Approaches to Teaching Faulkner's As I Lay Dying
As I Lay Dying is considered by many both the most enigmatic and the most accessible of Faulkner's major works. It is also the most dramatic; the journey of the Bundrens, a family of poor farmers in the South in the early twentieth century, unfolds like a one-act play, full of natural disaster and human madness. Taught in high school, college, and graduate courses, the novel lends itself to a wide range of interpretations, posing both challenges and opportunities for the instructor.
Part 1 of this Approaches volume, "Materials," offers an extensive guide to reference materials helpful for both reading and teaching As I Lay Dying. In Part 2, "Approaches," fourteen essays examine the historical, geographic, and cultural aspects of the novel; consider it as a modernist narrative; address such issues as gender, materiality, language, and family dynamics; and discuss the novel in comparative and intertextual terms. Teachers will find suggestions for course design, in-class exercises, and assignments to help students explore a variety of themes, including death and mourning, the role of the mother, work, and the relation between nature and culture.
About the Authors
Patrick O'Donnell is professor of English at Michigan State University. He is the author of John Hawkes; Passionate Doubts: Designs of Interpretation in Contemporary American Fiction; Echo Chambers: Figuring Voice in Modern Narrative; Latent Destinies: Cultural Paranoia in Contemporary U.S. Fiction; and The American Novel Now: Reading Contemporary American Fiction since 1980. He is the editor of New Essays on The Crying of Lot 49, the coeditor of Intertextuality and Contemporary American Fiction, and an associate editor of The Columbia History of the American Novel. He is currently working on a book about Henry James and contemporary cinema.
Lynda Zwinger is associate professor of English at the University of Arizona. She is the author of Daughters, Fathers, and the Novel: The Sentimental Romance of Heterosexuality and of essays on Dickens, Henry James, queer theory, world literature, and popular film.
"This volume of essays on As I Lay Dying will fill a longtime need for teachers and students of Faulkner. The editors have provided us with an aid that should help both new teachers and veterans to teach it more fully and effectively." —Gail L. Mortimer, professor emerita of English, University of Texas, El Paso
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