The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has done an enormous amount of work to educate Americans and the rest of the world about how deeply embedded white supremacy is in our institutions, including cultural ones like art and literature. It has also demanded that we center the voices and perspectives of nonwhite people. So why is William Faulkner having another moment, right when it feels like we have heard quite enough of white people’s takes on race relations? And why is he still at the top of our pantheon of authors when so many other perfectly suitable successors, such as Toni Morrison, have emerged since Faulkner’s death fifty years ago?
Ever since the publication of Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities, the phrase “empty, homogenous time” (borrowed from Walter Benjamin), has become synonymous with the historical imagination of nationalism.