EMERSON'S SUBLIME PASTORALISM, PARODY, AND SECOND SIGHT IN FAULKNER'S AS I LAY DYING.
--Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Nature"
Taken by itself, the quote from Emerson's essay conjures a moment in which the reader is asked to recall a memory of looking and meditating that resulted in a philosophical insight, yet without stipulating the emotional reaction to that insight. Once reminded of the flux of all things when viewing a river meditatively, the thoughtful observer might be pleased or displeased. Famously optimistic, Emerson of course is pleased, even blissful, when we read further. The flux of things becomes rings radiating out from a stone thrown into the river, which should be read as the propagation of influences that symbolizes the intricate process of discovering the universal soul "within or behind ... individual life," that is, the metamorphosis of all form into the one form of Universal Being (Emerson 18). That insight of ontological oneness with the natural world is perhaps most famously emblemized in the little tale Emerson tells in another part of "Nature": while walking in the woods, he suddenly experiences the transcendent vision of a transparent eyeball. However, the flux of things recalled in a meditative hour can also be read not as purposive propagation in an ascent from material reality to a spiritual realm but rather as mere motion--worse, as descent to dissolution.
This essay will argue that, within his saga of the mythic Yoknapatawpha county, Faulkner dramatizes a variety of possible reactions to Emerson's invitation to draw philosophical conclusions from the natural world. More specifically, Anse and Darl Bundren in As I Lay Dying, as well as Ike McCaslin in Go Down, Moses and Ike Snopes in The Hamlet, together represent Faulkner's hypertextual play with the sublime pastoralism implied in the transcendental metaphysics of Emerson. (1)
The structure of iteration with a difference that characterizes hypertextuality operates as heuristic for understanding how Faulkner's play with Emerson's vision of sublime pastoralism repurposes it, refracts it to suggest multiple angles of insight. Faulkner necessarily presents his revision in layers, given the multiple narratives that comprise the Yoknapatawpha saga. Like a palimpsest, his narratives do not completely overwrite Emerson's moment of transcendent vision as they recast it. In addition, the iteration of hypertextuality extends beyond Emerson. The sublime pastoralism in his little tale of becoming the transparent eyeball is itself a new world retelling of the story embedded in the old world genre of the pastoral, one in which the locus of escape from the city to the pleasures of a more natural world becomes woods, not farmland or grazing pastures. The traditional repose of pastoral shifts to the ecstasy of a pastoral sited in wilderness. Faulkner's narrative iterations are thus a palimpsest of a palimpsest. (2)
Faulkner's hypertextuality includes the effect of a parody. Parody as a specific kind of hypertextuality's structure of iteration with a difference makes visible his comic as well as tragic retellings of sublime pastoralism. While the stories of Ike McCaslin and Darl Bundren imitate Emerson's finding Universal Being in the woods yet retell his visionary metaphysic in tragic tones, Faulkner's sampling of the metaphysic also includes laughable iterations within the Yoknapatawpha saga: Ike Snopes can be read as a parody of Ike McCaslin, Anse Bundren as a parody of his son Darl. Parody understood as hypertextuality underscores how Faulkner's stories about Yoknapatawpha can be read as a saga, that is, as a meta-narrative of mythic proportions that weaves themes and places characters within a specific locale, regardless of the publication dates of individual novels and short stories.
The metaphysic of transcendental harmony with the natural world that informs Emerson's sublime pastoralism has at its core the apprehension of a process of metamorphosis from the material to the spiritual, from the animal eye to the transcendent eye. While Ike McCaslin enacts the necessary change from seeing to vision in which the boundaries of individual forms become inconsequential to gaining a sense of Ultimate Being, Ike Snopes comically parodies that process by dramatizing a grotesque violation of the boundary between people and animals. However, grotesque violation of boundaries rather than transcending them also rules the world Darl and Anse Bundren inhabit--and there is more. Within the palimpsest effect of the Yoknapatawpha saga, iteration with a difference proliferates. Darl Bundren replicates Emerson's transcendental vision of the natural world: both figures function as seers, understanding the flux of all things, but Darl's second sight intuits dissolution, not ontological unity. Darl parodying Emerson also parodies Ike McCaslin as seer, insofar as the latter's vision of Old Ben successfully reiterates Emerson's visionary moment in the woods. However, when Ike McCaslin subsequently fails to imitate Emerson modeling a human being in a transcendent mode, he becomes a tragic parody of Emerson, but not with the same consequences suffered by Darl Bundren. Finally, Anse Bundren at the end of As I Lay Dying registers as an absurd parody of the seer figure and its visionary metaphysics.
PALIMPSEST, PARODY, AND MYTHIC METHOD
To understand how the Faulkner characters I have singled out--two Ikes and the Bundrens, father and son--can be read as different parodies of Emerson's presentation of a transcendental vision, the double-coding of parody must be understood in the larger context of a variable process that entangles two or more texts, what Gerard Genette in Palimpsests: Literature in the Second Degree calls "hypertextuality": "any relationship uniting a text B ... to an earlier text A," calling texts B and A the hypertext and hypotext, respectively (5). Genette's metaphor of a palimpsest suggests how something of the older text can be discerned by looking through (as it were) the new text. (3)
This palimpsest effect might also describe T. S. Eliot's famous use of myth, a comparative method employed in order to repurpose traditional myth (Manganaro 1, 69) or to establish new meanings with a strategy of counterpoint (Weinstein 345). In this version of hypertextuality, earlier narratives function as a substrate that allows for the creation of new narratives the poetics of which depend upon the older narratives to some degree: imitation without transformation in Genette's terms (7). Within the scheme of Eliot's mythic method, the older narrative serves as source and model for the new text. Like the metaphor of a palimpsest, the mythic method implies a process of layering. In Genette's terms, hypertextuality presents textual entanglement as iterative, as retelling. So too Eliot's mythic method. Parody, however, features a specific version of hypertextuality, one in which the preexisting hypotext functions not as model nor even as source so much as raw material. Parody therefore stands out from any recapitulating cousin as an iteration that offers the possibility but not the necessity of creating a comic dimension within the palimpsest entanglement. Parody's imitative hypertext has the potential to laughably deform its hypotext. Irony rhetorically creates parody's insistence on difference, providing the means for the reader to recognize the parody and decode it.
In Genette's recitation of its ancient sources, parody apparently originates as a reworking of rhapsody, a relationship that may or may not have an intended comic effect (Genette 15). The claim that parody does not necessarily imply comic ridicule anchors theory about its process. The Greek word parodia translates as "counter-song," with para meaning "near" as well as "counter" (Hutcheon 32; Rose, Parody: Ancient 48). Margaret Rose demonstrates how the sense of opposition has dominated discussion of and theorizing about parody as a literary form, but both Rose and Linda Hutcheon use the alternative meaning, nearness, first to underscore the mimetic aspect of parody and the incorporation of a target text into its presentation. In addition, the alternative sense of "near" authorizes a de-emphasis on ridicule and mockery. Parody is "a form of imitation, but imitation characterized by ironic inversion, not always at the expense of the parodied text" in Hutcheon's words (6). For Rose, "parodies may be both critical of and sympathetic to their 'targets'" (Parody: Ancient 47). (4)
In addition to de-emphasizing ridicule in parody, Rose underscores the way in which the "structure of parody [has] its own particular and often comic 'double-coding' of one text with another [which] enables[s] it to create something new from its destruction of old forms" (Parody: Ancient 117). Hutcheon refers to this doubling structure when she claims that parody enacts "an integrated structural modeling process of revising, replaying, inverting, and 'transcontextualizing' previous works of art" (11). The concepts of trans-contextualizing and double-coding echo Genette's hypertextuality and encompass T. S. Eliot's mythic method. Crucially for my argument, the mimesis of parody, its iterative nature, is not necessarily about mocking disparagement. Moreover, this process of double-coding fits snugly into modernism's characteristic selfreflexivity. For Rose, parody functions as symptom of and tool for a modernist episteme (Parody//Metafiction 128-57), while Hutcheon claims parody as "one of the major forms of modern self-reflexivity" (2).
