Faulkner’s Coffin

Alyson Brickey
University of Toronto

This article examines William Faulkner’s use of the coffin form in his depression-era family epic, As I Lay Dying. I ask whether we can envision what Faulkner is doing with the aesthetic shape of the coffin—a form which he even typographically reproduces within the text itself—as a kind of strange realism. In order to make this argument, I recruit Frederic Jameson’s recent discussion in The Antinomies of Realism, where he argues that the realist text is not a straightforward mimetic project, but rather involves a dialectical push-and-pull between a specific force and its exact opposite. Faulkner’s lists perform a kind of metaphysical carpentry that asks us to consider the coffin not just as a textual trope or a symbol, but as a form that is itself constitutive of the way this story makes meaning.

KEYWORDS: Realism, Faulkner, Jameson, Modernism, The Great Depression, Narrative, Literary Objects

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