The Religious Dimensions of William Faulkner: An Inquiry into the Dichotomy of Puritanism

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"The Religious Dimensions of William Faulkner: An Inquiry into the Dichotomy of Puritanism" traces a secular mode of thinking of American moral superiority and the gospel of success to its religious origins. The study shows that while the basis for American moral superiority derives from the typological correspondence between sacred history and American experience, the gospel of success results from the Puritan preoccupation with work as a virtue instead of a necessity because labor improves one's lot in this world while securing salvation in the next. By explaining how Puritanism begins as a rejection of worldliness but ends as an ... continued below

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iv, 201 leaves

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Wu, John Guo Qiang May 1999.

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  • Wu, John Guo Qiang

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"The Religious Dimensions of William Faulkner: An Inquiry into the Dichotomy of Puritanism" traces a secular mode of thinking of American moral superiority and the gospel of success to its religious origins. The study shows that while the basis for American moral superiority derives from the typological correspondence between sacred history and American experience, the gospel of success results from the Puritan preoccupation with work as a virtue instead of a necessity because labor improves one's lot in this world while securing salvation in the next. By explaining how Puritanism begins as a rejection of worldliness but ends as an orgy of materialism, my study raises and addresses the paradoxical nature of the Puritan legacy: Why should the Puritan work ethic, when subverted by its logical conclusion---the gospel of success, result in the undoing of Puritan spirituality in its mission of redeeming the Old World?
Furthermore, this inquiry examines the role Puritanism plays in creating the mythologies of America as the New World Garden, the white man as the American Adam, the black man as the American Ham, and the white woman as the American Eve. In the Puritan use of biblical typology, blacks and women function as the white men's servants and helpmates and, as such, have only adjunctive value to the white men's moral vision of the New Canaan and their economic pursuit of an earthly paradise. Since the racist and sexist discourse of Adamic self-creation predominates the American Dream, blacks and women become part of, rather than owner of, that dream. Basing my analysis on his three major novels, I demonstrate William Faulkner's penetrating insight into the dilemmas and ramifications of Puritanism in his critique of the American gospel of success in general and the Southern gospels of racism and sexism in particular. My conception of Puritanism in dichotomous tension, paradigmatically proposed as the American Adam turned Franklinesque self-made man, sheds new light on Faulkner's fictional characters as victims of the Puritan moral ambiguities.

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iv, 201 leaves

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  • May 1999

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  • March 24, 2014, 8:07 p.m.

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  • April 14, 2016, 7:05 p.m.

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Wu, John Guo Qiang. The Religious Dimensions of William Faulkner: An Inquiry into the Dichotomy of Puritanism, dissertation, May 1999; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc278091/: accessed November 19, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .