Added: May 7, 2016 – Last updated: May 7, 2016


Author: Linda Doris Mariah Chavers

Title: Violent Disruptions

Subtitle: Richard Wright and William Faulkner's Racial Imaginations

Thesis: Ph.D. Thesis, Harvard University

Advisor: Werner Sollers

Year: September 2013

Pages: xix + 158pp.

OCLC Number: 870923018 – Find a Library: WorldCat

Language: English

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


Link: DASH: Digital Access to Scholarship at Harvard (Free Access)


Author: Linda Chavers, Intellectual Heritage Program, Temple UniversityAuthor's Personal Website


»Violent Disruptions contends that the works of Richard Wright and William Faulkner are mirror images of each other and that each illustrates American race relations in distinctly powerful and prescient ways. While Faulkner portrays race and American identity through sex and its relationship to the imagination, Wright reveals a violent undercurrent beneath interracial encounters that the shared imagination triggers. Violent Disruptions argues that the spectacle of the interracial body anchors the cultural imaginations of our collective society and, as it embodies and symbolizes American slavery, drives the violent acts of individuals. Interracial productions motivate the narratives of Richard Wright and William Faulkner through a system of displacement of signs. Though these tropes maintain their currency today, they are borne out of cultural imaginings over two hundred years old. Working within the framework of the imaginary, Violent Disruptions places these now historical texts into the twenty-first century's discourse of race and American identity.
In the first part of the dissertation, I show in detail the various narratives at work in William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! (1936) in order to portray the imaginations shared by the white characters and disrupted by the interracial body as spectacle. Richard Wright’s Native Son (1940) depicts a similar racial imaginary but with more focus on its violent, corporeal effects. By contrast, in the second half of the dissertation, I demonstrate the writers’ central and racially-charged characters from their earlier works, Light in August (1932) and Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1938; 1940) and look at how the figures of Joe Christmas and Big Boy, respect ively, work as literary prototypes for their version in later works.« (Source: Thesis)


  Abstract (p. iii)
  Gratitude (p. vi)
  Prelude (p. viii)
  Chapter One. What We Talk About When We Talk About the Past: Story-telling and Race Fashioning in Absalom, Absalom! (p. 1)
    1.2 Hollywood and Absalom, Absalom! (p. 2)
    1.3 Contradiction and the Assumption of Whiteness (p. 14)
    1.4 Fantasy in Faulkner's Interracial Fiction (p. 22)
    1.5 Thomas Sutpen: The New White Man (p. 32)
    1.6 Whiteness and Naming (p. 42)
  Chapter Two. White Blurs and Black Sex: Fatal Imaginings in Richard Wright's Native Son (p. 45)
    2.2 Native Son: A Re-reading (p. 49)
    2.3 The Imagination as Evidence and Witness in the Courtroom: Bigger and Buckley's Intimate Relationship (p. 53)
    2.4 Threesomes: Interracial Sex and the Roles of the Physical, the Imaginative and the Viewers (p. 59)
    2.5 The Trajectory of a Murderer (p. 66)
    2.6 Harsh Realities and Arousing Fantasies (p. 76)
  Chapter Three. Play and Death in Richard Wright's Uncle Toms Children (p. 80)
    3.2 Wright's Origins' Tale - What Is Behing "Big Boy"? (p. 100)
  Chapter Four. Violations and Disruptions in Light in August (p. 107)
    4.2 Passing Notes: Reading Interracial Skin (p. 118)
    4.3 Inside/Outside and the Foreignness of Self-Knowledge in Faulkner's South (p. 136)
    4.4 The Forgetfulness of Knowledge and the All-Knowing Interracial (p. 140)
  Conclusion: What are you? (p. 143)
  Bibliography (p. 150)

Wikipedia: History of the Americas: History of the United States / History of the United States (1918–45) | Literature: American literature | 20th-century American writers: William Faulkner / Light in August; Richard Wright (author) / Native Son