Beyond Alterity: Narrative Ethics in Faulkner and Agee
Doty, Benjamin Joshua
Type of Degreethesis
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This thesis uses the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas to examine the narrative structures of two literary works: William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying and James Agee's Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. Both texts feature dense interaction with the notion of the “poor Southern white”; this is of particular interest to me because of the American literary canon's habitual ontological categorization of this figure as lazy and shiftless; even the term “poor white” linguistically traps these people as 1. poor and 2. white. My aim is to explore the ways in which these texts' narrative ethics free the characters ethically damaged by the “poor white” cognitive category and allow them to transcend caricature into humanity.