Reconfiguring nation, race, and plantation culture in Freyre and Faulkner
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Gilberto Freyre's Casa-grande & senzala (1933) (The Masters and the Slaves) and William Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom! (1936) revisit and reevaluate Romantic notions of history, especially national progress and attendant accounts of racial purity and whiteness of "the people." The plantation home emerges in their texts as the common locus of historical and cultural experiences and as the principle symbol and metaphor for the domination of colonial forces. This dissertation explores how Freyre and Faulkner both take up the contemporary issue of miscegenation as the primary theme in their respective works. They elaborate this theme and explore its ramifications through the central, grounding image of the plantation home, which they approach through a historical sensibility and from a historical perspective. Freyre and Faulkner work from within paradigms from Europe to rewrite them, as they re-think the legacies of colonialism and of the plantation organization in non-national, non-ethnic, non-Hegelian, generative, deterministic terms. Their works seek to offer viable and independent counter-discourses to the dominant European cultural models -- new, non-nationalist narratives of historical destiny based on culture and economics rather than on any overarching political-historical destiny, as the epics of Europe's nations had been told in the era. This dissertation hopes to contribute to the scholarship that questions the essentialist notions of race and nation, as they were conceived on the plantation in rural regions of the New World. This project recovers a transnational tradition of political opposition -- a tradition that roots itself in the anthropology of experience rather than in the determinism of origin and inheritance. It will also argue for disciplinary realignments in the literature of the Americas, by proposing that further efforts be made to study the New World plantation and its effective geography. On the basis of the discussion on Faulkner, Southern literature ought to observe a new division between the Upper South and the Lower South, demarcated by the border between North and South Carolina, on the basis of the demographics, economics, and, in turn, self-understanding of these respective regions.