Faulkner clearly draws upon the poetics of the modernist mythic method, with its structure of iteration. Richard Adams states with certainty that Faulkner read Eliot's review of James Joyce's Ulysses, in which he first broaches the concept of a mythic method, and that Faulkner consciously employed it throughout his oeuvre (58-59). Taylor Hagood provides a good summation of how important myth, mythic method, and thus iteration as retelling are for reading Faulkner:
myth has been a mainstay of Faulkner criticism, with critics' understandings of myth in Faulkner's work generally taking two forms. One focuses on the mythology of the South both as appropriated and as generated by Faulkner.... The second ... focuses on the role ancient myth plays in informing Faulkner's narratives.... Faulkner's use of Hebraic, Greek, Roman, and other narratives to articulate his own themes has been shown again and again and has been viewed in the context of the 'mythic method' of other modernists, such as Joyce and Eliot (12-13). (5)
While my analysis acknowledges the second form as the larger frame for Faulkner's hypertextuality illustrated as a palimpsest, my attention in particular falls upon "Nature" as hypotext. Faulkner's stories about Ike McCaslin in Go Down, Moses and the story of Ike Snopes and the cow in The Hamlet retell the American sublime pastoral, a myth or cultural narrative available in a matrix of representations concerning the relationship of the individual to the natural world, in particular to frontier spaces and virgin wilderness. Commensurate with his habit of employing the mythic method, Faulkner in As I Lay Dying again repurposes the myth of the sublime pastoral, which is implied in Emerson's presentation of transcendental vision during his stroll in the woods. (6)
Hypertextuality provides a way to grasp Faulkner's strategy of tapping into American as well as European versions of pastoral as a strand woven into his saga of a fictional county in Mississippi. The specific double-coding of parody enables Faulkner's repurposing of the sublime pastoral of American transcendentalism in ways that appear both laughable and tragic, as though the optimism implied in Emerson's visionary moment could neither be simply ridiculed nor accepted. Rather, Faulkner's saga necessarily allows for a range of emotional outcomes, apparently proving the wisdom of M. Thomas Inge's observation: "In explaining the comic side of William Faulkner's fiction, it soon becomes apparent how indivisible it is from the tragic side and how the two are almost inextricably intertwined" ("William Faulkner" 135). In the resulting intricate palimpsest of stories, Ike McCaslin can be read as the modernist approximation to Emerson's transcendental man, while Faulkner's retelling of sublime pastoralism in As I Lay Dying denies even the momentary oneness with nature that Ike McCaslin experiences, a counter-song that darkens from the outset. Ike McCaslin parodies Emerson's transcendental man without mockery, in a tragic key, while Ike Snopes embodies the most derisive version in Faulkner's retellings, the comic inversion of that figure. The two Ikes represent a stark contrast in mood: McCaslin closest to a figure from classical tragedy, Snopes a figure from a satyr play. Anse and Darl Bundren offer a different kind of pairing. Within the double-coding of parody, they represent something almost comic intertwined with something nearly tragic, as though their faces might illustrate a modernist reiteration of the classical masks of comedy and tragedy. Just as Faulkner in his retellings employs yet revises the sublime pastoralism embedded in Emerson's transcendental vision of the natural world--critiques yet sympathizes in Rose's terms--he refuses the neat classical definitions of comedy and tragedy yet invokes them too. Especially in As I Lay Dying, he imitates yet deforms the hypotext, "Nature." This doubled move underscores Faulkner's storytelling process, necessarily revising and rewriting as he makes legible the literary depth of his fictional world.
THE TALE OF TWO IKES
Parody as heuristic suggests the complex nature of Faulkner's retellings of American transcendentalism's sublime pastoral, but what I will call Faulkner's tale of two Ikes presents hypertextuality at another level, entangling other stories that imagine a relationship with the natural world, one told by the Roman poet, Ovid, and then retold by the French poet, Stephane Mallarme. The tale of the two Ikes yields a particularly rich example of mythic method, demonstrating how Faulkner deploys a parodic process within his Yoknapatawpha saga. To use Hutcheon's term, the story of Ike Snopes and the cow in The Hamlet transcontextualizes pastoral romance, Arcadian shepherds, Shakespeare's Arden forest in general and, in its original form as "Afternoon of a Cow," Mallarmes "L'Apres Midi d'un Faune" in particular. (7) Michel Gressett calls the story of Ike Snopes a "perverse parody of a pastoral idyll" (qtd. in Honnighausen 254). Fair enough. However, to understand the way in which Faulkner's use of parody operates, we need to grasp that the perversion has already been baked into the hypotext being parodied, Ovid's retelling in Metamorphoses of the ur-story of Jupiter's rape of the nymph Io, upon which Mallarme based his own poetic version. Though Faulkner radically revised "Afternoon of a Cow" for the novel, thus adding yet another layer to his palimpsest parody, the Ike Snopes iteration retains a key feature of Ovid's as well as Mallarme's poem by referring to Ike's "pointed faun's ears" (H 95) when he first appears in the narrative. The detail clearly highlights Faulkner's strategic employment of ancient myth in his presentation of Frenchman's Bend. The narrative also explicitly links Eula to "old Dionysic times" when she is introduced, complete with a "hard rapacious trampling goat-hoof" (H 105). Gail Mortimer says that "Faulkner's imagination in this novel [The Hamlet] seems very like that of Ovid in his Metamorphoses, where people are regularly transformed into animals or plants" (54), an observation reinforced by William Mistichelli when he claims that the "narrator's portrayal of animals associates their condition with that of the characters in the novel in a way that suggests the presence of an extraordinary union" (19). Mortimer notes the bovine quality of Eula before commenting on Faulkner's allusion to Juno, the Roman goddess of women and marriage, in the story of Ike and the cow. Mortimer says that the allusion recalls the story of Io, who was turned into a cow by Jupiter after raping her in order to disguise her and confuse his wife Juno (56-57). (8)
Mallarme's retelling of Ovid, which already focuses on a story within the story (Mercury recounting how Pan invented the reed-pipe after failing to ravish yet another nymph, Syrinx) (9), authorizes the untrammeled sexual desire that Ike as faun represents. However, in keeping with Hutcheon's insistence that a modernist predilection for parody does not necessarily disparage, Faulkner's faun, not unlike Mallarme's or the speaker in his own version of "L'Apres Midi d'un Faune," can be read as more than merely grotesque and perverse. Mortimer's analysis of Ike's bestial love suggests the double-coding that structures parody's process of revising in order to repurpose: its grotesquery mounts a critique of the ways in which men in the novel treat women, that is, Ike is both a figure of ridicule and the vehicle of a serious comment on masculine consciousness (56-58). Lothar Honnighausen understands the story similarly, saying that the ironic tension of the story mediates an "epiphany of the divine and its mundane, grotesque, and even sordid circumstances," while claiming even more than Mortimer: the story could be read as a "redemptive" myth, with Ike as the only true lover in the novel (254, 253). Although Ike Snopes in this parodic pastoral is a symbolic faun, a mythical half-animal traditionally associated with sexual desire and possessed of a "hard rapacious trampling goathoof," he is anything but hard or rapacious or trampling in his treatment of the cow. The comic potential of parodically repurposing classical myth clearly shows in Faulkner's retelling of Io transformed to a cow, which, in its crazy allegorical logic, equates Ike with Jupiter. (10)
Ike's bestiality presents a grotesque violation of fundamental categories, ignoring the difference between people and animals. That grotesque violation, however, dramatizes exactly what the half-man, half-animal faun embodies. Honnighausen asserts that the grotesque in The Hamlet is Faulkner's way of combining myth with reality (258), and while that observation brings us back to the concept of a mythic method, I would add that the parodic use of Ovid and Mallarme underscores the iterative structure enabling the grotesquerie. Honnighausen displaces the double-coding of parody to the level of metaphoric language in Faulkner, teasing out the strand of realist and naturalist rhetoric from the strand of "symbolic elevation" (260) that Faulkner braids together. Perhaps the analogy for the grotesque effect should be from painting: a cubist presentation of dissimilar tonalities derived from the mythic and the mundane.
Faulkner's parody offers as serious what it employs as radical difference. The tale of Ike Snopes and the cow does not insist that the reader take the pastoral world evoked by the story of Io in Ovid's Metamorphoses (or other relevant retellings, his own "LApres Midi d'un Faune" or Mallarme's) as possible in the modern world; rather, the parodic presentation invokes classical pastoral mostly as a glimpse of what was, contributing to Faulkner's recurring theme of the decline and decay of Southern culture. The dawn and the sunset still accomplish, but mankind's relationship to the natural world has been deranged, even perverted. Faulkner provides a wonderfully lyrical description of a day dawning, but only as background to the absurdity of Ike's affection for Houston's cow. The fecund earth still exists, and Faulkner's spendthrift lyricism, like the proliferation of untended Nature itself, provides a counterweight to the absurdity and grotesquerie of Ike's care of the cow. (11)
Ike Snopes embodying a parody of classical pastoral also mimics yet revises the story of Ike McCaslin, who has a special place in William Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha stories because he represents the closest a modern individual might come to an unmediated relationship with the natural world. Sam Fathers's heritage invokes a Native American version of such a relationship, while Ike's maturation into an extraordinary woodsman evokes Daniel Boone. But Ike McCaslin's initial sighting of Old Ben demands more than woodcraft, indigenous or otherwise: it cannot take place until he symbolically merges his self with the wilderness by shedding watch and compass as well as gun. To find the legendary bear, Ike must give himself over to the wilderness, must dissolve his ego and be the wilderness too, just as Old Ben is. When Sam tells Ike that he has not been able to find Old Ben because "You aint looked right yet" (GDM 195), his admonition implies attitude as well as woodcraft. Grasping a proper sense of what wilderness is and therefore enacting a sublime return to the natural world entails not just careful looking (perception) but also profound understanding (conception). Looking correctly--having the necessary vision--implies metaphysics as well as optics.
As Irving Blum (23) and Susan Donaldson point out (39), Ike McCaslin's moment of felt unity with the natural world can be usefully compared to Ralph Waldo Emerson's transcendent moment in his essay "Nature" during an imagined walk in the woods. Sam Fathers's idea of looking correctly in order to recover an unmediated relationship with nature suggests the same underlying method: "inward and outward senses are ... truly adjusted to each other," are meshed in order to apprehend the unity of all forms of life and thus transcend the individual self: "all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye-ball. I am nothing. I see all. The currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God" (9, 10). When Ike McCaslin looks correctly, he too transcends his own self to make a spiritual connection with the wilderness, intuiting the immortality of nature.
