Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
The purpose of this paper is to identify the function of characters who recur in more than one text by the same author.
Chapter One reviews critical opinions regarding repeating characters. These range from Percy Lubbock who believes that the other lives of a character should be ignored or they will distort the truth of the individual novels, to Michel Butor who recognizes that repeating characters serve a unique function within the texts. The term “conjunctive” novel is coined to identify texts which are conjoined by repeating characters.
Applying Mikhail Bakhtin’s terminology, Chapter Two argues that conjunctive novels are double-voiced discourses generated by a dialogic interaction between repeating characters and the conjoined texts. Divorced from novel time and causality, repeating characters are drawn together in the interstices between the texts where they interact free from the authority of any one text.
Chapter Three applies the theory to three repeating characters in William Faulkner’s Light in August, each of whom interacts with one main character: The Armstids (Lena), the elder Burdens (Joanna), and Capt. John McLendon (Joe Christmas). The dialogic confrontation which occurs creates a new perspective which can ripple across the entire surface of the conjoined texts. The combined character of Martha Armstid forces a re-evaluation of Lena Grove’s “luminosity.” The combined stories about the shooting of the two Burden men by Colonel Sartoris reveals how the discrimination of memory results in a self-created history. The link Capt. McLendon creates between Joe Christmas and Will Mayes in “Dry September” reveals that McLendon, Mayes and Christmas are all victims of a racially and sexually dependent code.
Chapter Four utilizes the enhanced perspectives afforded by the intertextual readings to locate the pattern behind the three plots of Light in August. Instead of the temporal and causal resolution which the novel genre anticipates, the various “plots” represent alternative responses to life consistent with the Melvillian “trinity of conscience: knowing nothing, knowing but not caring, knowing and caring” (Faulkner), represented by Lena; Joanna Burden and Hightower; and Joe Christmas, respectively.
Chapter Five extends the theory to texts conjoined in a series (by application to James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking tales), as well as texts conjoined by place (by application to Gloria Naylor’s novels, The Women of Brewster Place and Linden Hills).
The study concludes that repeating characters animate the conjoined texts, and prevent each of the texts from hardening into a fait accompli.
Desotelle, Joanne Ruth Gowey, "The Conjuctive Novel: Form and Function" (1990). Theses and Dissertations. 696.