ELEGY, EFFIGY: ALCHEMY AND THE DISPLACEMENT OF LAMENT IN AS I LAY DYING.
Whitfield stops at last. The women sing again. In the thick air it's like their voices come out of the air, flowing together and on in the sad, comforting tunes. When they cease it's like they hadn't gone away.
--As I Lay Dying (91)
These are the sounds of the women mourning the death of Addie Bundren. Warwick Wadlington frames this moment as a meditation on the relationship between the voice and death, in which the women's singing enacts a "ritual crossing of mortal boundaries" that refuses physical dissolution in favor of a shared social recognition of human mortality (109-11). However, I would suggest that there is another ritual in Faulkner's novel that prepares for death even as it refuses communal recognition--one that might be understood via Jonathan Sterne's notion of sound reproduction technology as an embalming of the human voice. The primary agent of this ritual is Cash, who both mitigates bodily decay though careful construction of Addie's coffin and seeks preservation of the voice through pursuit of Suratt's "talking machine" (AILD 190). Taken together, these two gestures constitute an alchemy that supplants grief with effigy, endeavoring to immortalize Addie's voice rather than transition to a life without her. By the novel's end, Cash's alchemy is complete; for, though her body is in the ground, the imprint of Addie's maternal voice lingers in the records Cash now plays on the family graphophone. In this sense, Cash reverses the introjective process by which Addie has brought him into the speaking world, ultimately retreating into a domestic space where the maternal voice yields to the consumable object: bananas, false teeth, and mail-order records (260-61). So positioned, the "effiguration" of Addie Bundren--her being made into an effigy--might also be understood as an auxiliary to the erosion of communal life Julian Murphet sees as Faulkner's indictment of the modern media ecology (6). At the same time, the mirrored becoming and unbecoming of this modification resonates with Theodor Adorno's conception of the graphophone as transmitting, in the way that other sonic technologies of modernity do, a radiative, umbilical quality towards a "cosmic death drive" (Adorno qtd. in Zeitlin 122) (1)--a distinctly (Freudian) maternal relation (2) made all the more poignant by an Alexander Graham Bell recording from 1881: "I am a graphophone, and my mother was a phonograph" (qtd. in "'Hear My Voice'"). (3)
1. TECHNOLOGIES OF SONIC CONSOLATION
According to John T. Matthews, the novel's graphophone is a commodity object that recalls the "illusorily prosthetic qualities of novels themselves" by "simulat[ing] life and speech" to gratify the listener as he or she experiences life's losses and disappointments ("Machine Age" 90). However, Sterne's framing of phonography as "a modification of the relations between life and death" (293) urges us to consider the graphophone's significance in the novel beyond the function of consolation, to where it might constitute an alteration of the characters' engagement with the living, speaking world. Such an alteration serves to reinforce Matthews's thinking that Faulkner was interested in "the way modern technology might create new structures of human feeling, new relations to one's own body and place, and new possibilities for human imagination" (Seeing Through the South 62).
It should be noted that the graphophone in Faulkner's novel is a sound recording technology situated in a particular historical moment and identified by a distinct technique, whereas Sterne's use of phonography is meant as an umbrella term for all sound reproduction. (4) The phonograph, an inscription technology developed by Edison, featured a stylus which made indentations of sound on metal foil; due to the pliability of the material, however, this technique had a tendency to alter and distort sound to the point of being barely recognizable (Edmunds). The graphophone improved on this technique by cutting directly into a solid surface of wax to form a continuous groove; this innovation resulted in greater permanence and better recording accuracy. (5) In both cases, however, the recording process was costly and time-consuming; not until Emile Berliner perfected his "stamping" technique" could records be mass-produced (Sterne 203); this innovation reduced cost and increased avail ability, thereby affording the American family a life "in which the family could produce its own culture and [play] mass-produced commodities" at the same time (204). Faulkner's specification of the distinct sounds of phonographs in Sanctuary--"blar[ing]" (202) and "remote" (202), metallic (112) and "blurred" (112), (6) and his own use of the phonograph to record stories for his daughter while he was away in Hollywood (Blotner, "Faulkner and Popular Culture" 19), indicate he was acquainted with differences among available recording technologies. The distinct "gouging" innovation of the graphophone will have direct bearing on its significance to Cash's coffin craft.
