Dark Houses: Navigating Space and Negotiating Silence in the Novels of Faulkner, Warren and Morrison

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Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher," as early as 1839, reveals an uneasiness about the space of the house. Most literary scholars accept that this anxiety exists and causes some tension, since it seems antithetical to another dominant motif, that of the power of place and the home as sanctuary. My critical persona, like Poe's narrator in "The House of Usher," looks into a dark, silent tarn and shudders to see in it not only the reflection of the House of Usher, but perhaps the whole of what is "Southern" in Southern Literature. Many characters who inhabit the ... continued below

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Berger, Aimee E. December 2000.

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  • Berger, Aimee E.

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Description

Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher," as early as 1839, reveals an uneasiness about the space of the house. Most literary scholars accept that this anxiety exists and causes some tension, since it seems antithetical to another dominant motif, that of the power of place and the home as sanctuary. My critical persona, like Poe's narrator in "The House of Usher," looks into a dark, silent tarn and shudders to see in it not only the reflection of the House of Usher, but perhaps the whole of what is "Southern" in Southern Literature. Many characters who inhabit the worlds of Southern stories also inhabit houses that, like the House of Usher, are built on the faulty foundation of an ideological system that divides the world into inside(r)/outside(r) and along numerous other binary lines. The task of constructing the self in spaces that house such ideologies poses a challenge to the characters in the works under consideration in this study, and their success in doing so is dependant on their ability to speak authentically in the language of silence and to dwell instead of to just inhabit interior spaces. In my reading of Faulkner and Warren, this ideology of division is clearly to be at fault in the collapse of houses, just as it is seen to be in the House of Usher. This emphasis is especially conspicuous in several works, beginning with Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom! and its (pre)text, "Evangeline." Warren carries the motif forward in his late novels, Flood and Meet Me in the Green Glen. I examine these works relative to spatial analysis and an aesthetic of absence, including an interpretation of silence as a mode of authentic saying. I then discuss these motifs as they are operating in Toni Morrison's Beloved, and finally take Song of Solomon as both an end and a beginning to these texts' concerns with collapsing structures of narrative and house.

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  • December 2000

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  • Sept. 25, 2007, 9:20 p.m.

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  • April 26, 2016, 4:57 p.m.

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Berger, Aimee E. Dark Houses: Navigating Space and Negotiating Silence in the Novels of Faulkner, Warren and Morrison, dissertation, December 2000; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc2732/: accessed October 16, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .