In his book's final sentence, David Evans is concerned that we "assure a future for Faulkner, and a Faulkner for the future" (236). Taken at a glance, this concern might imply a need to safeguard Faulkner's continuing relevance: pointing to the future and Faulkner together suggests that their mutuality is not, in fact, certain. And in light of shifting critical approaches to this canonical writer, not to mention the diminishing importance of author studies as well as scholarly genres like the monograph, Evans's caution makes a certain critical sense.
Yet the statement's fuller meaning within the context of this new study lies with Faulkner's creative and intellectual affinity with an ostensibly quite different figure. Such is Evans's main contention in William Faulkner, William James, and the American Pragmatic Tradition. This is a rich study, notable for the attention Evans pays to James's prose as well as his ideas, and to the ways he links the Harvard philosopher and member of the gentile New York clan to the Bard of Mississippi. Evans readily admits the unusual nature of this linking. Yet he argues that despite their differences, Faulkner and James share, above all, a commitment to the notion of truth as produced, not found; to the narrative aspect of knowledge; and to the ways in which reality is constructed through communal acts of faith and a willingness to believe—all dimensions of what Evans describes as central pragmatist ideals.
Copyright © The Johns Hopkins University Press. This article first appears in Modern Fiction Studies 57:4 (2012), 766-770.
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Lurie, Peter. "William Faulkner, William James, and the American Pragmatic Tradition (review)." Modern Fiction Studies 57, no. 4 (2012): 766-70. doi:10.1353/mfs.2011.0077.