This podcast is one of two keynotes at the Rupture, Crisis, Transformation conference on the future of American Studies held at Birkbeck in November 2014 [the other, Caryl Phillips on the Star-spangled banner can be found here]
Rejecting ideas of American exceptionalism, Wai Chee Dimock looks at the work of author William Faulkner in a world context, seeing him as a regional writer. In doing so, she is able to explore how his is the voice of the defeated southern States of America – a thesis she develops with reference to things he said and wrote while in Japan in 1955 (then a recently defeated nation).
American novelist William Faulkner was born into an old Southern family in the US. The Sound and the Fury (1929), As I Lay Dying (1930), Light in August (1932), and Absalom, Absalom! (1936) are perhaps his best known works and in 1949 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for “his powerful and artistically unique contribution to the modern American novel”.
Wai Chee Dimock presents a radically new reading of Faulkner, and it was an important contribution to the theme at the heart of the conference, “At the end of the ‘American Century’, how do we understand the United States?”
Wai Chee Dimock has written on every period of American literature, from Anne Bradstreet to Star Trek. She also writes movie reviews for the Los Angeles Review of Books. She argues for a broad conception of American literature, embracing a variety of time frames, bringing together materials both high and low, and scales both local and global. Her work has appeared in publications ranging from Critical Inquiry to Salon. Dimock’s book, Through Other Continents: American Literature Across Deep Time (2006), received Honorable Mention for the James Russell Lowell Prize of the Modern Language Association and the Harry Levin Prize of the American Comparative Literature Association. This approach is further developed in a collaborative volume, Shades of the Planet: American Literature as World Literature (2007). She is now working on two book projects, ‘Weak Theory,’ and ‘Low Epic: World Literature as Downward Recycling.’