Added: August 6, 2016 – Last updated: August 6, 2016


Author: Carmen S(mith) Burton

Title: Faulkner's Sexual Motifs in the Major Novels

Subtitle: -

Thesis: Ph.D. Thesis, University of South Florida

Year: April 1984

Pages: 168pp.

OCLC Number: 12678432 – Find a Library: WorldCat

Language: English

Keywords: Modern History: 20th Century | American History: U.S. History | Representations: Literary Texts / William Faulkner


Link: ProQuest (Restricted Access)



»This dissertation explores the function and meaning of virginity, sexual reversal, incest, and prostitution, as well as certain minor motifs such as miscegenation, impotence, voyeurism, rape, and bestiality in the portrayal of sexual relationships in Faulkner's major novels (1929-1942). Previous scholarship has established the importance of sexual themes in Faulkner's novels, but Faulkner's attitudes toward sexual relationships have not received a full-length study. Rather than studying the novels one by one or by beginning with a particular theme, I explore a sexual motif, such as prostitution, throughout the period of Faulkner's major novels. This perspective yields new insights, though the disadvantage is that seeing the total picture makes generalizations difficult because Faulkner's attitudes are so complex.
This study begins with a survey of some of the most representative recent writings on Faulkner's sexual themes. Some critics, such as Elizabeth Kerr and Samuel Yorks, have accused the author of misogyny. Others, such as David M. Miller and Karl E. Zink, have maintained that Faulkner, otherwise a talented writer, was incapable of depicting rounded female characters; instead creating only ghosts and earthmothers, or prostitutes and virgins, or some other either/or grouping. The current women's movement has raised new questions, without, however, providing any consistently valid answers. Although critics agree that Faulkner could portray a complex and realistic attitude toward the land, the Negro, and the South, no critic is willing to say Faulkner's novels depict a realistic view of sexual relations because of his failure to portray a positive relationship. The most recent studies, influenced by such theories as structuralism and deconstruction, often avoid the question of realism altogether.
This work concludes that Faulkner's sexual themes are no more dualistic or simplistic than any of his other major themes. Faulkner uses sexual motifs to control structure, to define characters, to illustrate major themes, and to question attitudes. He is never willing to accept a stereotyped view of sexuality, or to suggest that there exists one ultimate truth concerning its place in the world. Most important, sexuality is a function of the mind more than the body. Often sexuality becomes a metaphor for art and the artist.
But, ultimately, Faulkner's novels affirm the failure of sexual love to combat the terrible loneliness of the individual.« (Source: Thesis)


  Abstract (p. iv)
  Chapter One: Introduction (p. 1)
  Chapter Two: Virginity (p. 20)
  Chapter Three: Sexual Reversal (p. 52)
  Chapter Four: Incest (p. 76)
  Chapter Five: Prostitution (p. 99)
  Chapter Six: Varieties of Sexual Experiences (p. 123)
  Chapter Seven: Conclusions (p. 148)
  List of References (p. 156)

Wikipedia: History of the Americas: History of the United States | Literature: American literature | 20th-century American writers: William Faulkner