Title page for ETD etd-04142005-161744

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Broyles, Kenneth Mark
URN etd-04142005-161744
Title "Let Me Play a While": Storytelling Characters and Voices in the Works of Mark Twain, William Faulkner, and Lee Smith
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department English
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Richard Moreland Committee Chair
Bainard Cowan Committee Member
Brannon Costello Committee Member
Frank de Caro Committee Member
William Cooper Dean's Representative
  • narrative
  • orality
Date of Defense 2005-03-04
Availability unrestricted
This dissertation focuses on the difference between narrators and characters in fiction who tell stories. It also argues that traditional orality persists in American culture and is a significant influence in the fiction of Mark Twain, William Faulkner and Lee Smith. In their work, they try to overcome what some perceive as a structural discrimination inherent in the novel and imbue their characters' speaking voices with authority that is determined by something other than their position in the structural hierarchy. All three authors attempt to give their characters speaking voices which are not necessarily inferior to the narrative or authorial voices in their works. This dissertation also suggests that the "narrator" has changed over time from a written representation of an oral storyteller to a literary function which facilitates a novel's storytelling. It is therefore methodologically useful to distinguish between narrators and storytelling characters. Susan Lanser's and Stephen Ross's concepts of voice help differentiate narrators from storytelling characters and from other voices in literature. By looking at types of storytellers, both narrators and characters, and the types of voice used by authors to represent them, we see how each type of voice acquires discursive authority. This work adapts these concepts in order to begin a discussion of voice in the works of Twain, Faulkner and Smith, and show that each of these authors attempt to give mimetic voices unusual degrees of authority-both in and outside the fictive world. This work looks specifically at storytelling events in several of Twain's short stories, including "A True Story Repeated Word for Word as I Heard It," and how experiments with these characters in his short stories led to the narrative voice in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. This is followed by a detailed look at narrators and storytellers in Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom! and Smith's The Devil's Dream.
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