Date of Graduation

5-2016

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Degree Level

Undergraduate

Department

English

Advisor

Hinrichsen, Lisa

Reader

Marren, Susan

Second Reader

Whayne, Jeannie

Third Reader

Harriss, Edmund

Abstract

The American South is a region full of rich and complicated history, undergoing slavery, war, poverty, ecological devastation, and racial violence. One of the most famous and distinctly southern writers of the twentieth century is William Faulkner, whose works challenge the idealistic Lost Cause mentality of white supremacy and highlight major issues within southern society. Faulkner’s writings are set in Mississippi, grounded with a distinct sense of place. The southern landscape provides more than simply a backdrop to the stories, but plays an active role in plot and character development. This thesis examines three of Faulkner’s novels, discussing their historical context and ecocriticism, narrative style, and how elements of the natural world highlight problems within southern society. The first chapter over the novel, As I Lay Dying, written a few years after the destructive Flood of 1927 and the onset of the Great Depression, explores restrictive poverty and gender and class restrictions as the characters relate to the natural elements of the world around them. The next chapter on Absalom, Absalom! chronicles the history of exploitation of land in the American South and in the West Indies and of black bodies for the advancement of white prosperity. Finally, the third chapter on Go Down, Moses explores the fragmented region, devastated by ecological disasters and the racial tension between white supremacy and the rise of black modernity. By examining Faulkner’s works, other scholars’ commentary, and the ecological history of the region, this thesis pieces together how the southern land tells a larger narrative of southern identity.

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