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  • WAI CHEE DIMACK: OK.

  • So we're starting on our final novel and I'm

  • very glad its Faulkner.

  • There's so many stories to tell about Faulkner, just

  • about the composition of the novel.

  • So this started out having a different title.

  • It started out being called Dark House.

  • So you can see that it really is right on the other side of

  • the spectrum.

  • And it's a really an interesting thing that actually

  • this novel could be described as either Dark House

  • or Light in August. So really, light and dark obviously are

  • have the two constitutive parts of the novel, even

  • though it's the light that has been highlighted in the

  • present title.

  • In fact, it could just as well have been dark.

  • This is what Faulkner says about the title that we now

  • have, Light in August. This is much later when he was talking

  • about it at the University of Virginia in 1957.

  • "In August, in Mississippi there's a few days somewhere

  • about the middle of the month when actually there's a

  • foretaste of fall.

  • It's cool, there's a lambence, a luminous quality to the

  • light, as though it came not from today, but from back in

  • the old classic times.

  • It might have fauns and satyrs and the gods from Greece.

  • And that's all that the title meant.

  • It was just to me a pleasant, evocative title, because it

  • reminded me of that time of the luminosity older than our

  • Christian civilization.

  • Maybe the connection is with Lena Grove, who has something

  • of that pagan quality."

  • This a great entry point to the novel.

  • It's about quality of light in Mississippi.

  • So it has this very important, local dimension to it.

  • But it also sees itself as completely looking back to an

  • extremely long literary tradition, going back to the

  • classic times.

  • And in fact, it predates Christianity.

  • So that's very important to consider this, that while

  • Christianity is very, very important in this novel, but

  • it's very important to remember that Faulkner

  • actually also has a reference point that is older than

  • Christianity.

  • So because Faulkner was talking

  • about fauns and satyrs.

  • I think that those words are just words to most of us, so I

  • just found some illustrations.

  • This is from the Roman mosaics, the satyr.

  • So you see basically it's like human beings, except, the feet

  • are the hooves of a goat.

  • So this is not a very pretty image of the faun.

  • I think that in our minds, we tend to think of the faun as

  • very delicate and graceful, but actually it has kind of an

  • animalistic dimension to it.

  • And this is probably looking more like our stereotypical

  • image of the faun, very graceful, but nonetheless with

  • the hooves of a goat.

  • So in As I Lay Dying, we talked a lot about the

  • relation between animals and humans.

  • So it's very important to keep that in mind as well, just in

  • the reference to the faun.

  • Faulkner is invoking that whole uncertain boundary, and

  • certain in betweenness between human and animal.

  • And the satyr actually has an even long history.

  • The faun basically is Roman.

  • Satyr, it goes back to the fifth century BC.

  • Basically it's Greek.

  • And there's a whole genre called the satyr comedies,

  • featuring this creature.

  • It's again, looking for most part like a human being, but

  • having the tail of a horse, and also the ears of a donkey.

  • Just to see the way in which the satyr has been

  • reactivated, and picked up and reincarnated in

  • the twentieth century.

  • Here is someone with the years of a satyr.

  • We call them Vulcan's ears, but looking exactly like the

  • ears of a satyr.

  • And here is another image, basically the ears are the

  • giveaway of this creature.

  • Also it's small, not very noble looking compared to a

  • human being, or to a god.

  • So but Faulkner, even though he's interested in the satyr

  • and fauns, he's not really writing about them.

  • He's mostly interested in Lena and the fact that she is a

  • pagan character to him.

  • So the more on Lena.

  • "She was never ashamed of that child whether it had any

  • father or not, she was simply going to the conventional laws

  • at the time...

  • and find its father.

  • But as far as she was concerned, she didn't

  • especially need any father for it anymore

  • than the women that--

  • on whom Jupiter begot children were anxious for home and a

  • father."

  • So Faulkner seems to be really interested in women who get

  • pregnant out of wedlock.

  • We've seen this in As I Lay Dying, in Dewey Dell, and the

  • way in which that is the constant burden on her mind.

  • And it seems that now he has gone to the

  • other side of the spectrum.

  • If pregnancy was a constant burden on Dewey Dell's mind,

  • here it appears that it is not a burden at

  • all on Lena's mind.

  • And maybe that's why she's a pagan.

  • It's that it's completely OK to be pregnant out of wedlock,

  • not to have a father, not to have a wedded father as the

  • father of your child.

  • And the reason that is this case is that Jupiter has had

  • this long history of having fathered many children who can

  • point to Jupiter as the father--

  • Jupiter or Zeus--

  • as the father, but otherwise not having a human father.

  • So it's a completely honorable thing to have a baby when you

  • don't know who the father is.

  • And the most famous example of course is someone called Leda.

  • So you guys know--

  • picking two very chaste illustrations of Leda and the

  • swan, Tht swan being Zeus, obviously.

  • But if you would just go and look it up, you can find

  • numerous other illustrations--

  • some not so chaste--

  • showing Leda and the swan.

  • And this is the most famous example.

  • Leda was married to someone else, and Zeus was just

  • enamored of her.

  • So he comes to her in the form of a swan.

