Document Type


Date of Award



William Faulkner, "Go down, Moses", American literature, History and criticism

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


English, General Literature, and Rhetoric

First Advisor

John V. Hagopian

Second Advisor

Mario A. Di Cesare

Third Advisor

John Hagan




I have always been fascinated with Faulkner. But I was forever intimidated by his complex artistry and sweeping vision, and my first reading of “The Bear” was a frustrating experience. This oddly disjunct work simply did not make sense to the young undergraduate who then preferred the lucidity of Ernest Hemingway and the grey gloom of Graham Greene. Continued exposure to Faulkner, however, began to transform frustration into cryptic delight until it finally occurred to me that his greatest works were indeed among the greatest works America has ever produced. Nothing would suffice but a major study.

But intensive studies of Faulkner's major works abound, and many of them are profoundly insightful and forbiddingly exhaustive works in their own right. So I turned to the neglected area of Faulkner's short fiction where criticism, for some obscure reason, has feared heavily to tread. And there, almost immediately, I discovered Go Down, Moses–to me, a brilliant and uniquely formed novel. There, of course, was “The Bear” once again; but having struggled with the complexities and convolutions of Light in August, The Sound and the Fury, and Absalom, Absalom! in the interim, I found that “The Bear” was no longer quite so prohibiting.

I was soon surprised to discover, however, that very few intensive studies of Go Down, Moses exist. Furthermore, very few of those which do exist successfully grapple with all of the “stories” in the “collection,” and even fewer adequately or convincingly explain the unity of the book. And so a dissertation was born.

I was immediately compelled to study the original versions of each story included in Go Down, Moses in order to discover if Faulkner reworked those stories for inclusion in Go Down, Moses, and if so, precisely how and why he revised his original materials. To my delight, this study proved singularly worthwhile in that it offered invaluable evidence of Faulkner's aesthetic intentions in Go Down, Moses and firmly substantiated my notion of the book's unity and form.