Document Type


Date of Award



Faulkner, William.

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


English, General Literature, and Rhetoric

First Advisor

John V. Hagopian

Second Advisor

John Hagan

Third Advisor

Melvin Seiden


This is a study of comedy as it appears in Faulkner’s major fiction; it deals with the comic elements of the early dark novels as well as with the comic vision which permeates the late ones. It leaves out of account, without further apology, Soldier’s Pay, Sartoris, The Unvanquished, Pylon, Knight’s Gambit, and A Fable, treats The Wild Palms in passing and the short stories only incidentally. The very brief discussions of New Orleans Sketches, Mosquitoes, Intruder in the Dust, and Requiem for a Nun are included largely to give the reader a more complete sense of the genesis and development of Faulkner’s comedy. My premise is that any discussion of one aspect of an author’s work is valuable only insofar as it leads to insights into his important works—those that are widely read and reread, taught and talked and thought about, with pleasure and puzzlement. If what John Lewis Longley terms the “comedy of extremity” in fact lies “outside the main lines of the Yoknapatawpha Chronicle,” in novels like Pylon, then this form of comedy is worth analyzing carefully only if it can be demonstrated that a significant readership is or at least ought to be interested in Pylon. I am, in sum, more interested in Faulkner than in aesthetic theory. But I think, since all his major novels contain significant comic elements, and since the worlds of the Snopes Trilogy and The Reivers are as pervasively comic as that of The Sound and the Fury is pervasively dark, that a theory of Faulknerian comedy is a valuable tool, essential to a proper understanding of his fiction. I have therefore developed such a theory, the usefulness of which my analyses of individual novels will, I hope, ratify. I hope especially that this discussion will be self-effacing, in the sense in which all literary criticism worth the title must be: that it will send the reader back to Faulkner with heightened interest and appreciation. Only such a result can justify the time and energy expended in writing about—rather than writing or reading—literature.