  • And the offspring, one of the most famous offspring from

  • that union, was Helen.

  • So basically the whole of The Iliad, the whole of The

  • Odyssey really comes from this union between Leda and Zeus.

  • And there would have been no epic at all if there had not

  • been this union between Leda and someone

  • who's not quite human.

  • So here's another illustration.

  • This one is Greek and this one is Roman, once again Roman

  • mosaic, and many modern incarnations as well.

  • Yeats also has a poem about Leda.

  • So basically someone who goes down in history as--

  • even though it's not presented in this is way, but she's

  • really going down in history as the most honorable instance

  • of pregnancy outside wedlock.

  • But Faulkner is also not writing Leda's story.

  • He's writing Lena's story.

  • So this is very much a case of the American Lena's updating

  • the Greek Leda, even though maybe she doesn't know the

  • father, or maybe she's not sure that she can get the

  • legitimate wedded husband to be the father of the child.

  • She's definitely going to go and she's

  • going to get someone.

  • So, "It was her destiny to have a husband and children

  • and she knew it, and so she went out and attended to it."

  • Completely matter of fact.

  • This is the American case, it's not the old

  • classic times anymore.

  • In twentieth century America, you need to find a guy.

  • So she's on the road to find this guy, whom she still

  • thinks ought to be the actual father.

  • So today's lecture is really about the updating of the old

  • classic unwed mother.

  • And this is the structure of today's lecture, the way that

  • I've been talking about it, obviously you know that this

  • is going to be a comedy on the part of Lena.

  • So it's comedy and essentially sex as comic.

  • But because this is a road novel, one of many, it also

  • has an epic dimension to it.

  • And another innovation that Faulkner is bringing to bear

  • on the novel and that really is a serious updating of the

  • classic epic comedy --

  • is the introduction of two allegorical

  • names, Byron and Burden.

  • I want to go back still, just linger with the classics for a

  • moment in defining comedy in a particular way.

  • Usually we just in think of comedy as like a Jane Austen.

  • That would be comedy, it has a happy ending.

  • But actually in the Poetics, Aristotle defines comedy in a

  • slightly different way that actually is closer to the way

  • that I would like to talk about comedy in this class.

  • In the Poetics he says, "The participants in comedy were

  • called komoidoi not from their being revelers, but because

  • they wander from one village to another.

  • So wandering, on the road.

  • Persons who are inferior, not however going all the way to

  • full villainy, but imitating the ugly of which the

  • ludicrous is one part.

  • The ludicrous that is, is the failing or a piece of ugliness

  • which causes no pain or destruction."

  • So this is a very counter-intuitive

  • definition of comedy.

  • A lot of it is not that nice.

  • It has to do with villainous people, but not going all the

  • way to full villain.

  • Ugly people, but again, not going all the way so they're

  • utterly despicable.

  • It has a lot to do with people who are not noble.

  • And that really is the classic definition of comedy.

  • The emphasis really lands on the happy ending, that on the

  • fact that they are low born, that they are low in another

  • way, that they don't rise to the tragic height of nobility,

  • which is the elevation proper to tragedy.

  • Comedy is of a much lower elevation.

  • So they are sometimes ludicrous, they are basically

  • not admirable people.

  • But one result of not being completely admirable is that

  • they actually survive quite well.

  • They actually manage to hang in there.

  • So they bring no pain or destruction either to

  • themselves, or to other people.

  • Don't forget, this is the exact opposite of tragedy.

  • We have mass destruction at the end of tragedy --

  • if you think about the tragedy of Troy, or the tragedies

  • based on the story of Troy -- mass destruction.

  • Here a comedy suggests that everyone is going to be able

  • to survive.

  • So with that definition in mind, let's think about the

  • ways in which Lena is pagan, especially in relation to her

  • sexuality, and way that Faulkner represents this

  • aspect of the human condition.

  • This is the story of how Lena gets pregnant.

  • "She slept in a leanto room at the back of house.

  • It had a window, which she learned to open and close

  • again in the dark, without making noise.

  • She had lived there eight years before she opened the

  • window for the first time.

  • She had not opened it a dozen times hardly before she

  • discovered that she should not have opened it at all.

  • She said to herself, that's just my luck.

  • Two weeks later, she climbed again through the window.

  • It was a little difficult this time.

  • If it had been this hard to do before, I reckon I would not

  • be doing it now, she thought."

  • So the entire story what could have been seen as tragic,

  • traumatic, devastation in person's life, one whose

  • life's been ruined, all that is told through Lena's

  • relation to the window, that she can open it without making

  • a noise, that's she's done it a few times, and then she

  • realized she shouldn't have done it, and then the final

  • time it's very hard.

  • But she wished that it had been that hard to begin with.

  • So it's all told through this completely off focus off

  • center relation to the main event.

  • And it doesn't seem especially bad, really, even though it's

  • a matter of inconvenience.

  • And that really is what the pregnancy is to Lena.

  • It is a matter of inconvenience.

  • It is a nuisance, that it is not so easy for her to get out

  • the window at this time.

  • And just to remind us that Faulkner doesn't always write

  • about sexuality in this way, let's just go back to a

  • character who is completely non-pagan.

  • And there's no more striking example