Donaldson places Ike's vision of Old Ben into an Emersonian moment of transcendent unity only as prelude to an arrival at its loss, a trajectory traced by many subsequent analyses. Thus John Lydenberg calls the story "a ritual demonstration of the eternal struggle between Man and Nature" in which Ike as a boy has "the requisite purity," yet the hunters' conquest of Old Ben "becomes a rape" because Southerners not only bought and sold land but bought and sold slaves, a history the mature Ike cannot fully escape (65, 70, 64). Bart Welling has Faulkner allowing for sublime transcendence at the beginning of the McCaslin saga too, but then demonstrating its demise (48689) before concluding that Ike's encounter with Old Ben makes him, at best, a "potential ... voice for the wilderness as well as the limits of his vision" (496). Lawrence Buell refers to Ike's "romantic primordialism" and then claims that Ike could not "maintain his dream of extricating himself from economic entanglements" (9, 10). David H. Evans says that Ike sees the natural world as "the place of the truth, the position from which it is possible to pierce illusion to the vision of the way things really are" (180), yet no place exists outside culture where that truth can reside: even the hunting camp is socially hierarchical. Blanche Gelfant makes explicit what Evans implies, reading transcendence via the natural world as a Romantic aesthetic distilled by the reference to John Keats's poem, "Ode on a Grecian Urn." Ike represents a way of seeing "beneath the changing sensible appearances in life a permanent reality" (4647) before he is "caught up in the contaminations of time and change which transform him and his world, despite his desperate denials" (65). (12)
These examples of how past scholarship emphasizes the transitory nature of Ike's transcendent vision do not surprise, for modernity displays a concern with the present and implies, in Matei Calinescu's words, a "temporal relativism" that contains a "negation of aesthetic transcendence and of the ideal of permanence"; modernity is thus "rendered possible by the consciousness of an irreversible time," a consciousness that the mythic method challenges (7, 8, 6768). The significance of Ike's sense of spiritual oneness with the natural world as embodied by Old Ben comes not from that timeless unity itself, but rather from understanding its contrast to the mundane and clock-bound world. The alienation of Ike during his adult life from that mundane world, best exemplified by his failed marriage, results from his quixotic effort to live that vision every day. Ike's failure emblemizes the clash of an aesthetic modernity that privileges "subjective and imaginative duree" against the bourgeois modernity of a measurable time, "a time that can be bought and sold and therefore has, like any other commodity, a calculable equivalent in money" (Calinescu 5, 41).
Though acknowledging the truth of Ike's trajectory from blissful unity to painful alienation, I want to linger on his first sighting of Old Ben as a representation of transcendent unity with the natural world, an encounter apparently conjured by Ike's willingness to lose himself in the big woods. Ike's surrender to Nature as Other registers as a necessary gesture of sublime humility, one that can be read as a modernist iteration of Emerson's extravagant image in which one achieves transcendental vision with the disappearance of self and a merging into Being.13 As presented in "The Old People" and "The Bear," wilderness becomes Faulkner's vehicle for echoing an Emersonian sense of psychological oneness with the phenomenal world, a transcendence beyond the existence and death of an individual that Emerson suggests with his phrase, "In the woods, is perpetual youth" (10). In these stories, Ike McCaslin intuits in wilderness, if not perpetual youth, then something profoundly beyond civilization, something in the untamed quality of Old Ben and Lion that he also senses in Sam Fathers (GDM 183). The blooding ceremony after Ike kills his first buck ritually enacts this metaphysical unity; it "marked him forever one with the wilderness which had accepted him" (GDM 171).
However, the ceremony only outwardly confirms what had already become part of Ike's spiritual landscape: "It seemed to him that he could see them, the two of them, shadowy in the limbo from which time emerged and became time: the old bear absolved of mortality and himself who shared a little of it" (GDM 195). Ike's second sight, his vision of himself and Old Ben, reiterates the ecstatic apprehension of immortality implied in Emerson's image of a transparent eye-ball. Notably, this envisioning of oneness with Old Ben not only precedes the blooding ceremony, but it also follows upon Ike's first encounter with the bear, in which there was no sighting: "He only heard the drumming of the woodpecker stop short off, and knew that the bear was looking at him. He never saw it" (194). Sam tells Ike that the bear "done the looking" this time (195). The fearful realization that the wilderness has been watching him instead of his alertness finding prey triggers Ike's sublime vision of himself and Old Ben as creatures out of time, foretelling his actual later sighting of the bear. In that second and thus reiterated encounter, when Ike finally sees the bear, Faulkner's description of Old Ben renders Ike's vision both empirical and hallucinatory, for the bear is "not as big as he had dreamed it but as big as he had expected, bigger, dimensionless against the dappled obscurity, looking at him" (200). Looking correctly and fully seeing Old Ben entails the fearful apprehension--the visionary realization--of the actual bear as the embodiment of the wilderness. In that moment of looking correctly, Ike attains the sublime primal vision implied in Emerson's metaphor.
Though Donaldson acknowledges the primal nature of Ike's vision by linking it with Emerson's transparent eye-ball, her emphasis on the necessarily transitory nature of a supremely transcendent harmony with nature, repeated in other analyses, obscures the significance within the Yoknapatawpha saga of Ike McCaslin as Faulkner's replay of the Emersonian man. Faulkner presents Ike's mythic moment of heroic, out-of-time optimism via the doubled structure of parody. Ike's vision parodies Emerson's vision, not with mocking ridicule but rather as an acknowledgment yet a questioning of the power of its transcendental metaphysics. Faulkner acknowledges the power of Emerson's vision by having it reenacted via a Mississippi youth, yet displays its transitory nature and the tragic foolishness of Ike trying to make that one transcendent moment a way of life, a spiritualizing ethic that alienates him from his wife and family. That doubled structure captures exactly what scholarship has traced in its various ways, but without acknowledging its parodic quality.
Moreover, the iterative structure of parody, its mimesis that revises, operates within the Yoknapatawpha saga: Ike Snopes grotesquely parodies Ike McCaslin. (14) The former dramatizes a comically repugnant oneness with nature via his physical relationship with a cow, while the latter dramatizes a transcendent unity with nature via his symbolic relationship to a bear. Ike Snopes as idiot faun represents a person too close to nature in its pure physicality, a body without mind. Ike McCaslin represents a person imaginatively close to nature in a poetic and philosophical sense, possessed not so much of a mind very nearly without body, but of a sensibility untethered to the material world that produces a consciousness ready to abjure his inheritance of the family fortune.
Darl Bundren's Second Sight
Ike McCaslin's parody of Emerson, then, echoes via its own parodic double within the Yoknapatawpha saga, one Ike comically inverting the other. Faulkner's complicated retelling of Emerson's ecstatic unity with nature, however, also includes a terribly tragic iteration of that story in the figure of Darl Bundren. In effect, the story of the two Ikes as well as the story of Darl playfully mimic the transcendental harmony claimed by Emerson's ecstatic moment in the woods. That moment features sublime wonder and joy, implying the European pastoral mode has shifted to the new world, a shift symbolized by the American big woods. Each story's retelling parodies the transcendental metaphysic in different ways. The story of Ike McCaslin suggests the heroic quality of Emerson's vision but without his optimism, though Ike endures, demonstrating Rose and Hutcheon's claim that parody can operate without comic ridicule. The wanderings of Ike Snopes with a cow provide a grotesque pastoral that clearly invites ridiculing laughter, suggesting not a sublime loss of Self-in-Being but a repugnant metamorphosis from human to animal. The terrible quality of Darl as tragic iteration--he is bereft even of Ike's one sublime moment with Old Ben.
Within the saga of Yoknapatawpha, Darl Bundren's quest--not to bury Addie, for that names the goal of the rest of the Bundren family, but to understand and cope with her death--parodically evokes the vision of Ike McCaslin and, via the logic of the palimpsest metaphor, of Emerson in the woods. As I Lay Dying parodies transcendent optics, vision in both senses, as well as Emerson's claim of becoming part and particle of divinity, by obscuring the metaphysics of the one sublime spiritual moment of transcendence with repeated images of physical metamorphoses. Within that dynamic, the intrusive yet solipsistic nature of Darl Bundren's second sight parodies Ike McCaslin's vision of Old Ben's deeper meaning, in effect commenting on Ike's potential as heir to Emerson's transcendent man, with his transparent and all-seeing eyeball. Darl's vision does not represent an ecstatic, sublime unity but rather signals a fearful obsession, first with the dissolution of self implied by Emersonian transcendentalism, and second with the psychological separation implied by individual identities made visible by physical bodies. Darl's vision results not in joyous communion with Being via the natural world, but instead finds horror in its inability to discover the emotional way across from Self to an Other, especially to his mother Addie, an inability that paradoxically dissolves his sense of self. Unlike Walt Whitman's speaker in "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry," who celebrates a link to the reader as an Other despite spatial and temporal limits, Darl cannot find a vehicle for a crossing, either metaphysical or psychological; he cannot find the ford within himself to cross the river of time and navigate the currents of Universal Being, nor can he find the means to connect sympathetically with the members of his family. Neither Whitman's urban scene, nor Emerson's woods, nor even Ike McCaslin's wilderness provides an option.