With that macabre project in mind, it is useful to understand Sterne's analogy of phonography to the process of embalming. Sebastian D.G. Knowles observes that the gramophone has been bound to death from its beginnings, recalling that Edison envisioned the gramophone's ability to capture "the feeble utterances of the death-bed" (Edison qtd. in Knowles 1). Making a broad gesture to this observation's significance for modernism and As I Lay Dying in particular, he closes his essay by suggesting it noteworthy "in a book that has been obsessed with death in a box from the title on, that the new Mrs. Bundren is carrying ... a gramophone" (13). Knowles does not, however, pursue the implications of that connection. Sterne, on the other hand, provides a means of understanding Knowles's gesture with greater precision, suggesting that sound recording invites comparison to embalming by virtue of the fact that, "attitudes about the voices of the dead are extensions of attitudes about the bodies of the dead" (293). Moreover, the process of recording transforms sound in order to protect those who come into contact with a body now separated from breath, just as chemical embalming "protects mourners from the sights, smells, and sounds of decay of their loved ones" (Quigley qtd. in Sterne 294). Finally, sound recording protects the listener "in anticipation of the future" (Sterne 294); one might suggest that this protection derives from the phonographic record's infinite repeatability, thus creating predictable and therefore comforting patterns for its audience. (7) Insofar as the music in As I Lay Dying occupies a space of consolation, whether the "sad, comforting tunes" of the women's lament, or the "comfortable thing" Cash reckons he could play on the graphophone "when he comes in tired of a night" (AILD 236, 259), one can see how Matthews's consolation might coincide with Sterne's protective technology. In both Sterne's embalming analogy and Matthews's consolation, the object of protection is not the voice or its vessel so much as the protection of the living who grieve. But although Cash thinks of the music of the graphophone as a "comfortable thing," there is a way in which his obsessive containment of Addie's dead body, combined with an interest in being able to carry the graphophone around with him "shut up as pretty as a picture" (236, 261), (8) indicates that the graphophone's technology of preservation is less about transitioning to a future beyond grief than about crafting an effigy of Addie and her voice so as to protect them from death--a transformation with a different sort of (al)chemical makeup, and a displacement of lament. That both the graphophone and Cash go about their respective techniques of preservation by means of "cutting" into solid material--the graphophone into wax, and Cash's "Chuck. Chuck. Chuck" (5) and "snoring" (9, 46) into the wood that will become Addie's coffin--suggests that, to Cash, the projects of coffin and graphophone are one and the same.
Shared techniques of coffin and graphophone, however, are meaningless without an understanding of the novel's configuration of body and voice, as both entities serve to contain, preserve, and render portable the human body and its utterances. Paul R. Lilly Jr. elides "voice" and its silence with narrative, arguing that Addie's monologue from beyond the grave constitutes "a statement about the possibility of verbal narration itself" (171), namely through the operation of metaphor as both "mold" and "prison" (177). This is voice as artifice for what Lilly sees as Faulkner's poetic frustrations, even when that artifice labors to structure the ineffable perfection of a Rimbaudian silence (172). Stephen Ross continues this elision when he provides a taxonomy that designates voice in As I Lay Dying as either mimetic, constituted through dialogue, or textual, voiced through the text itself (300-01). For both Lilly and Ross, voice remains fictive and discursive, even as it occupies space on the page; Ross, for example, puts voice and hearing in quotations to emphasize their artificiality ("we 'hear' the dialect of poor white Mississippi farmers" ), while Lilly disregards the gendered materiality of Addie's impeccable speech in favor of an artificer who is conspicuously male. (9) Operating from the basis that, "he [the poet] is an ideal of superhuman eloquence"(172), Lilly demonstrates the extent to which the material origins and effects of voice are not a pressing concern. Even as Ross contends that conflict between the novel's mimetic and textual voices "disrupt[s] the expected correlation between voice and person" (305), this disruption remains on the level of discourse--an abstracted instrument, or "'positive lever'" (300).
