Of Past and Present: American Literature and Politics

Published : 12 Sep 2023 07:53 PM

(Continued from last day’s section)

Right in the depression era, America was gifted with some talented quirky, dorky and freaky writers, authors, poets, and philosophers, who published their works about Americas “Great Expectations,” known as “American Dream”; among them, who later became most prominent is William Cuthbert Faulkner oasis “Queer Faulkner” or “Freaky Faulkner;” for whose celebration, I am, like many others, in his Rowan Oak, Oxford, Mississippi, over a century later. 

 William Faulkner wrote novels and dramas including countless poems in his early writings periods; and his works mostly composed with different stylistic variations along with the use of high-pitch long sentences, and use of uncommon vocabulary that contrasted his contemporaries such as Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe, and many others. His novels are mostly set in Faulkner’s imaginary Yoknapatawpha county, which is actually Lafayette county of Mississippi that is where Oxford is. 

The embodiment of his Yoknapatawpha county family’s crime and corruption, violence and mystery, family feud, and family members’ inner psychological guilt and redemption, and their visions, of which are some queer visions, narrated orally in each character’s mouth as a monologue; and shifting the narrative from one character to another character in his novels are his stylistic genius, we know as the “stream of consciousness.” Thus, the theme of this year’s conference, which is the 49th Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference was selected “Queer Faulkner.” Because the queer people’s rights are as critically important as that of other ordinary binary people in American society today. Moreover, they are gradually coming open to push their agenda in the communities, workplaces, and schools, which many parents are not interested to include queer topics into the school curriculum. 

The opposing viewpoints are gaining tractions while some are complete opposite to it; some are quiet or silent. However, the people who has a strong moral conviction, in their faith and belief, are against the imminent danger of this queer culture that they fear - this may eventually destroy the reproduction of human race, family life, their sustained values, and age-old social structure. This silent queer movement is slowly taking over the society, which is by Charles Dicken’s is a “decadence” of modernism. After all, some scholars in the conference termed “all modernism is queer”. 

While one tried to nurture their society, the other tried to destroy their society through quirkiness and freakiness. In this regard, no doubt, literary works of Faulkner, subsequent authors, and contemporary arts and music might play an ominously significant, but conflicting roles, hardly a few could see, and dare to critically critique. The decadence that Charles Dickens noticed, has not paused or stopped rather it has seen a consistent amplification over the  years, recently reaching at the boiling points: to burn and eventually to cool down soon. But nobody knows its exact time. It, therefore, warrants discussion that literary elements and features of such great writer’s had been taken out of context as a source of promotion of queer culture rather than as a source of addressing the dark picture of his society that he had lived in, that he had illustrated through various characterization in his novels. Thus, this quirky, dorky, and freaky culture is now a critical issue in American social, cultural, and political fabrics.

Another issue that is of serious importance to discuss here is the introduction of a new or updated critical race theory in the school textbook curriculum, got intensely controversial when newly elected governor of Florida initiated and the Florida Board of Education approved. Because the emergence of the “woke culture” as they allegedly relate to the queer and modern culture, and that is why, the governor of Florida last year signed the “Stop WOKE Act” to restrict - how issues of race are taught in public schools and workplaces. According to the governor, “this is an in-depth, deep dive into African American history”, which is “clearly American history” based on “the standards that are factual, objective standards that really teach the good, the bad, and the ugly and provide an exhaustive representation of African American history.”

“Wokiness” or “Wokeism” that has rooted in, as a sign of protest to the implicit denial of slavery and/or suppression by some corners of the society, has transformed over the period that has transcended through feminist revolution and civil rights movement to today’s quirky, dorky, freaky, and pride culture of some sort; which some conservatives or moderate liberals will outrightly deny; some will fail to link; and some will remain quiet.

However, this ‘woke’ culture is gaining traction, in other parts of the world, through the first-pace social media platform that had no necessity to adapt or discard, but to create awareness about its imminent danger. Finally, whatever the individual viewpoints be, they should be respected and nurtured, and may be pre-empted to resist based on individual preferences for their freedom, autonomy, and liberty; moreover, some of these literary works should be read, critically critiqued, enjoyed, and celebrated for self-gratification; but not to be adapted as a living panacea.

The conference, although, was very informative, and Faulkner scholars have critically analyzed his texts, and his novels’ features, and characters have been critically compared, contrasted, and associated with other queer writers’ works, and their individual disconcerted issues; it failed to discuss and bring to light the implication of his novels’ freaky features with contemporary social, institutional, political, and popular culture. 


Mizanur Rahman is a full-time faculty member at Arkansas State University Mid-South