In Emerson's vision, looking correctly at the natural world triggers a sense of transcendence to the metaphysical unity of Being, a connection Ike McCaslin experiences through his vision of Old Ben. In contrast, felt connections to the natural world in As I Lay Dying result in a degradation of people to the merely material. The sense of unity--a sublimity of oneness with other forms of life--becomes instead a nightmare of dissolving boundaries in a world in which any sense of a metaphysical or spiritual dimension feels thwarted, a deflection or blockage dramatized by those characters in the novel who talk most about God: Cora Tull and the Reverend Whitfield as well as Anse. Their rhetoric of the spirit parodies that of Emerson, so that the metamorphosis of self entailed in a transcendental apprehension of the natural world becomes a blinkered, self-righteous display of personal religiosity. Faulkner in As I Lay Dying constructs a modernist repurposing of the sublime pastoralism implicit in American transcendentalism by parodically perverting its claim for the profound unity of mankind and nature. This parody of transcendental unity undergirds Faulkner's narrative of the Bundrens and their absurd quest, a naturalistic presentation of physical metamorphoses run amok that critiques transcendentalism yet cannot completely deny its conceptual power.
In As I Lay Dying, Faulkner's parody again targets the idea of a harmony with nature, either pastorally serene or transcendentally sublime, but in a different way. The parody resonates grotesquely and perversely to be sure, but the Bundrens' quest to bury Addie also emphasizes a philosophical and poetic musing about existence represented elsewhere in the Yoknapatawpha saga by Ike McCaslin, Faulkner's untutored heir to or vestige of Emerson. As Ike Snopes and the cow represent a degenerate version of Arcadian shepherds and their flocks, Darl and his second sight represent a distorted version of Emerson's allseeing eyeball and Ike McCaslin's vision of Old Ben. For Emerson, the vision of a Transcendentalist harmony of man and nature, of all Being linked together, is perfectly clear--is transparent. However, for Darl, the optics of harmony are blurry and its metaphysics unsure. Moreover, the narrative reveals that blur and uncertainty to encompass others besides Darl, given two key moments involving Dewey Dell and Vardaman. Thus Faulkner employs the double-coding of parody to evoke a golden age that once was but is now no longer possible, in this case the antebellum optimism of Emerson. Even the experience of Ike McCaslin with Old Ben registers as an impossible nostalgia. The parodic relationship recalls a harmony of being that ought to be but is not, the philosophical equivalent of the family harmony that Anse repeatedly insists should be the rule for the Bundrens, but instead appears as their mere public display, veiling antipathy toward Darl.
The mimetic nature of parody, its structure modeling a process of iteration, allows Faulkner to evoke yet question transcendentalism, creating a selfconscious awareness of possibility and loss. Thus Faulkner does not imply that the more naturalistic relationship of humans and nature shown in As I Lay Dying rings truer than a transcendental harmony; he criticizes both aspects of the doubled code he deploys. Taking seriously the parody he employs as a radical difference informs Faulkner's repurposing of transcendentalism just as it did his use of classical myth in The Hamlet. As I Lay Dying enacts both an homage to and a thumbed nose at "Nature"; the narrative can be read as an extended modernist inversion or perversion of Emersonian metaphysics, not one necessarily treating that metaphysic as a comic butt to be ridiculed, but rather as an ideological and poetic force now spent and not recoverable.
THE "OCCULT RELATION BETWEEN MAN AND VEGETABLE"
The tale of the two Ikes demonstrates how Faulkner employs parody to deride a claim of ontological unity with the degraded figure of Ike Snopes as a mocking copy of Ike McCaslin. Faulkner's use of parody in As I Lay Dying does not necessarily signify such a clear ridicule of transcendental philosophy. The Bundrens are only figuratively bestial, not literally, as is Ike Snopes. Nevertheless, the myriad comparisons of the Bundrens to animals as well as objects invite ridicule through a basic degrading from human to less-than-human status. With incessant metaphors and similes, Faulkner parodies and thus destabilizes any understanding of the Bundrens as human beings.
As I Lay Dying presents a world in constant motion. Entities flow into other entities, apparently reduplicating the transcendental intuition that all forms of life are but transformations of each other. However, unlike transcendental metamorphosis, the world in As I Lay Dying does not culminate in a spiritual apprehension of Ultimate Being. Instead, the narrative focuses upon the earth and its constituent parts--animals, people, objects--in ways that assert not a movement from lower to higher forms but rather an ebb and flow among those three categories. People resemble animals and objects, and animals and objects are figured as people, yet these metamorphoses offer no Emersonian celebration of a propagation of influences that symbolizes ontological unity. Rather, the narrative presents a profound anxiety about identity. The fact of Addie's death leads to a questioning of life; to understand the non-being that is death is to ask, what is life, what is Being?
The presentation of metamorphosis that runs through the story, then, can be read not only as a distant hypertextual echo of Ovid's tales, but also as a proximate parody of Emerson's cheery and confidant transcendentalism. The ubiquity of figurative metamorphoses indicates how "Nature" can be discerned much more clearly as hypotext for As I Lay Dying than The Hamlet or Go Down, Moses. As I Lay Dying at every turn inverts Emerson's positive reading of the flux of all things, a parody underscoring a grotesque quality in which the boundaries between people and animals, people and objects, are far too permeable. Like gargoyles and fauns, people seem only partly human, and that hybrid quality registers as both monstrous and comic. Emerson proclaims an "occult relation between man and the vegetable" (10), but he makes this assertion to affirm the oneness of humanity and the natural world. As I Lay Dying also unveils that occult relation, but in terms that are grotesquely parodic of the transcendental ascent to a metaphysic of affirmation. (15) For example, animals are frequently spoken of as though they were people. The fish that Vardaman catches hides in the dust as if it were "ashamed of being dead" (AILD 31). When Darl sees the drowning mules, one of them makes "a sound almost human" (149), and when Jewel's horse comes out of the river with Cash hanging on, Tull reports that it moaned and groaned "like a natural man" (155).
Faulkner repeatedly reverses any upward trajectory from animals to people by representing the Bundrens with animal imagery. Dewey Dell is a "wild cat" (AILD 237). Jewel is a bull dog and a "race horse" (235, 218). Vardaman looks like a "drownded puppy" or an owl (69, 70). The new Mrs Bundren is "duckshaped" (260). Faulkner uses metamorphosis from people to animals to represent Anse much more often than any other character. Thus he is, by turns, an "uncurried horse" (123), a "dipped rooster" (44), an owl (49), an "old tall bird" (161), with a hand like a claw (52). He is an old dog (17) or has a "hangdog look" (260), with eyes like hounds (171). Anse is also figured as a steer multiple times (61, 72, 161). The emphasis on Anse suggests his particular status in the comically grotesque economy of the narrative, a point to which I will return later. Both Jewel and Dewey Dell think of the Tulls as buzzards, hovering about and waiting for Addie to die (15, 28). The buzzards return the compliment, for one is described as looking like "a old bald headed man" (119). That figurative sliding back and forth between people and animals suggests Uncle Billy's joke about people in general: "a man aint so different from a horse or a mule, come long come short, except a mule or a horse has got a little more sense" (185).
Faulkner does not rest content with degrading the Bundrens by figuring them simply as animals; they are rendered as inanimate objects too. Addie's hands are like "roots dug up" (15). Her face is made of bronze, while Jewel's face is a rock and Cash's like blotting paper (51, 191, 240). Dewey Dell's bare leg is a "lever which moves the world" (104). To Darl's artistic eye, Jewel looks like a "figure cut from tin", or Jewel and Gillespie become "two figures in a Greek frieze" (221). Darl twice describes Jewel as though he is an art object, carved, once with his horse: "two figures carved for a tableau savage in the sun" (231, 12). Darl also presents Anse as a carved art object, but in those instances Faulkner puts a stress on the comic possibility of his parodic metamorphoses, once again marking Anse as a particular example of the laughable: "upon a face carved by a savage caricaturist a monstrous burlesque of all bereavement flowed" (78); "a figure carved clumsily from tough wood by a drunken caricaturist" (163). (16)
Faulkner's degrading presentation of the Bundrens as inanimate objects at times has the feeling of a general law about humanity, when Darl imagines people as dolls with sawdust running out of them because they are damaged and Tull thinks of the human brain as a machine (207, 71). Such analogies deny the hierarchy implicit in transcendental vision. This mixture of the animate and the inanimate worlds can be as simple as Cash's saw, which is said to snore and to be asleep, or is called competent (46, 50, 66); or it can be more complex, as when a path is said to resemble a crooked limb (42). The log that tips over the wagon swims past like a man, is said to have a beard like a man, and surges upright "like Christ" (153, 148).The planks that Cash saws for the coffin bleed, and Addie's coffin slumbers, waiting to awaken (65, 80). (17)
The emphasis that Faulkner puts on vision throughout the narrative mocks metaphysics by stressing optics, dividing what must be unified in "The Old People" and "The Bear." He marks the basic importance of sensory vision within the previous catalog of metaphors and similes that renders people as objects by making eyes an especially prominent category. Addie's eyes are like "candles" (8), oil lamps (45), "flames" (48), or "the stream from a hose" (44), Anse's "like pieces of burnt-out cinder" (32). Images for Jewel's eyes are numerous and emphasize his emotional distance from his family: they are like marbles (101) or wooden (18), "bone-white" (187), "bleached chips" (145), "pieces of broken plate" (126), or "like spots of white paper pasted on a high small football" (213). Dewey Dell's eyes are pistols (115).