The disjuncture between discursive and material renderings of voice echoes what Erin Edwards sees as a polarity in theoretical debates about the body, between "the Foucauldian body produced or 'inscribed' by social power, and the body whose materiality precedes the influence of culture" (Edwards 740). For Edwards, metaphor is the "salient hinge" between these two positions (740). But rather than pose metaphor as either strictly discursive or a "signifier of sheer materiality" (740)--a polarity that privileges a "'notional body'" as "a containing boundary" separating inside and out and reflection from action (741), Edwards contends that the novel uses Addie's corpse to not only challenge traditional epistemologies about the body, but to reveal an unstable "'necropoetics'" in which bodily form undergoes a kind of "tropological decomposition" (739, 743). That decomposition, she argues, resists definite form and opens the body, fictive or otherwise, to a kind of becoming (10) possible not through "baroque fullness but rather [through] a poetics of negativity" (753). This kind of ambient corporeality might seem compatible with the ambient materiality of voice beyond the artifice of narrative. Yet, when one considers that the kind of becoming and unbecoming available through metaphor originates with Addie's body and voice as the twin origin of language to express negativity--absence and presence as the condition of possibility for both her children's material existence, and their own apprehension of lack--it becomes more difficult to argue that the novel's position on the body is so resolutely resistant to form, or that the notional body no longer animates the poetics of the novel. Even as Edwards concludes her piece by suggesting that tropological decomposition allows an "emergent ontology" in which the body might be "reiterated and reformed" (760; emphasis mine), there is a tacit admission here that iteration and form, not ambient negativity, precede that emergent ontology. Cash's project to contain the body and voice that named and contained him from birth demonstrates the extent to which metaphor in the novel is parasitic on itself--a mise en abyme in which Addie's function as a vessel reflects not possibility of being through tropological decomposition, but rather possibility of being through simultaneous decomposition and recomposition, or the metaphorization and demetaphorization that occurs in moving from enfiguration to effigy. Edwards is right to suggest that the becoming made possible by anoptic corporeality amounts to a kind of "sorcery," a process that "erases what it identifiably was" (758). The process of decomposition and recomposition undertaken by Cash, however, constitutes a more precise mode of sorcery-where something lost is something gained, and vice versa: an alchemy (11) bent on preserving Addie, body and voice.
2. COFFIN-CRAFT AND VOICE-VESSEL: DEMETAPHORIZATION
In material terms, there is a sense in which voice becomes synonymous with breath, which, in turn, animates the body, suggesting that preservation of the voice might allow one to transcend physical mortality. It is here that the metaphorization and demetaphorization of Addie's body and voice exceeds a relation of synecdoche, insofar as the voice becomes the condition of possibility for both bodily animation and verbal utterance. In other words, the effigural logics of body and voice operate not according to the critic's metaphoric taxonomies, but according to physiological mandate. A number of characters in the novel share an understanding of breath-as-life, continuing Faulkner's own preoccupation with the idea begun in his early poetry (Wadlington 105). Jewel fears that Dewey Dell's fanning and Cash's carpentry hasten Addie's death by denying her breath (AILD 14-15); Vardaman drills holes in her coffin with the understanding that the ability to breathe is what keeps Addie alive (65). Wadlington suggests that the voice says "no" to death primordially by transforming the breath of life into communion with others (105); in this way, the voice becomes a means of refuting death's physical confinements, thereby suggesting the possibility that the voice--and by extension, life itself--might be immortalized through proper containment. Cash's pursuit of the graphophone, in tandem with his construction of Addie's coffin, suggests he, too, understands the voice's ability to transcend death. Each vessel purports a desire to protect life force from the ravages of time, the elements, or displacement. Cash's coffin is designed to protect its cargo from the shifting weight of the earth, the seeping of water, and other invasive elements attracted to the body's "animal magnetism" (AILD 82-83). (12) Moreover, Tull observes that Cash makes the coffin "clock-shape" (AILD 88), presumably indicating a grandfather clock; and while a clock is used to render time manageable rather than stop it from progressing, Cash means for his coffin to be a keeper of time in the sense that the coffin keeps indicators of time's passing at bay. The graphophone, on the other hand, transforms the ephemeral utterance into a permanent, repeatable object that sounds as "natural as a music-band" (235), which can then be "[shut] up like a hand-grip, with a handle and all, so a fellow can carry it with him wherever he wants" (259). This portability implies not just convenience for the listener; it also reveals the machine's contents as something so valuable that it must be kept within close proximity at all times--a vessel containing a life-essential substance. And while it is less clear what form such matter would take for a grown man who has already demonstrated extraordinary strength in the face of the prolonged physical agony of a broken leg in cement, it is hard to conceive of a substance both comforting and life-sustaining without recalling the lone moment of Addie suckling Cash as a baby (172).
