Electronic Theses and Dissertations
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Though considered one of the foremost of 20th-Century American modernists, many critics accuse William Faulkner of being obsessed with some idyllic southern past. In contrast, my study, utilizing the burgeoning field of mobility studies, focuses on the trains featured within his novels to counter this accusation. As I discuss, Faulkner does indeed question notions of modern progress wrought from industrialization as well as technological advancements, though he never offers blanket condemnations of them. In contrast, his depictions of railroad mobility reveal an attitude of active participation in modernity rather than cantankerous retreat. In my opening chapter, I begin by explaining why an examination of Faulkners portrayals of trains and tracks can be particularly enlightening. In addition, I discuss the burgeoning field of mobility studies and how it will be utilized in my examination of the railroad within Faulkners novels. In Ch. 1, I discuss Faulkners depictions of avant garde sexuality and gender roles that are enabled by railroad mobility. Within this chapter, I discuss his two most sexually-controversial novels, Sanctuary and The Wild Palms, though I begin with a brief discussion of trains in Light in August. In Ch. 2, I discuss the ways he uses the railroad to question narratives of progress. Here, I discuss his debut novel, Soldiers Pay, before delving into Go Down, Moses and its pessimistic ruminations on progress; however, I argue that The Reivers, his final novel, serves as a sequel to that novel, providing a valedictory reappraisal of its pessimism. Finally, Ch. 3, discusses Faulkners general lack of depictions of black mobility enabled by the railroaddespite historical realities. As I parse through his portrayals of African American interaction with trains, this reveals a resistance on Faulkners part to depict black mobility. Here, I look at Flags in the Dust and its prequel The Unvanquished as well as Quentin Compsons chapter of The Sound and the Fury. In my conclusion, I discuss the lasting impact of trains on American culture and the next steps to be taken in light of my study, suggesting other writers whose works carry on Faulkners depictions of railroad mobility.
Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to ProQuest
O'Brien, James Christopher, "Yoknapatawpha Railroad: Trains and Mobility in the Novels of William Faulkner" (2020). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 2699.
Data is provided by the student.