Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.



Degree Program

Humanities, PhD

Committee Chair

Allen, Annette C.

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Griner, Paul

Committee Member

Salmon, Paul G.

Committee Member

Stewart, Christopher


Faulkner, William, 1897-1962--Alcohol use; Authors--Alcohol use


Opinions about alcoholism as a construct, and opinions about William Faulkner’s alcoholism as a fact, have varied. By considering carefully the role alcohol plays in human society, and by looking at these matters of concern through several different lens models, we can explain both why Faulkner was attracted abnormally to alcohol and why others around Faulkner have responded ambivalently to him, to his drinking and to his fiction. Faulkner’s alcoholism was rumored and denied during his life (1897-1962), evaded and contested after his death, and consistently affirmed after 1980. Attention to David Minter and Joseph Blotner, biographers, reveals much about the shifted opinion. Evolutionary psychology establishes origins of alcoholism, and medical science of heredity, genetics, and neurophysiology describes the problem. Theoreticians such as Wayne Booth, Harold Bloom, Frederic Jameson and Slavoj Žižek provide tools to explain why we vary in our narratives about our favored writers, their personal problems, and the quality of their works. Narrative and rhetorical choices such as telling vs. showing, framing, and word-choice determine focus in biographies. Likewise, Faulkner’s use of doubled-characters both conceals and reveals his own alcoholism in his fictions. The project argues for practice of simultaneity in the application of multiple perspectives. Links connect survival advantages, intoxication, divergent thinking, and heightened creativity, as well as chronic alcoholism, anhedonia, and impaired creativity. The project explains why Faulkner, early in his career, received a creative spark from drinking, was able to sustain this creative flame for a few years even as other bad consequences emerged, and then found his creativity extinguished in alcohol. His rise to fame, however, began exactly at the time that his creativity was waning; a fact that is not so much ironic as it is determined by a drive for others to cling to a creative leader beyond the height of his or her powers. Readers are ardently prone to persist in their attachments to favored writers who no longer function well, paralleling alcoholics who are ardently prone to drink after alcohol no longer benefits them. Both tendencies are coded in our genes.