At this moment, Cash's mechanical music-vessel starts to look like the milk-vessel of distant memory, inviting consideration of how the portability of voice might function on the level of metaphor in a way that energizes the possibilities of the notional body. Related to the body as a vessel yet standing in contradistinction to the speech act, (13) Paul Ricoeur shows us that metaphor enables the appearance of discourse by assuming the body's forms and traits. Instead of speech performing the work of the body, the body performs the work of speech in the form of figuration, allowing, in Ricoeur's paraphrase of Aristotle, an epiphoric (14) transfer of meaning from distance to proximity between heterogeneous ideas (147). If, as Lilly suggests, "Addie's jar takes dominion everywhere in As I Lay Dying' (180), then epiphoric transfer seems an apt mechanism for understanding Cash's enfiguration of his mother. One sees the body doing the work of the voice when Cash, otherwise silent, saws through the boards for Addie's coffin, thereby creating a physical, effigial shape in which to contain Addie's voice, and therefore, her life force. The graphophone performs a similar task in that, as a mechanical technology, it supplants the voice with its own physical mechanical function. However, if enfiguration assumes the form of an object in service of meaning, how does one talk about epiphoric transfer in the context of the very physical containment undertaken by Cash? Here one might consider the relationship between figuration and effigy. To "effigure" something is to put an object into shape, resulting in an "effigy," an image or a likeness, that has been "bod[ied] forth" ("Effigure", "Effigy"). Unlike figuration, which employs shape in service of creating more proximate meaning for discourse, the effigy imports form in service of more proximate physical presence. However, in the case of effigy, this approximation is meant to be taken literally. Is it possible, then, that Cash's project looks toward effigy and away from discourse? This is where Ferenczi's theory of introjection becomes helpful.
As summarized by Abraham and Torok, introjection, or "casting aside," is the process in child development by which words come to replace the maternal object. The catalyst for this event is the emptiness the infant experiences in his or her mouth when the mother is present but not filling the mouth with the maternal breast. This emptiness "is first experienced in the form of cries and sobs, delayed fullness, then calling, ways of requesting presence, as language" (Ferenczi qtd. in Abraham and Torok 127). These cries fill the mouth with sound, thereby creating "novel satisfactions of a mouth now ... filled with words pertaining to the subject." Through the process of calling, then, the infant passes into the world of language--where words might now provide the satisfaction formerly available only through the maternal object (127). Addie narrates this very event as she recalls suckling Cash and then how she "refused her breast to Cash and Darl after their time was up" (AILD 175).