As the possessor of second sight in the narrative, Darl has a special status within these representations of eyes. His are "full of the land" or, alternatively, the "land runs out of [his] eyes" (27, 121). Darl's eyes are always full of the land--and full of the distance beyond them. For Emerson, "the health of the eye demands a horizon" (13). When Darl looks to the horizon, however, he sees the implacable and violent quality of the land. Not health, but rather a sense of doom haunts his vision--"It takes two people to make you, and one people to die" (39)--a thought about the beginning and end of life reiterated in the image of the sun as "a bloody egg" (40). The farmers complain of the rain that ruins their crops, and Darl as well as Tull intuit a hellish, apocalyptic quality to the flooding river. Darl's conceptual vision can also convey sarcasm, capable of a sardonic swipe at Mother Earth when he says that Dewey Dell's breasts are "mammalian ludicrosities which are the horizons and the valleys of the earth" (164).
This litany of naturalistic imagery suggests a naturalistic conclusion: that all living things are of the earth, spring from the earth, as when Anse thinks of man as "a tree or a stand of corn," or Addie's dead face resembles a dead leaf, or Dewey Dell imagines herself as a "wet seed" (36, 50, 64). Peabody's comment about the land makes explicit this insistence on the earth as an ultimate source of life: people are created in the land's image (45). Death at one level means being cut off from the land, implied in the image of Addie's hands as roots that have been "dug up" (15). Debris in the swollen river is "rootless, severed from the earth, spectral" (142). The dead mules register as dead because they "lost contact with the earth" (149). Darl reports this image to us. Like Addie, whose children are of the "dark, voiceless land," Darl too understands the autochthonous connection the common folk have to the earth. (18)
If the conclusion drawn from these examples declares a vital connection to the earth, that thought would not be out of place in Emerson's vision: the sense of the ontological unity in nature, a unity that includes mankind, marks the ultimate transcendental moment. However, these images from As I Lay Dying insist on the materiality of that connection. They do not operate as ministers for or vehicles of spiritual ascent, like Whitman's ferry; rather, they obsessively keep attention on the body as material object, like so many signs with Addie's corpse as the sole referent. When one lifts his or her eyes to the heavens, one sees buzzards, not Whitman's honking geese. The hypocrisy of Reverend Whitfield and the self-righteousness of Cora aids and abets this deep-seated denial of spirituality in the narrative's parodic metamorphoses; their talk of religion evokes Addie's critique of language itself, empty forms without meaning. (19)
The river and water in general focus the dynamics of grim metamorphosis, of an everlasting change presented as transgression of settled boundaries, dramatized when Darl notes the rain turning into "a runnel of yellow neither water nor earth [that] swirls, curving with the yellow road neither of earth nor water, down the hill dissolving into a streaming mass of dark green neither of earth nor sky ' (AILD 49). The transforming of animals to people, people to animals, objects to people, et cetera, when taken as a whole, implies not just that existence always flows, like the river itself, but that people perceive the flow as frightening. As I Lay Dying thus characterizes existence as terrifying flux, casting a very dark shadow across Emerson's comment that serves this essay as epigraph, in effect inverting his optimistic reading of a river in a meditative hour. In the Bundrens' world, to be necessitates to be in motion. Darl speaks of the "myriad original motion" (163-64), implying that individuality forms out of it--one coagulates like a clot that stems a flowing of blood (163).
Because everything--people, animals, objects--only appear whole within a moment, are only an apparent clot in the flow of time, they are always fading or in danger of dissolving, as dramatized by Vardaman's experience with Jewel's horse just after Addie dies:
It is as though the dark were resolving him out of his integrity, into an unrelated scattering of components--snuffings and stampings; smells of cooling flesh and ammoniac hair; an illusion of a coordinated whole.... I see him dissolve--legs, a rolling eye, a gaudy splotching like cold flames--and float upon the dark in fading solution. (56-57)
Vardaman apprehends Jewel's horse as both there and not there in the darkness, heard and smelled more than seen. Faulkner presents Vardaman's psychic confusion about and denial of Addie's death as an inability to resolve sensory details into coherence and realize the integrity of an individual creature. Dewey Dell's nightmare finds its source in the same possibility of psychic disintegration:
I had a nightmare once I thought I was awake but I couldn't see and couldn't feel I couldn't feel the bed under me and I couldn't think what I was I couldn't think of my name I couldn't even think I am a girl I couldn't even think I nor even think I want to wake up nor remember what was opposite to awake so I could do that I knew that something was passing but I couldn't even think of time. (121)
These moments of crisis in the novel intimate the ultimate metamorphosis into a psychic void that functions as the conceptual antithesis of Universal Being, what Darl sees in a bucket of water at night--"the still surface of the water a round orifice in nothingness" (11)--death or madness as terminus. That instant of looking parodies Ike McCaslin's visionary apprehension of Old Ben and thus the trope of a transparent eye-ball. (20)
Because everlasting change is the rule and the mind's apprehension of coherence remains tentative, suggesting enfeebled vision, any thing can be rendered as a shape in the flow, but Faulkner emphasizes absence, like the negative space of a sculpture: the memory of singing, the memory of a smell, a mouth shaping a name that is not heard, a wagon implying the shape of an event already past but remembered because of it (72, 118, 222, 157). Addie thinks of her former virgin self as a blank shape in time's flow, a blank literally represented on the page by a blank (173). Shapes become absences, that inversion ironically denying the transcendental process of one form becoming another in an upward spiral toward spiritual insight.
Stasis, the absence of motion, never really exists. Instead, Faulkner presents only arrested movement, full of tension and implying both the movement that has just stopped as well as the movement that will begin again in a moment, a "rigid terrific hiatus" (12). Even when Faulkner presents a character as a painting, or statue, or frieze, he implies "dynamic immobility" (76). The buzzards thus seem motionless (104), still as if "nailed" to the sky (122), or even, as they "hang in soaring circles, the clouds giving them an illusion of retrograde" (95). The smoke when the Bundrens reach Jefferson is "seemingly unmoving" (226). The log that knocks over the wagon surges upright "for an instant," and the wagon when struck hangs, balancing for what seems to Tull like "a long time," before it topples (148, 153). Unlike the paradigmatic transcendental moment of vision that gathers everything into itself, these moments appear first as though carved from time and isolated in the narrative, then suddenly and irrevocably lost, as, for example, when the entire floor of the loft in the burning barn "dissolve[s]" into fire in an instant (220).
Faulkner imagines the world of As I Lay Dying as a flow of moments, the connections among which are not apparent, a condition that balks discovery of the means for transcending into an Emersonian understanding of the Universal Being. In this continuously moving world, the currents of Universal Being do not flow through an individual. Rather, they inundate apprehension, and identity becomes unstable. If everything threatens to dissolve back into the myriad original motion--the black void Dewey Dell dreams about and Darl sees in a bucket of water--then the sense of "I am," the sense of being a stable individual connected emotionally but physically separate from all other things, animate and inanimate, becomes tenuous. Here we come to a specific irony, however, for as the temperaments of Cash and Jewel--being men of action--suggest, the unproblematic identity comes easiest for those who unconsciously commit themselves to the motion. Identity becomes most problematic for Darl, whose second sight most keenly intuits the myriad original motion and who tries deliberately to stop it because his parodic second sight can only find the myriad, not the unity, in original motion. Immersion in the stream of existence may explain why Cash, Jewel, and, finally, all the others act so forgetfully of Addie once they bury her body in the ground. Immersed in the time-stream as they are, Cash, Jewel, Anse, Dewey Dell, and especially Vardaman do not think about its stopping--do not think about death as Darl does. Desperately trying to understand what can give him a stable sense of identity now that Addie has died, only Darl ruminates about what death must be like. Though Dewey Dell and Vardaman undergo their crises by sensing the myriad and original motion too, Darl's experience as a soldier in the Great War presumably adds terrifying memories to his own existential crisis of identity. He does not merely sense the myriad and original motion; he broods on it. (21)
Occult means hidden from sight, but Darl's second sight apparently penetrates to secret places; even distance and time do not matter, much as with the speaker in "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry." Emerson's transcendent eyeball connects everything, but Darl's second sight parodies that ability when his narratives tell us what happens during scenes at which he is not present. To the extent that his narration is accurate, Darl seems to be a seer, like Emerson and Ike McCaslin, into the deeper recesses of existence. However, the structure of As I Lay Dying, its fragmented telling without a central point of view, undercuts and perhaps mocks that status. Here, most blatantly, Faulkner uses the double-coding of parody to give Darl's account of what he could not see (e.g., Cash making the coffin in the rain at night) an impossible authority.
