Date of Award
Master of Arts
Mary Papke, Allison Ensor
“Race, Women, and the South: Faulkner’s Connection to and Separation from the Fugitive-Agrarians” examines the similarities of circumstance, thought, and literature that existed between William Faulkner and the members of the Fugitive-Agrarian group despite the lack of communication between them. The initial chapter elucidates the biographical similarities between Faulkner and the Nashville group. The information in that chapter was chiefly drawn from biographies, William Faulkner: His Life and Work by David Minter, The Southern Agrarians by Paul Conkin, and The Fugitive Group: A Literary History by Louise Cowan.
The second chapter explains Quentin Compson, a character in Faulkner’s novels Absalom, Absalom! and The Sound and the Fury and short story “That Evening Sun,” as Faulkner’s most autobiographical character. Establishing this connection between Faulkner and Quentin is essential to the third chapter, which both slots Faulkner into the Fugitive and Agrarian traditions and distinguishes certain opinions he held from those held by members of those groups. Faulkner’s opinions must be accessed through Quentin because he often contradicted himself in interviews and admittedly rarely told his true opinions to reporters and, thus, to the public. His most honest revelation of his thoughts on issues, such as race, women, and the South, is most accessible through Quentin, who also resembles Faulkner biographically. Beyond his suitability as a medium through whom Faulkner’s connection to the Fugitive-Agrarians may be established, Quentin is useful as a demonstration of Faulkner’s early progressivism. His expression of racial confusion, misogyny, and ambivalence toward the Old South followed by his suicide, may be explained as an early attempt at release of these undesirable qualities by Faulkner.
The third chapter draws out the differences that existed between individual Fugitives and Agrarians and aligns Faulkner (through Quentin) with those whom he most closely resembled. Faulkner appears to be on the liberal end of nearly every issue that caused dissention among the Fugitives and Agrarians, and his use of Quentin Compson as a method of expulsion of racist thoughts, misogynist opinions, and ambivalent stances on the South shows him to be far more progressive in these areas than even the most progressive of the Fugitive-Agrarians, Robert Penn Warren.
Stearns, Brandi, "Race, Women, and the South: Faulkner’s Connection to and Separation from the Fugitive-Agrarian Tradition. " Master's Thesis, University of Tennessee, 2005.