Shattering the Empty Vessel: Absence and Language in Addie's Chapter of Faulkner's As I Lay Dying

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Title: Shattering the Empty Vessel: Absence and Language in Addie's Chapter of Faulkner's As I Lay Dying
Author: Massey, Kathryn Rebecca
Advisors: Grimwood, Mike, Committee Member
Halpern, Nick, Committee Chair
Thompson, Jon, Committee Member
Abstract: When Faulkner centers Addie Bundren's monologue both symbolically and literally in As I Lay Dying, her presence in the novel is complicated by the fact that she is also the embodiment of absence. Correspondingly, Addie's monologue works to expose a similar paradox, which lies at the core of language itself: she insists that each word is "just a shape to fill a lack" (72). Critics frequently recall this statement when they undertake an analysis of her theory of language. However, many perceive it to be a simple and straightforward linguistic argument while I believe that its philosophical implications are quite complex. Addie's theory of language reveals her struggle to come to terms with a concept that is so fundamental to our experience of the world that it is often overlooked by readers and critics alike: the concept of perceived absence, or what Martin Heidegger calls "being-missing." Heidegger's philosophy offers a valuable starting point for an exploration of Addie's chapter because his linguistic complexity, intricacy, and subversiveness parallel Faulkner's own writing in many ways. Even more significant, Heidegger describes "being-missing" as the point of intersection between the concepts of presence and absence while As I Lay Dying places Addie Bundren at exactly this metaphysical crossroads. Addie's monologue expresses her obsession with the perpetual 'loss' language produces every time the 'word' replaces the 'doing' of her own subjective experience.
Date: 2003-09-07
Degree: MA
Discipline: English

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