Morever, Darl's second sight originates in an "animal eye" and not the "more earnest vision" of the "eye of Reason" (Emerson 30). Unlike Emerson's marvelous vision that renders all beings transparent in their ontological unity, Darl's vision operates with a selfish and cruel intrusiveness. Rather than the ultimate sympathy signaling a unity of Being, Darl's intuition about Dewey Dell results in an unsympathetic distance capable of mockery, as when Darl teases his sister about the non-existent cakes she claims she is selling for Cora. Of course, Darl behaves cruelly toward Jewel in particular, deliberately taking him away from Addie's death bed to haul wood, teasing him about Addie dying while they are away, and then teasing him about the buzzards they see upon their return from hauling the wood. Second sight functions as Darl's vehicle for emotional revenge, not as a means to cross over to understand an Other, but instead as something that separates him from his family and spurs others to call him "queer." Understood as a parodic reiteration of Emerson's concept of transcendental vision, Darl's second sight apparently mocks any possibility of ontological oneness. Alternatively, Faulkner uses the double-coding of parody to judge Darl, to imply how profoundly sympathetic and helpful to Dewey Dell he might have been, but is not.
Ironically, Darl has second sight because he appears so detached from everything. Nevertheless, he is, in the end, more affected by Addie's death than the others, apparently unable to think beyond his own grief, becoming mad while his siblings placidly, like apes, munch bananas and view the new Mrs Bundren. Darl exemplifies Peabody's remark about death being a phenomenon of the mind (43-44). Thus, while all the others speak of Addie and treat Addie as though she were not dead, only Darl really needs her to be alive still, her dead face nevertheless listening, her hands still with a "semblance of life," even her coffin awake (50, 51, 180). These details serve as preliminaries to Darl's crazy conversation with Vardaman about listening to Addie speak (214-15); they mark the progression of his madness. (22) As long as he can imagine Addie alive, the possibility exists of Darl reconnecting to her despite her devotion to Jewel, which no doubt has left Darl feeling bereft of his mother's affection. As long as he can imagine Addie alive, Darl might reestablish an emotional link to her to ease his anxiety about her love and thus about his identity, to ease his anxiety about motion and time--his anxiety about the moment when life stops its flow and death suddenly takes over. "If you could just ravel out into time. That would be nice," Darl says (208). The metaphor of unraveling again evokes and parodies the transcendental moment, for in that sublime moment the individual loses ego, ravels ego into Being. However, the world of the Bundrens has nothing nice, that is, nothing carefully proportioned and wonderfully unified. Instead, all within that world manifests an absurdly grotesque and monstrously constant metamorphosis that might cause laughter.
Cause laughter it does, the wild laughter of Darl as he is set upon by Jewel, Dewey Dell, and the police officers, and his laughter as he rides with the officers to Jackson and the state insane asylum. The irony could not be more profound. The burial journey strikes all who witness it as absurd, and only Darl seems to understand. To act contrary to the effort, however, renders Darl insane. Cash's thoughts about who judges what behaviors should be called crazy, about each individual having a crazy side, only compound the absurdity. If reality appears absurd, if one has experienced the madness of trench warfare, where does sanity lie? The image of the Bundrens eating bananas, like apes, can be read as the snapper of the parodic iteration of Emerson's transcendental unity of Being, the comic climax in tall-tale fashion, rendering its American sublime pastoral as well as its hypotext, the classical European pastoral, into an absurd joke retold in part with backwoods vernacular. (23)
LAUGHTER AND COMIC RETELLING
In As I Lay Dying, according to Cleanth Brooks, "Faulkner has daringly mingled the grotesque and the heroic, the comic and the pathetic, pity and terror, creating a complexity of tone that has proved difficult for some readers to cope with" (William Faulkner 141). That difficulty stems from a failure to understand how parody reiterates what it appropriates in order to critique, yet still might acknowledge that power remains in the original. Parody from this angle enables not just a narrative strategy for retellings with a potential comic dimension, but also usefully denotes Faulkner's habit of juxtaposing comic and tragic in cubist fashion, resulting in their "almost inextricably intertwined" quality, to return to the phrasing of M. Thomas Inge.
Following the theorizing of Linda Hutcheon and Margaret Rose in particular, I have been insisting that Faulkner's parody does not necessarily ridicule its target text. The Hamlet does not satirize Metamorphoses (or even "LApres Midi d'un Faune"), nor does As I Lay Dying satirize "Nature." Nevertheless, the double-coding of parody allows readers to ignore hypertextual layering and experience the story of Ike Snopes not, as some scholars have argued, as more than grotesque, or even, in Hutcheon's argument, as neutral in its comic effect, but as burlesque, as a ridiculing and preposterous joke. Once one admits that possibility, the question becomes: can the reader laugh? Or, phrased another way: is the joke funny "ha-ha" or funny "peculiar"? Brooks's comment should warn about the danger of imagining a monolithic reader; clearly, the answer could be either, as I have argued for Faulkner's dark alternative to Emerson's positive reading of a river's motion in a meditative hour. A reader could laugh uproariously or be silently appalled by the tale's peculiar tonalities. Like parody, burlesque employs an iterative process, but detecting comic effect in that process is not a formal matter but an operation of reading. Perhaps, comic horror and the ridicule of comic laughter are more likely with The Hamlet because Faulkner provides so little of Ike Snopes's interiority. That distance promotes comic laughter, especially in the slapstick moments when he tries to descend stairs (H 188) or to cross a creek (H 188, 189, 193). Nevertheless, does one laugh--or perhaps how does one laugh--when Ike "received the violent relaxing of [the cow's] fear-constricted bowels" (H 192) as he tries to push her out of a ravine?
When the same questions focus on Darl's second sight--does its parodic structure allow for comic laughter as a response; could readers interpret his story as burlesque?--the answer seems far less equivocal. No ridiculing joke exists about his second sight, mainly because Darl for the reader is nearly all interiority. Faulkner creates a minimal distance from his emotional distress, his philosophical musings, his anger. Rather than implying a reader's laughter enabled by a discernment of irony, the text directly represents Darl's crazed laughter. His laughter chills from inside the text and toward the reader, reversing the vector of any ridicule directed at him. While the tale of Ike Snopes would more likely generate in the reader laughter understood as comic, Darl's mad laughter at the close of the novel predicates a response that seems to reach for yet fail to achieve relief through a comic effect. Failing to be comic in any usual sense, his laughter becomes terrible in its pathology. Unlike his parody of sublime pastoral harmony in The Hamlet, Faulkner in As I Lay Dying nearly zeros out the potential for comic ridicule with a sense of psychological loss that approaches tragedy even as it partially represents that loss with laughter.
We might best appreciate the nature of that laughter by noting the three levels of laughter named by another modernist, Samuel Beckett, in Watt:
The bitter, the hollow, and--Haw! Haw!--the mirthless. The bitter laugh laughs at that which is not good, it is the ethical laugh. The hollow laugh laughs at that which is not true, it is the intellectual laugh. Not good! Not true! Well well. But the mirthless laugh is the dionoetic laugh, down the snout--Haw!--so. It is the laugh of laughs, the risus purus, the laugh laughing at the laugh, the beholding, the saluting of the highest joke, in a word the laugh that laughs--silence please--at that which is unhappy. (48)
Darl's laughter carries beyond bitter: he expresses bitterness at Cash when, in the midst of Darl's arrest, he says that he thought Cash might warn him. However, by the time Darl sits in the train headed to Jackson, his laugh registers as both a hollow and a mirthless laugh. Hollow because his is a laugh about the folly and inanity, the malice and meanness and vanity of people, all so memorably demonstrated by the members of his family during the madcap quest to bury Addie. His laugh is the intellectual laugh born of thinking too much about the human condition. However, his laugh is the laugh of laughs too, laughing at himself laughing, profoundly and pathologically distressed about his own individual condition. (24)
Darl laughing at himself laughing evokes the iterative structure of parody. That structure fits parody comfortably into a basic strategy of retelling, into Eliot's mythic method understood as the sign of a modernist quest for a reusable artistic past. However, the fondness for repurposing implied by the mythic method indicates a combinatory or syncretic movement, while parody employs mimesis to create difference, potentially a comic distance from a target text, yet also a distance that takes the target text seriously. The double-coding of parody thus enables an ambivalent attitude toward that past, one that may or may not employ parody's potential for authorizing a comic response, even comic ridicule. Reading some of Faulkner's narratives as parodic retellings of the sublime pastoralism implied by American transcendentalism has uncovered the way in which Ovid's retelling the myth of Io functions as a mise en abyme for a modernist penchant to retell and thus incorporate and revise old stories. Ovid starts the process when he retells the myth, but then Mallarme's retelling dramatizes that penchant, for his iteration focuses on a story being told within the retelling of Ovid, when Mercury relates how Pan invents reed pipes after failing to ravish the nymph Syrinx, an obvious echo of Jupiter and Io. Modernist iterations rewrite the earlier narratives, metamorphose them into new tales, re-vision them with a second sight that might grotesquely violate or willingly ignore the neat categories of the comic and the tragic.
