, he finds, only exacerbates that; and the new rewards in rereading Faulkner from an interdisciplinary perspective, as much as from the latest critical theories, only continues to underscore the richness (and often the accuracy) of his legacy.
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Author:Kinney, Arthur F.
Publication:The Mississippi Quarterly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 22, 1993
Words:853
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