I was able to trace Helm’s specificpassage from Powers.
Powers is Griceian, I like that. He likesto make what Grice calls ‘fine
“But there is a logic to Faulkner’s dependence on difficulty.”
Anathema to Grice whose desideratum isclarity (“be perspicuous [sic]”).
“It serves two purposes,” Powers notes.And just because of this I say that
Powers is being Griceian. Nothing servesjust one purpose.
“In some of [Faulkner’s] novels, and especially in “Absalom, Absalom!,”
thedifficulty ensure[s] that Faulkner’s neighbo[u]rs would NOT know what he
wastalking about lest they burn his barn, if not worse.”
Grice would possibly think that ‘know’ ispossibly too strong – ‘believe’ may do!
“The *second* purpose,” Powers goes on:
“is to force readers [or addressees, asGrice prefers, just in case “Absalom,
Absalom!” becomes, say, “Absalom,Absalom! The Musical] to struggle to get the
As opposed as to get the story deviant, Iimagine (vide Susan Haack, “Deviant
“A poem or a short story in Faulkner’s view was too small, too soon over,
toencompass the big thing on his mind — the great submerged obsessive
guiltyburden of slave times, when all whites knew but few said that slaves were
notonly unpaid laborers but unpaid sexual servants.”
I guess Grice would say that ‘knew’ isstrong enough there!
And can we generalize the point? Does a ‘flouting’(or violation) to “Be
perspicuous [sic]” always have at least two purposes?
I like Powers’s “all knew but few SAID.”It has a Griceian ring to it. Powers
seems to be, not saying, but implicatingwhat Faulkner might be implicating with
his ‘long’ stories, a.k.a. novels. The ‘difficulty’allows to ‘get the story
straight.’ I wonder if this, to use Helm’s comparison,applies to Heidegger,
In “Faulkner’s father, etc.” (elsewhere),L. J. Helm quotes from a review in the
NYROB by T. Powers of A. Bleikasten’s “WilliamFaulkner: A Life Through Novels”.
Bleikasten, while aiming at the novels as per the subtitle to his essay,
isreviewed in connection with a _short story_ by Faulkner.
As Gearywould say:
“That’s abit like getting a comment on the South American rhea when you bought
a volumeon the African ostrich!” (J).
Powerspoint is a general one, though:
“Faulkner’sfamily held no great place in Oxford. A feckless farmer in
Faulkner'sshort story ‘Two Soldiers’ is described as always behind; ‘he can’t
get nofurther behind,’ a son remarks.”
Perhapshe was a rear admiral at heart!
“Faulkner'sfather was like that. He failed in business repeatedly and was fired
fromhis last job as comptroller at the University of Mississippi when he
refused tocontribute to the local politicos. Faulkner's grandfather had been
abigger man locally but was disgraced at the end of his life after he ran
offwith some Oxford town funds and ‘a beautiful octoroon.’ The pride of
thefamily was Faulkner's great-grandfather, who had fought in the Civil War,
builta railroad, and was shot dead in the streets of Oxford by a formerpartner.
Just as remarkable was the great-grandfather’s huge popularsuccess with a Civil
War novel called “The White Rose of Memphis,” whichprompt[s] Faulkner at nine
to say, ‘I want to be a writer like mygreat-grand-daddy.’”
Helmcompares the scenario to Heidegger:
“Somehere may recall considering the possibility that Heidegger may have
developedan extremely difficult style in hopes that his Nazi overseers would
not discover histrue beliefs -- whatever they were.”
When itcomes to Faulkneriana, Helm notes:
“Something similar may have influenced Faulkner's style.” And goes on to
"Few Americans ever tackle Faulkner […] But there is a *logic*
[emphasisSperanza’s] to Faulkner’s dependence on difficulty […]. In some of the
novels,and especially in “Absalom, Absalom!,” the difficulty ensure[s]
thatFaulkner's neighbor[u]rs [anti-Websterian spelling ‘correction,’
Speranza’s]would not *know* [asterisks Speranza’s] what he was talking about
lest theyburn his barn […].”
Of courseit reminds me, if not of the South American rhea, of Grice!
The Gricepapers (now at Berkeley) contain a manuscript where he coined
‘implicature’(pre-dating the 1967 William James lectures) and where he talks of
a‘desideratum’ of ‘clarity’ (I suppose he is reacting to Lewis’s claim,
“Clarityis not enough: essays against linguistic philosophy.”)
When Gricegets the Harvard invitation he is rather ‘echoing’ and playing on
Kant, so hefinds that Kant’s FOUR categories can become Grice’s four
The‘modus’ one is the one that has Faulknerian undertones. Grice formulates it
aspertaining to a maxim,
There isa sub-maxim here, “Avoid obscurity of expression.”
Grice goes on to illustrate this with some poem by William Blake, which
MOSTEnglishmen DO tackle! (Grice’s chosen phrase is Blake’s “love that never
toldcan be.” Does Blake merely mean “love that can never be told,” or, “love
that,if told, would cease to exist.”?(Grice is using ‘being’ alla Heidegger,
sinceHelm quotes him!)).
But thereare MANY problems here! (Fascinating ones).
Helm’sinterest is the more specific political ambiguity or obscurity in
Who wouldLOVE to ‘tackle’ that? Grice would possibly say: Let graduate [some of
them areAmerican, you know!] students tackle things – and Americans, however
few, just_enjoy_ the thing!
Or do wehave to restrict to Faulkner’s neighbours, as Powers suggest?
Theproblems are many (“and varied,” as Geary would add):
IsFaulkner being _intentionally_ obscure?
Would herely on the assumption that his neighbour would possibly NOT care to
tackle‘Absalom, Absalom!’ anyway?
By thetime Grice is delivering the William James lectures he has a whole
taxonomy andvocabulary to tackle (er…) these problems.
A ‘maxim’can be violated, but it can be ‘flouted.’
To flouta maxim is like violating it, only that the utterer [Faulkner, not
Blake, inthis case] expects his addressee [or his ‘neighbour’] will ‘tackle’
the‘violation,’ and get some implicature as a reward! (“Or punishment”!)
Blake maybe, for example, implicating that Auden is right in considering the
seriousnessof ‘the truth about love.’
When itcomes to burning barns, granted, I suppose Grice may need to add
thedisimplicature, to boot!