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A Textual-functional Analysis of Faulkner's Stream-of-consciousness Style

Author WangXiaoFeng
Tutor LiChangLei
School Jinan University
Course Foreign Linguistics and Applied Linguistics
Keywords textual function the stream-of-consciousness style Faulkner Absalom Absalom!
CLC I712.074
Type Master's thesis
Year 2013
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William Faulkner (1897-1962) is acknowledged throughout the world as one ofthe greatest American writers in the20thcentury. In1949, Faulkner won the NobelPrize for Literature “his novels with every-varying form, their ever-deeper and moreintense psychological insight, and their monumental characters—both good and evil,which occupy a unique place in modern American and British fiction”. Absalom,Absalom!, published in1936, is often referred by Faulkner as “the best novel yetwritten by an American”. The story is about the life and times of a social climber,Thomas Sutpen, and his family, the dynasty by design he creates. In this novel,Faulkner uses the stream-of-consciousness style to explore the characters’ innerfeelings.Stream of consciousness is originated from the turmoil in modern western life,and at the same time directly affected by the western modern psychology. Freud’spsychoanalysis and the modern western philosophy and social ideological trend ofanti-rationalism, such as William James’ the stream of consciousness theory, Freud’s“sub-consciousness”, Bergson’s “intuition” and “psychological time”, Schopenhauerand Nietzsche’s volitionism, they all have a great influence on the formation of streamof consciousness.As a major mode of modern fiction, stream of consciousness is stronglyinnovative. It focuses on the inner reality of characters, their subjective feelings andimpressions, the ebb and flow of consciousness, especially the sub-consciousness. Thetechniques for presenting stream-of-consciousness are greatly different from onenovel to the next. There are four basic techniques used in presenting stream ofconsciousness. They are direct interior monologue, indirect interior monologue,omniscient description and soliloquy. Faulkner is the representative of thestream-of-consciousness novelists. In his novels, the stream of consciousnessnarrative is often employed as well as multiple narrators. In recent years, China hasseen many publications on stream of consciousness. While it must be pointed that the study related to the stream-of-consciousness is limited within the scope of literature.There is rarely study using linguistic theories to analyze and interpretstream-of-consciousness style.Halliday’s “Linguistic Function and Literary Style: An Inquiry into the Languageof William Golding’s The Inheritors”(1971) is the model of literature analysis usingfunctional grammar. In this paper, Halliday analyzes the regular use of the transitivitysystem, and further illustrates the relationship between the language structureappearance and cognitive level and ability of the characters in the novel. In the latestyears, Systemic-Functional Linguistics has been the research hot spot in foreignlanguage linguistics in our country.With an overview of the studies in China and Western Countries, there’s has beenlimited research combining Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! and thestream-of-consciousness style, much less the study of the stream-of-consciousnessstyle in Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! using textual function of systemic functionalgrammar as theoretical base. Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!, stream-of-consciousnessstyle, and Halliday’s textual function, these three terms have yet not been combined tobe studied. The study and interpretation of the stream-of-consciousness style of theFaulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! utilizing Halliday’s Systemic-functional grammar,though creative and practical, has been rare and remains to be studied and explored.Based on the achievements of the previous studies, this thesis “ATextual-Functional Analysis of Faulkner’s Stream-of-Consciousness Style: A CaseStudy of Absalom, Absalom!” employs the SFL theory into the textual-functionalanalysis and interpretation of the stream-of-consciousness style used in Faulkner’sAbsalom, Absalom!, aiming at a preliminary study of language features of Faulkner’sstream-of-consciousness and testing the applications of M. A. K. Halliday’ssystemic-functional grammar in literary understanding and analysis, and providing anew linguistic perspective for the interpretation of stream-of-consciousness style.Armed with textual function, this thesis “A Textual-Functional Analysis ofFaulkner’s Stream-of-Consciousness Style: A Case Study of Absalom, Absalom!” isdivided into five parts. Part one is the chapter of introduction, part two literature review, part three theoretical framework, part four consisting of information structure,thematic structure, cohesion and coherence is the analysis part and main body of thestudy, part five the conclusion part.Through the analyzing part, this thesis draws the conclusion that the uses ofstream-of-consciousness style in Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! demonstrate that theSouthern society and Southern people undergo a shifted time after the Civil War;Faulkner’s stream-of-consciousness style in Absalom, Absalom! is seeminglydisordered, but in effect very cohesive through the uses of cohesive ties; Absalom,Absalom! is the representative work of Faulkner’s experiment in novel forms, whichdemonstrates Faulkner’s extraordinary endowments and excellent writing skills.Halliday’s SFL is meaningful to the interpretation of literary works in theory andpractice.

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