• Sutpen’s Hundred and the Violence of the Grand Design

    Robert Yeates (see profile)
    Faulkner, William, 1897-1962, Architecture and literature, Race, Slavery, American literature, Architecture, Literature
    Item Type:
    Conference paper
    Conf. Title:
    Humanities PGR Conference 2014
    Conf. Org.:
    University of Exeter
    Conf. Loc.:
    Exeter, UK
    Conf. Date:
    Apr. 28, 2014
    ruin, american south, William Faulkner
    Permanent URL:
    Several critics note that the construction of architectural forms is a process laced with violence, that structures then contain dormant violence, and that they will ultimately meet with a violent end. Terry Smith writes that “from at least some of its beginnings … architecture has had various degrees and kinds of violence built, as it were, into it. All building does violence to the natural order,” and anticipates “obsolescence, dilapidation, or replacement—in short, its own destruction.” Lewis Mumford writes that all living, built environments will end in the “Necropolis,” “a common graveyard of dust and bones” and “fire scorched ruins.” This trajectory of violence features prominently in William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! (1936) in the manifestation of Thomas Sutpen’s grand design, the plantation house of Sutpen’s Hundred. Moreover, this trajectory goes on to bear profound significance to both the execution of Sutpen’s personal ambition, and to the history of the South. Sutpen’s mansion functions as metaphor for these parallel arcs in its violent rendering on the virgin land of Yoknapatawpha, its participation in slavery, and the violent demise brought about by the ghosts that dwell within its ruined walls.
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