The iteration built into parody, then, may or may not signify a comic attitude, but it does mark an aesthetic entanglement with target texts. Stephane Mallarme's "LApres Midi d'un Faune" retells only one of the stories that Ovid has Mercury relate to Argus--who guards Io by Juno's command--in order to lull him to sleep so that he can carry out Jove's orders to execute Argus and free Io: "So Mercury joined [Argus] and with many a tale / He stayed the passing hours and upon his reeds / Played soft refrains to lull the watching eyes" (Ovid 21). Ironically, this one tale in Metamorphoses "remained untold" (Ovid 22) because Argus falls asleep in the middle of its recounting, that is, it remains untold to Argus, but Ovid narrates it for the reader. The figure of Mercury telling many tales, even a surplus of tales, evokes the artist as endless storyteller, and in that economy both Mallarme and Faulkner become storytellers who reiterate what Ovid the storyteller has already told, a most elaborate palimpsest. Perhaps Ovid's trick of both telling yet not telling the story of Pan and Syrinx prompted Mallarme to his retelling, his elaborating it into a tale of hallucinatory consciousness and dreamy desire. In any case, Ovid's tale bears iteration in the idiom of Mallarme's as well as Faulkner's time and place. That formulation perhaps captures the modernist fascination with redeploying myth, metamorphosizing via parody--in Hutcheon's term, trans-contextualizing--what it reuses. Faulkner's self-conscious modernist narratives, most memorably represented by Absalom! Absalom!, might be said to parody the very bases for narrative, how stories are made by the arbitrary choices of narrators. In this way, Faulkner's parodic use of Ovid and Mallarme functions as synecdoche for parodic retellings of his own tales and characters within the Yoknapatawpa saga, iterations that multiply Ikes and revise the metaphysics of transcendentalism. (25)
Faulkner's retelling creates a palimpsest effect of redeployed myths. His parodies in Go Down, Moses, The Hamlet, and As I Lay Dying thus reveal repetition as a key structuring process for his art. Michael Kreyling shows how this process has continued into a postmodern regime in which newer authors with a postmodern parodic agenda incorporate Faulkner as the foundation (read mythic) author for Southernness, apparently repeating Faulkner swallowing classic writers before him. Hypertextuality can be discerned in both temporal directions of such incorporations. (26) The ironic instability of a postmodernist stance erases the authority of foundational assumptions in an exuberant embrace of meaning proliferation, a saturation of signs and representations. The ironic instability of Faulkner's parodic double-coding remains modernist, his retellings re-visioning without erasing earlier narratives--a second sight meant not to restore the power and faith of those narratives, but to risk instead establishing a new aesthetic identity based on iteration even as it laments difference from the past as a sense of loss.
When Sonja Basic makes the point about iteration differently, asserting that Faulkner told one story over and over again, she characterizes that story as one showing "his interest in man's basic humanity, his bardic and biblical rendering of rock-bottom aspects of man's fate, his tragic vision of man's (self-) annihilation combined with a (mostly comic) vision of his survival" (49). As noted before, both Cleanth Brooks and M. Thomas Inge have underscored this entwining of the tragic and the comic, while I have argued that Darl Bundren within the economy of a parodic hypertext can be read as a figure not quite tragic, perhaps partially disfigured by a potential for comic ridicule. I want to finish by using Anse Bundren to have one last look at Faulkner's habit of juxtaposing in cubist fashion comic and tragic tonalities, for Anse in As I Lay Dying represents what Basic calls "a (mostly comic) vision of ... survival." He is not a latter-day faun, like Ike Snopes, nor anything like a latter-day transcendentalist, like Ike McCaslin. Instead, Anse embodies the mythic yet modern buffoon at the heart of the comic rhythm described by Susanne Langer (342), although not so optimistically as she presents the figure. Patricia Schroeder makes a similar point about Anse (34, 45) as she argues that the novel "obviously--and quite deliberately ... follows [the] classical model of comedy" (35). As I have been trying to show, however, Faulkner's poetics do not follow that model but rewrite it. That re-vision enables Faulkner's vision, both yet neither tragic nor comic.
However, within that ambivalence, Anse assumes the most distinctly laughable posture. Anse's instinct, the comic equivalent of Darl's tragic second sight, somehow knows at which house in Jefferson to stop and borrow a shovel. In finding the new Mrs Bundren, Anse too has felt "the currents of the Universal Being circulate" through him. While the threat of dissolution in the novel's parodic metamorphoses suggests a disfiguring or dismemberment, epitomized physically by Cash's ordeal with his broken leg and psychically by Dewey Dell's dream, Anse reverses that threat when he acquires his new teeth, implying a physical wholeness re-attained, matched symbolically by his marriage. Anse more than endures. As Armstid says, after learning that Jewel voluntarily gave up his horse to complete a trade for new mules, and referencing how everyone cannot forebear helping Anse, "I be durn if Anse dont conjure a man, some way. I be durn if he aint a sight" (AILD 193). Rather than have a second sight, or even to demonstrate a modicum of talent for planning ahead, Anse is a sight, a laughable spectacle. Maybe the best joke in the whole narrative presents Anse conjuring the Lord Himself to help:
"Well, it'll take the Lord to get her over that river now," Peabody says. "Anse cant do it." "And I reckon He will," Quick says. "He's took care of Anse a long time, now." "It's a fact," Littlejohn says. "Too long to quit now," Armstid says. "I reckon He's like everybody else around here," Uncle Billy says. "He's done it so long now He cant quit." (AILD 89)
Anse at the close of the narrative appears as part and particle of a God whose presumed loving providence becomes the means for Anses neighbors to imply jokingly the buffoon's inept yet indomitable progress. While Darl represents something approaching a tragic version of Emerson's transcendental man, a brand of tragedy streaked with a grotesquerie alien to Ike McCaslin, Anse embodies a comic version, one rife with a buffoonery that also registers as grotesque, as though Anse and Darl were not so much obverse images, absurd renditions of the classical masks of comedy and tragedy, but a modern composite image representing the absurd human condition, Anse's instinct a parody of Darl's second sight.
The hypertextual play with the theme of a sublime pastoralism in the primary hypotext, "Nature," makes visible a layer of storytelling within the Yoknapatawpha saga, a metanarrative that features comic as well as tragic reactions to the flux of all things. Parody as heuristic reveals (again) storytelling as its own theme, not only in the sense of the elaborate storytelling created by Faulkner in his saga, but also the ways in which he inscribes his stories like a palimpsest, metamorphosing stories told by others in a Western tradition that includes the pastoral but with a new world inflection of the sublime. That American inflection displays its own complicated poetic and philosophical texture. The intricate relationships of two Ikes and two Bundrens acknowledge yet undercut the possible perception of a generative sublimity in the natural world, but they also suggest a comic will to accept the natural world's materiality and to survive its capacity to destroy life and property. The stories examined here as well as all the stories that comprise the Yoknapatawpha saga give us Faulkner's many-faceted meditation on the flux of all things.
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(1) I want to thank my colleagues Tom Inge and Judith Lee for reading earlier versions of this essay and providing helpful comments for improving it.
(2) My idea of a pastoral that is significantly different in its new and old world iterations due to an inflection of the sublime demands an elastic signification for "pastoral" Emerson's rewrite of old world pastoralism to graft sublimity onto it might be figured as an oxymoron. The woods suggest the sublime power of nature that becomes the transcendent eyeball, but the image of Emerson strolling in woods, but not the big woods of Ike McCaslin, suggests the tranquil genre of the pastoral as well. Rob Wilson in American Sublime: The Genealogy of a Poetic Genre traces a "curiously hybrid mixture" (101) similar to my idea of sublime pastoralism in eighteenth and nineteenth poetry before examining post-WWII poets. See especially chapters four and five. Leo Marx's concepts in The Machine in the Garden--"complex pastoralism" and "rhetoric of the technological sublime"--also suggest from another angle a hybrid mixture.
(3) In Genette's complex analysis of poetics, what he calls "transtextuality," hypertexuality is one of five types, a taxonomy that also includes intertextuality in a sense very different from Julia Kristeva's poststructuralist use of the term. For Genette, intertextuality is confined to "the actual presence of one text within another" (2)--quotation, for example. Graham Allen discriminates these different uses; see especially chapter three. I employ hypertexuality in Genette's sense because his elaboration includes parody and overlaps with other useful accounts of parody. For Gary Morson, palimpsest evokes Mikhail Bakhtin's concept of parody as "double-voiced words," as though one could discern in one layer of inscription an antithetical comment upon it in another layer (65-66).
(4) While Hutcheon focuses on modern examples of parody, Rose as well as Genette provide an overview from ancient times. Hutcheon argues that parody can exist and not be comic (20, 21), while Rose understands comic effect as always part of parody (Parody//Metafiction 21; Parody: Ancient 47, 239), though both agree with Genette that ridicule is not a necessary aspect of parody. Morson also says that parody is not always comic (69). Notably, a neutral conception of parody aligns it more closely with ideas about what Genette calls hypertextuality. Simon Dentith offers an analysis of parody broadly conceived on a Kristevan intertexuality of language as discourse. Dentith carefully embeds his specific examples in historical conditions and thus can be more nuanced on the question of ridicule of the target text. Nevertheless, he does not disagree with Hutcheon, Genette, or Morson (16-21, 85-91). Focusing on the self-reflexive nature of parody, Michele Hannosh insists on its comic dimension (113).