Cash has successfully transitioned into the world of language. However awkwardly, he is able to speak to Darl about trying to uncover Jewel's nighttime excursions (131-34), and protect Addie by urging her inside from the "too wet" ground (135). He also performs the role of family breadwinner, as his work on Tull's barn (33) and a twenty-eight foot fall (90) (presumably from another barn) are the sole indications of labor on behalf of the family. So, then, what is happening to Cash in the face of Addies death? Clearly his connection to the world through language continues to be shaped by his relationship to Addie. It is noteworthy that Cash seems to have lost the ability to speak to the world between his commencement of the coffin and the coffin's engulfment in flame as sparks rain down (222) in the burning barn, save to worry about the coffin's balance; even with the incredible agony of having his broken leg baked in cement, he has virtually nothing to say. Instead, he is described repeatedly as having a sad, grave, "composed face" (108, 121, 142). (15) Cash's narrative contributions during this time are scarce: he offers the proper steps to constructing the perfect coffin (83), and two obsessive notations on the coffin not being "on balance" (96, 165); these entries indicate that Cash's relationship to the body in the coffin is the only one that matters and that he is himself "composed" within the composition of the effigy he has made. The most explicit renderings of this composition, however, are the moments where Addie watches Cash work from the window:
She is looking out the window, at Cash stooping steadily at the board in the failing light, laboring on toward darkness and into it as though the stroking of the saw illumined its own motion, board and saw engendered. "You, Cash," she shouts, her voice harsh, strong, and unimpaired. "You, Cash!" He looks up at the gaunt face framed by the window in the twilight. It is a composite picture of all time since he was a child. He drops the saw and lifts the board for her to see ... slants the two of them into their final juxtaposition ... shaping with his empty hand in pantomime the finished box. For a while still she looks down at him from the composite picture, neither with censure nor approbation. Then the face disappears. (48)
At this moment, Addie's "gaunt face" and her voice, strangely invigorated by a connection to Cash, merge into the single effigial form, framed by the window in the twilight. This scene is not just "a composite picture of all time since he was a child"; it is, in fact, an effiguration of his entire existence predicated on the sound of Addie's voice. The possibility that Cash is part of the image he wants to preserve sheds light on both his silence during the journey and the "composed" quality of his face, as one is led to believe that he too, in part, travels in Addie's coffin. Were there any doubt that Addie's body and voice are one, one need only consider that, immediately following Cash's framing of Addie and her voice, she dies: "the two flames glare up for a steady instant. Then they go out" (50). Exceeding a strictly figural reading of a "light" in Addie's eyes, the flare and extinction of those flames denote a vitality dependent on breath, on air. While flame-as-life is figured, oxygen-as-life is not. Moreover, there can be no mistaking the wooden frame of the window as a parallel construction of the coffin itself, which Cash pantomimes to Addie as the shape of the finished box; here, the coffin becomes the effigy not of the body, but of the voice that brought Cash into the speaking world--a vessel that imports the distant memories of his childhood to a proximate, tangible moment. Here, the portable graphophone emerges as possessing power that goes far beyond the contentments of an evening pastime.
All of this goes to the question of grief. If Cash's coffin is an effigy of his dead mother's voice, and the graphophone he pursues transforms a voice distant and fleeting to one concrete and hand-held, then one can only conclude that Cash has embraced a melancholic grief that rejects the introjective process in favor of another: incorporation. According to Abraham and Torok, "[i] ncorporation implements the metaphor of introjection literally when the usually spontaneous process of introjection becomes self-aware" (128); that is to say, introjection's usual replacement of the mouth's emptiness with language is supplanted by a fantasy that performs the literal absorption of the love object into one's own body, effectively preventing the trauma of loss. Cash appears to be enacting a "false" incorporation, which occurs when "the abrupt loss of a narcissistically indispensable object of love has occurred, yet the loss is incommunicable" (129). This inability to communicate urges the aggrieved subject to fantasize "that we are actually taking into our mouth the unnamable" (128). Though Cash is the only family member to verbally anticipate the smell of Addie's decaying body (AILD 108)--suggesting a loss not entirely unnamable--the fact that Cash narcissistically frames Addie in terms of his own experience, combined with his reticence to speak, suggests that false incorporation is very close to what Cash is experiencing. Furthermore, Cash's windoweffigy implies a desire to render his bond to Addie in tangible, if not edible form. (16) While Edwards argues that the tropological decomposition of the body in the novel makes the visual recede (748), Cash's window-effigy, a precursor to Addies voice in a box, nevertheless attempts axial orientation towards and cartographic mapping of the voice as an effigured object. That mapping might be understood as a need to locate the self with respect to Addie's function as the maternal "Envelope," providing, as Abraham and Torok explain, "amnion, warmth, nourishment, mainstay, body, cry, desire, rage, joy, fear, yes, no, you, me, object, and project" (96). The anoptic corpse may resist notional conceptions of interior and exterior, but a grieving Cash requires it, laboring to sustain and mirror the envelope that defines object and project, body and desire that define not just Addie, but Cash.
