CREATING FAULKNER'S REPUTATION: The Politics of Modern Literary Criticism by Lawrence H. Schwartz

CREATING FAULKNER'S REPUTATION: The Politics of Modern Literary Criticism

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An impressive social and cultural analysis of the critical rise of William Faulkner in American letters. Schwartz (English/Montclair State) offers the simple but controversial thesis that Faulkner's critical reputation was in effect manufactured by American intellectuals who sought in him a symbol of the country's new political and culture preeminence after WW II. Schwartz builds a case for a kind of cultural conspiracy between the country's two most powerful intellectual groups--the New York intellectuals and the New Critics. Working together, he argues, critics such as Robert Penn Warren and Irving Howe--combining a new political liberalism and an ""art-for-art's-sake"" aesthetic formalism--suddenly reinterpreted Faulkner's ""traditional morality"" as a ""Cold War social conscience,"" fashioning him into a writer of universal political and cultural import. Bankrolled by ideological cohorts at the Rockefeller Foundation, these critics initiated what Schwartz calls an ""cultural elite"" after the war, infiltrating the universities with new critical theories, selling their ideas to publishers, controlling the major positions on influential literary magazines--all as means of elevating the idea of a new ""literary elitism"" and moral conservatism of which Faulkner became the foremost symbol. Thus, Hemingway was out, Faulkner was in, and American letters and critical theory were forever altered. Fair and scrupulous though sometimes repetitive, Schwartz's book is an intellectual thriller: mysterious, inquistive, and in the end almost totally convincing.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1988
Publisher: Univ. of Tennessee Press