(5) Philip Weinstein adds Joseph Conrad and Sigmund Freud to Joyce and Eliot as the "four modernist precursors who make Faulkner possible" (342) in his summary effort to position Faulkner within modernism and modernist art. Virginia V. James Hlavsa elaborately pursues Faulkner's modernist uses of myth in Light in August, Gerhard Hoffman in Go Down, Moses. Hagood (11-13) names important scholarship focusing on Faulkner's use of myth as part of his reconfiguring that use to examine, within postcolonial theory and a concept of Kristevan intertextuality, "the ways myth and place articulate both oppressive and subversive narratives of empire" (3). Michael Bell presents an intellectual history that culminates in the modernist turn to myth, and distinguishes Eliot's deployment of myth from Joyce's ("Myth" 210-11). See also chapter 1 in Bell's Literature, Modernism and Myth. Hoffman reviews prominent thinkers on myth before focusing on Faulkner; see his list of scholars discussing Faulkner and myth, in general and specifically in "The Bear" (665n14). Milton Scarborough advances a thesis of myth colliding and intersecting with as well as informing modernity. Jacques Pothier supports the link to Eliot's review claimed by Adams (188).
(6) Parody in its double-coding binds yet opposes Emerson to Faulkner through their representations of possible relationships with the natural world, their differences contributing to a cultural or mythic metanarrative about a distinctly American pastoralism. William Meyer presents only an opposition in the relationship of Faulkner to Emerson, one in which Faulkner's Keatsian lyricism retreats to old world aesthetics and is, finally, more Southern than the American vision of nature that Emerson represents (32-38).
(7) Noel Polk emphasizes self-parody in "Afternoon of a Cow," calling it the "single best parody of Faulkner that I know; nobody knew better than Faulkner how Faulkner wrote or why he wrote as he did" (24). Joseph Blotner says the story showed that Faulkner "could enjoy parodying himself" (363). The story provides the model for Faulkner's anti-intellectual, ignorant farmer persona that Inge presents ("William Faulkner" 138). See also Michael Graybill's reading of the story as self-parody (11-15). Of course, Faulkner had once before repurposed Mallarme's poem with his own, using the same title. As Robert Hamblin and Louis Brodsky show in their analysis of Faulkner's stages of composition, the poem can read as exemplary of Hutcheon's argument for parody not mocking its target text. Discussing The Hamlet, Peter Alan Froehlich identifies three sources of parody: "generic intertextuality--the parodic mixture of high culture rhetoric and low subject"; "Faulknerian intertextuality--the comic repetition of characters from other novels" (e.g., Ike Snopes and Benjy Compson); and parody "internal to the novel" (e.g., Flem Snopes as an imitation of Will Varner) (237).
(8) Mortimer does not note that Faulkner's allusion to Juno transforms the goddess into the cow, unlike Ovid's tale. Myra Jehlen's discussion of the tale of Ike and the cow also places it against the background of pastoral myth, which she understands as existing in a "mutual parody" with the reality of an idiot and a cow (147). Cleanth Brooks accepts Ike Snopes as a faun, close to nature in the sense that he is more animal than man, but without reference to Mallarme ("Faulkner" 3). For Brooks, Ike is not a "vicious Yahoo"; Faulkner "set[s] Ike free in a natural environment where we can see Ike's virtues and impulses at their best" ("Faulkner" 4). Jehlen says that "taking Ike's love for a cow as naturally good makes sense in the context of the whole novel where the other Snopeses represent natural evil" (144).
(9) Pan is the god of shepherds and flocks, of wild nature, and of rustic music. He is also a companion of the nymphs. The nymph Syrinx is a devotee of Artemis and known for her chastity.
(10) Mistichelli summarizes other critics' readings of the tale of Ike and the cow (15-18).
(11) Brooks says that "Faulkner has endowed his account of the wanderings over the hills of Ike and his cow with some of the finest nature poetry of our time" ("Faulkner" 4).
(12) The topic of Ike's sublime relationship to the natural world has engaged many individuals in Faulkner scholarship. David H. Evans provides useful summary in his reading of Ike as emblematic of a peculiar American ideology about the natural world (see especially 195n6-7).
(13) Gerhard Hoffman (662) links this view with Ernst Cassirer's presentation of myth as experience. Donna Haraway reads Emerson's image of a transparent eye-ball as the complete opposite, as a "'god-trick'" to promote a scientific objectivity that is the apotheosis of egotism: a "'devouring'" and "'unrestricted'" vision (qtd. in Welling 471). Carolyn Porter advocates this position too (51). Their reading depends upon understanding the transcendental seer as detached observer, in which vision is a gaze that merely objectifies. However, the seer can also be understood as the ultimate participant in the sensuous world, ecstatically unified with other life, with Other. In Emerson's words: "The kingdom of man over nature ... cometh not with observation" ("Nature" 45). Paul Scott Derrick also argues that Ike's intuition of the spirituality of the natural world links him to Emerson, but as an "experimental version of the American Scholar" (127) and without reference to vision or the structure of parody with its ambivalent attitude.
(14) Within the mythic frame of the Yoknapatawpha saga, that relationship makes perfect sense. History provides a different frame. Joseph Blotner has Faulkner revising "The Old People" for inclusion in Go Down, Moses during May and June of 1941, changing the nameless narrator of the original story published in Harper's in September of 1940 to Ike McCaslin (430). Blotner has Faulkner re-writing "Afternoon of a Cow" into the story of Ike Snopes in February, 1939 and writing the first version of "The Old People" in June, 1939 (407, 410). The typescript of "Afternoon of a Cow" was given to Maurice Coindreau, his French translator, June 1937 (Gresset 48-49). Blotner offers other details about "Afternoon of a Cow" that show its earlier origins and links to classical texts (362-63).
(15) Fred Robinson's reading of the novel depends on his thesis about the gap between language and reality being comically ironic. Thus when he speaks of the dissolution of forms in the narrative, it "holds no tragic terror" (53) because Faulkner's vision is comic and celebratory. However, as I will argue, a sense of dissolution terrifies not only Darl but Vardaman and Dewey Dell too, and the novel does not have simply a comic vision.
(16) Candace Waid reads Darl's artistic eye as fundamentally sculptural (58-60).
(17) Other examples of inanimate objects as people include: the rope going into the river feels alive because of the current; the river possesses cold hands, "molding" and "prodding" a person's bones; the wheels of the wagon "whisper" in the sand (158, 229). Examples of people as inanimate objects include: Jewel resembles a "cigar store Indian" (4), "wooden-backed, wooden-faced" (95); Anse is figured as a scarecrow (72); Cash's sawing arm is like a piston (77).
(18) Death represented as losing contact with the earth parodies the legend of Antaeus.
(19) For a different view of how figurative language operates in the novel, one affirming a sense of language, especially poetic language, that retains an Emersonian power to transcend form rather than suggest metamorphoses that parody that power, see Joseph R. Urgo. In his reading, Vardaman centers this power against Darl's second sight.
(20) Darl's vision of nothingness in the round orifice created by the shape of a bucket of well water might be more hypertextuality, an allusion to an allusion. In Critique of Pure Reason, Immanuel Kant refers to "a method which contains the secret how we are to fetch truth from the deep well of Democritus" (668). Because Democritus argued for a theory in which atoms move through an infinite void, Kant's allusion suggests finding the bottom of that void with his transcendental categories. Darl can only find existential nothingness. Maybe, the first level of allusion instead is to Edgar Allan Poe's short story, "Ligeia." The narrator mentions the well of Democritus as part of his elaborate description of Ligeia that links the profound expression in her eyes to her studies of transcendentalism. Clark Griffith argues that Poe in the story satirizes transcendentalism via parody.
(21) Emerson would say that the world lacks unity "because man is disunited with himself" (43). However, Emerson plants the seeds of such a modern sense of self too when he says that "Nature always wears the color of the spirit" and that the delight in nature resides "in man" (10), thus implying Faulkner's parodic Darl.
(22) Faulkner has said that "Darl was mad from the first. He got progressively madder" (FU 110).
(23) Inge suggests the narrative is "a hoax in the Southwestern humor tradition" ("William Faulkner" 143), and has also shown parallels with a tale by George Washington Harris, "Well! Dad's Dead," saying that As I Lay Dying "treats of the material and characters of Southwestern humor converted to a somberness and grotesqueness" ("William Faulkner and George Washington Harris" 54). Schroeder emphasizes the influence of the Southwestern tradition for the story's grotesque elements, in particular for a type of tale called the frustrated funeral (40). Stephen Ross uses the Southwestern humor tradition to examine Jason Compton.
(24) The problem of laughter's many tonalities can be discerned at least as far back as Democritus, who was known as the laughing philosopher as well as for his championing the theory of atoms. Notably, sometimes his laughing attitude is understood as signifying cheerfulness, sometimes as mockery.
(25) For Richard Moreland, Faulkner's modernist practice can be understood as retelling, as "revisionary repetition ' (4), which Moreland is careful to distinguish from repetition in myth (131-32). For Michele Hannoosh, parody challenges the concept of a fixed, authoritative text and implies more stories (113-14). See also Taylor Hagood's thesis about imperial spaces in Faulkner's fiction, especially chapter 4.
(26) Zackary Vernon argues for Melville as participant in the metanarrative I have called the myth of American pastoralism: Faulkner rewrites Melville who has rewritten Emerson's sublime image of the transcendental eyeball. Vernon's reading of Moby Dick and Go Down, Moses as environmental fiction takes him in a very different direction, though he does call Melville's critique of Emerson parodic (69). However, Vernon's understanding of parody as an engine for hypertextuality precludes the neutral aspect of iteration; "mere parody" (75), he says, cannot accommodate the deeper claims for ecology that Melville and Faulkner deploy.