Yet, the graphophone exceeds effiguration in its capacity to provide a means of "ingestion," insofar as the singular human voice might now be mass-produced, used, and discarded as other consumables are. As D. L. LeMahieu notes of the rise of phonographic recording in the early twentieth century, "songs which a few generations before might have remained popular for decades now rose and fell within a year, or even months" (LeMahieu qtd. in Sterne 288). Here is where Edwards's necropoetics give way to necrophagia. (17) The capacity to consume the recorded voice hastens its obsolescence, then--a paradox evident in the parade of objects Cash cheerfully describes at the novel's end: "half-et bananas," Anse's new teeth, the new graphophone, and the mail-order records that will follow (AILD 260-61). Despite the fact Cash has repeatedly spoken out loud about buying Suratt's machine (at one point contemplating how he could bargain down to five dollars ), the means by which the graphophone is finally acquired is through acquisition of a new mother, the new Mrs Bundren; ultimately, it is an acquisition through circumstance, rather than by Cash's deliberate procurement. Thus, insofar as Cash pursues literalization of his mother's voice in a consumable recording, he is engaging in a process of demetaphorization that attempts to reinstate his relationship with the maternal object. The demetaphorization of incorporation effectively replaces lament with the tangible effigy, and prevents the possibility of reflecting on the loss of communal space afforded by language, thereby casting the Bundrens into a state of modern alienation. Matthews suggests that Faulkner saw sound recording technologies as a new means of structuring human feeling and human relations (Seeing 61); Zeitlin's use of Adorno's radio-umbilicus to describe the phonograph in Pylon (122) suggests that this relation is maternal. To the extent that Addie's voice and the graphophone both preside over the social decomposition and recomposition of the Bundren clan, it would seem that, despite never being recorded for posterity in the way that Edison intended, Addie and the talking machine significantly overlap in a process of false incorporation.
Still, the question remains: if the graphophone serves to embalm the human voice as part of the rites of death, and Cash comprehends the reality of her passing, how can one reasonably argue that he seeks alchemical immortality rather than simply a comforting memento of the maternal voice, a part to stand in for the whole? In the final paragraphs, he passes from the moment of meeting Anse's new wife to a more recent memory in which he thinks about the joy of "us setting in the house in the winter" listening to a new record every time it came in the mail (AILD 261). Such a tableau suggests not only an end to mourning, but that Cash's new life, centered on the home-bound bliss of family record-listening, exceeds whatever life he had before. Yet, the regressive, insulated quality of this life becomes clearer when Cash excludes the possibility of Darl taking part: "what a shame Darl couldn't be to enjoy it too. But it is better so for him. This world is not his world, this life his life" (261). Darl, after all, has been changed by the war; he recalls having slept in strange places, and Vardaman comments on the spyglass he brought back from France (254). Knowing that Darl's madness derives from bitter knowledge, Cash's conclusion that Darl could not exist in this world makes it all the more a retreat from an adult reality. So, too, does Anse's inability to look at the children after the marriage (260) demonstrate a refusal (or knowing failure) of adult responsibility in favor of an insulated existence dependent on the maternal presence, just as the open mouths of Vardaman and Dewey Dell evoke the mouths of infants being filled with the maternal breast. That infantilization becomes more pronounced when, in looking back at the house after acquiring spades for Addie's burial, Anse meets the new Mrs Bundren's gaze through the window (236-37), effectively echoing Cash's window-framing of Addie before she dies. As for the children, we know that at best, Cash will walk with a limp, and that Anse will continue to be worthless financially; Darl is gone, Jewel has lost his horse, and Dewey Dell is pregnant. Therefore, one can only conclude that the new Mrs Bundren will be the primary source of sustenance for the entire family; the infantilization seems assured when, in her inaugural appearance, she presents a pop-eyed stare "like she was daring ere a man to say nothing" (260), embodying a motherly materiality and media ecology in which traditional forms of community and communication are neither needed nor welcome. The inescapable gravity of the maternal presence, one quite cheerily embraced by Cash, makes it all the more likely that Cash's preservational project is not managed mortality, but effigural immortality--through the practice of alchemy that assures, with every turn of the phonograph, a renewed process of fullness and absence, decomposition and recomposition. The end result of Cash's effiguration, however, results not in immortalization of Addie per se, but of her material mother-function; it is here that the cycle of metaphorization and demetaphorization seem to skip to the next song, replacing the material function of one mother with another.
