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"All That Glitters": Reappraising "Golden Land" (Theorizing Practice) (Critical Essay)

The Faulkner Journal 2005, Fall, 21, 1-2

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Description

I begin with a fairly simple question which raises several more complicated questions about how/if ideology determines the way we read and understand Faulkner: If, as several critics suggest, we are in danger of allowing a reductively "politically correct" ideology to dominate Faulkner studies, why isn't the 1935 short story "Golden Land" considered a prime example of either Faulkner's own homophobia or his commercial exploitation of a general public homophobia? After all, most critics read this story biographically, as indicative of the distaste Faulkner felt for, variously, Hollywood, screenwriting, popular culture, magazine writing, materialism, and modernity. And much of the "revulsion" found in the story--and critics' responses to it--is directed towards Ira Ewing's "perverse" children, Voyd and April. If the story is to be read autobiographically, as it so often is, then it would seem logical to assume that the homophobia present in the story is, to a large extent, Faulkner's, or at the very least that Faulkner makes problematic use of homophobia as a means to an end. Yet the few extended readings of this story that exist tend to ignore the issue altogether, which suggests that things are not quite so simple when it comes to Faulkner and ideology. If all the warnings about the ideological direction of Faulkner studies are true, "Golden Land" offers some complications worth considering, particularly in terms of how the high/low culture divide continues to hold sway in the field. In what little critical attention it does receive, "Golden Land" is read fairly simplistically. Existing readings largely ignore its narrative complexity, its treatment of alternative sexualities, and its thematic parallels with the widely accepted "masterpiece" Absalom, Absalom!, which Faulkner was working on as he wrote "Golden Land." When such things are considered, Faulkner's use of sexuality is complicated considerably and it is difficult to support charges of his implicit or calculated homophobia. But given the way the story has been read, it is very significant that the issue of homophobia is never raised. A careful reading of the story--and the criticism about it--suggests that when we talk about how political ideology determines interpretation, we need also to reconsider how the accepted hierarchy of works factors in. Besides the more overt political ideologies at work in Faulkner criticism, there is a biographically determined ideology--the narrative of Faulkner's life and work--that shapes our responses, often times more powerfully because it remains uninterrogated. In the case of "Golden Land," the story's status as a non-Yoknapatawpha, non-Southern, commercially-driven magazine piece arguably has more to do with how it has been read than the political and social ideologies the story deals with.

"All That Glitters": Reappraising "Golden Land" (Theorizing Practice) (Critical Essay)
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  • Category: Language Arts & Disciplines
  • Published: 22 September 2005
  • Publisher: The Faulkner Journal
  • Print Length: 29 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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