Gumbrecht, Faulkner and the presence of heat

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In setting out to examine the existence of presence, as opposed to meaning, in literature this essay draws on the work of Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht whose recent record of publications has formed a sustained response to this issue. Situating Gumbrecht’s work within two contexts – its debt to a phenomenological heritage and its congruence with more recent literary criticism – the essay argues for a renewed emphasis on presence via the concept of mood or stimmung. It then seeks to extend Gumbrecht’s work by offering an interpretation of William
Faulkner’s 1932 novel Light in August which concentrates upon the palpable presence (stimmung) of heat which it contains. The existence of this heat, it will be argued, depends upon elements of the text that initially appear meaningful – or, to utilise Gumbrecht’s terminology, moments that are there primarily for their ‘meaning effect’ – but which analysis shows to be productive of presence. The essay concludes with a claim that what literary studies now requires is a re-ordering of the terms of emphasis in which discussions of meaning and presence are couched.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1361-1378
JournalTextual Practice
Issue number7
Early online date7 Nov 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 7 Nov 2016


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