That replacement, however, doesn't change the process of unbecoming for Cash. What does it mean that the incorporative process moves him away from language, and as such, away from the subject formation that has enabled him to articulate loss and mirror Addie's enveloping function? Perhaps the novel suggests that it is lament for the maternal Envelope that hastens the mirroring of compositional and decompositional process, building effigies between breath and death, admitting possibilities of new becoming only in the temporal distance between one comforting tune and the next. Murphet observes that "[w]hat mediates the social atoms of modernity simultaneously blurs them into an abstract generality, a soup of indifferent particles"(2). Perhaps the mechanical stamping of voice from one mother to another, muffled and blaring beyond any hope of particularity, assures that a succession of mail-order records might do the job just as well.
University of Denver
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Weheliye, Alexander G. Phonographies: Grooves in Sonic Afro-Modernity. Durham: Duke UP, 2005.
Welch, Walter L. and Leah Brodbeck Stenzel Burt. From Tinfoil to Stereo: The Acoustic Years of the Recording Industry, 1877-1929. Gainesville: UP of Florida, 1994.
Zeitlin, Michael. "Faulkner, Adorno, and 'the Radio Phenomenon,' 1935." Murphet and Solomon 115-30.
(1) Michael Zeitlin borrows Adorno's thoughts on the radio to discuss Pylons depiction of the "new mental velocity" (117) created by radio in aviation, but it might as easily describe the mediative, transformative function of the graphophone for Cash in As I Lay Dying.
(2) Gabriele Schwab argues that the carnivalesque treatment of Addie's corpse and Cash's fetishization of the coffin suggests an Oedipal relation (215-22); she does not, however, pursue the connection of Cash's desire to Addie's voice.
(3) Graham Bell recorded his father making this statement in 1881 and deposited it at the Smithsonian for retrieval in the event of a patent dispute ("'Hear My Voice'").
(4) Both terms are a combination of phone and graph, the sonic and the inscribed, respectively (Weheliye 35).
(5) The graphophone was developed over the course of the 1880s by a competing operation led by Alexander Graham Bell, Chichester A. Bell, and Charles S. Tainter; by 1888, Edison had made "improvements" to his phonograph consistent with his competitors' design alterations (Edmunds).
(6) Julian Murphet argues that Sanctuary s depiction of people transfixed by "disembodied voices blaring from imitation wood cabinets" constitutes an indictment of media's "predations upon what had once given value to social life" (6). He furthermore suggests that As I Lay Dying's apparent function as a "radio play for voices", with its own set of competing "stations and frequencies"(7), make it a rich site for discussion of the "media ecologies" Faulkner both depended on and disdained (6-7). To the extent that early research in telephony and sound reproduction borrowed from one another, and culminated in media systems where radio and recording applications not only overlapped (Sterne 189-92), but were sometimes bundled together by manufacturers like Victor (Baumbach 234), Murphet's use of radio terminology to describe a novel in which the phonograph figures significantly but no radio appears reflects the shared social and developmental fabric of these technologies.
(7) Elsewhere Sterne discusses the comparison of recorded sound to the process of preserving canning food. As canned food consumption exploded during the early years of the phonograph, its status as a reliable yet less flavorful version of the original made it an apt metaphor for recorded sound that was very different from the original (293). Sterne argues, however, that embalming constitutes a better metaphor for the phonograph, insofar as it prepares the voice for death in a way that exceeds canning's alteration of flavor (293).
(8) Preceding the 1920s trend to build graphophones into furniture-like consoles (Welch and Stenzel Burt 158-59), most models were portable; many were durable and modular, like a wooden train case (Graphophone, c.1905), while others looked like decorative tin lunch boxes (Graphophone and Cylinders c. 1895). Given Cash's penchant for structural soundness and geometric precision, one might imagine his definition of "pretty" as hewing closer to wooden, modular form. However, given the equivalencies suggested between the graphophone and consumables like bananas, as well as the mother's role in providing sustenance, one might also imagine Cash and the new Mrs Bundren carrying something that might just as easily transport a sandwich.
