An Aesthetic Consciousness: An Existentialist Reading of William Faulkner’s Fiction

Heller, Maya. 2017. An Aesthetic Consciousness: An Existentialist Reading of William Faulkner’s Fiction. Other thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis presents an existentialist reading of William Faulkner’s early fiction (1925-31). Moving away from a regionalist perspective the thesis argues that Faulkner’s work can be viewed as part of a universal and aesthetic exploration of the human condition. By focusing specifically on Jean-Paul Sartre’s early philosophy (1930s-40s) and the concepts of consciousness, the duality of being: being-in-itself (the world of objects) and being-for-itself (human consciousness), the thesis investigates the way in which consciousness operates ontologically in Faulkner’s prose. It argues that a decidedly existentialist consciousness can be traced in Faulkner, one in which a linked relationship between imagination and reality lays bare the fragility of the
characters and a sense of displacement in Faulkner’s fiction.

Within the context of existentialism, the thesis also emphasizes the importance of the artist figure within Faulkner’s writing. As the embodiment of existential action and choice, the artist in Faulkner’s fiction reflects a sense of liberation and freedom. In this context, the existentialist reading re-examines the way the artist’s sense of reality hinges on the interaction between human consciousness and the world of objects, between Faulkner’s representation of art (text, painting and sculpture) and form and technique
(fragmentation and multiple perspective).

Item Type:

Thesis (Other)

Identification Number (DOI):


Existentialism, Sartre, Faulkner, Cubism, Modernism, As I Lay Dying, Sanctuary, Mosquitoes, Elmer

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature


31 February 2017

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

27 Mar 2017 14:31

Last Modified:

12 Sep 2022 11:12


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