(9) Cinda Gault throws the limitations of that reading into relief by framing Lilly's "prison" or "mold" framework not as a poetic device, but as a reflection of the material realities of rural women struggling to access (and voice information about) birth control. Gault notes that the "prison" of Addie's metaphoric silence is one that Dewey Dell is doomed to repeat by virtue of her sex (443-46).
(10) Here Edwards draws on Deleuze and Guattari's conception of the "'becoming-animal'" in which "a subject not only mimics or exists in analogical relation with an animal, but experiences a 'block' of animality 'in the interstices of [the] disrupted self' (240)" that allows "escap[e from] traditional articulations of the human" (Deleuze and Guattari qtd. in Edwards 757).
(11) The three main stages of alchemy are blackness and purification; whitening, associated with the moon; and the reddening of the fire signifying unification of man with god (Eliade 79-152). Both Addie's decaying body and Cash's blackening foot (AILD 224) signify the necessary stage of purification before the crucible-coffin can be ignited. That purification is meant to be a "trial" or "sacrifice" of the alchemist's body to prove his or her worth and be initiated into a new state of being (Eliade 150-51), a reading rendered plausible by framing Cash as a Christ figure (Hauck 503; Blotner, "Christian Lore and Irony" 17). The reddening of the alchemical process finds form in the barn fire itself under the light of the moon, reigniting the twin flames of Addie's eyes.
(12) Here, Cash's attempt to preserve Addie's bodily integrity might be seen as refuting the "animal-becoming" that Edwards sees as the aim of the novel's tropological instability.
(13) I employ "speech act" here in the sense used by J. L. Austin, particularly its perlocutionary aspect, which "produce[s] certain consequential effects upon the feelings, thoughts, or actions of the audience, or of the speaker, or of other persons" (Austin 101). To speak, then, is to do--to act upon the living world.
(14) Ricoeur does not provide the etymology, though John T. Kirby's survey of Aristotle's usage of metaphor across the Poetics and Prior Analytics concludes that he meant it as, "carry" (phor) "across" or "change" (meta) (Kirby 532). Epiphora, however, was likely intended to mean something "over," "besides," or "piling up" (533); this definition is more in line with the "semantic impertinence" that Ricoeur assigns to metaphor in a poetic sense (Ricoeur 149). In both cases, however, the vessel-like function of the word remains.
(15) Homer B. Pettey argues that the composedness of Cash's face reflects Darl's visual, compositional imagination, itself an indication of Faulkner's interest in modernist visual representation (33). I argue that composedness for Cash, however, indicates a state of infantilizing paralysis incited by Addie's death.
(16) Pettey suggests that it is Darl's predisposition to visuality that insists on framing Addie in this way, given that Darl's framing of Addie "is not part of Cash's perceptions, but belongs entirely to Darl's imaginative perceptions" (33). Cash's coffin-craft and pursuit of the graphophone, however, refute this reading; if anything, Darl's "fetishi[zation]" (Pettey 32) of Addie reinforces a sense of failed introjection for yet another one of her children.
(17) Vardaman, too, creates an effigial form that might be construed as necrophagic; the fish he catches and offers to Addie is intended to be eaten (AILD 30-31), and eventually finds its way into Dewey Dell's pan for supper (59), though Vardaman is not present to eat it. It is the effigial form of this fish-as-sustenance that he assigns his dead mother ("my mother is a fish" ), a relation made stronger by the fact that his repetition of, "He kilt her. He kilt her" (54) mirrors the repetition of his closing words, "Cooked and et. Cooked and et" (57). For Jewel, incorporation takes the form of the horse--a psychic object of desire that, while not intended for physical ingestion, nevertheless signifies a kind of material interpenetration; Darl's account of Jewel's taming of the horse is highly erotic (12).
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|Publication:||The Faulkner Journal|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2014|
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