Lit Crit Hit of the Day: Robert Dale Parker’s "Sanctuary and Bad Taste"

Robert Dale Parker is a professor of English at the Univeristy of Illinois, whose work I’ve admired for some years. First it was an article on Elizabeth Bishop, and just today I came across this recent analysis of the Faulkner novel everybody loves to admit they like even as they admit how bad it is, but love it anyway. Or something like that. Parker explains it all better than I ever could:

And so this essay will be an exercise in taste and an exploration of the novel as an exercise in taste. Let me say right off: I think Sanctuary is in bad taste. I think it took bad taste to write it, and it takes bad taste to ask our students to read it. Perhaps nowhere is bad taste more deplored than in France, or so at least Americans like to believe. Perhaps that is also why no one appreciates bad taste more than the French, as Americans also like to believe, typically citing the French delight in the films of Jerry Lewis, but perhaps we could also cite the French taste for Faulkner on both counts, good taste and bad taste, and also good taste in bad taste.

Now I have to go read Sanctuary all over again.


  1. Theocoid says

    I haven’t read a serious piece of lit crit for some time, but this one looks like something I souldn’t want to miss.

  2. Jonathan Webb says

    The lit crit sounds better than the novel.

  3. I just finished a year of teaching high school English conversation over in France, and it was the last day, and we were doing the game where one person goes out of the classroom and while they're gone the other students have to decide who the person will be, then the person comes back in and has to ask yes or no questions about who they are until they guess it. I was the last person, and after some questions, learned that I was a drummer for a band, a very talented drummer, nay, the *BEST* drummer in the history of music, no exageration, I was assured. The students all agreed, hands down, the best drummer ever. Imagine my surprise when I found that I was Travis Barker, the drummer for Blink 182. They were of course scandalised I had never even heard of him. French students (at least in high school) are by and far completely Americanized, same "bad taste" as the students have over here, and most of them have never heard of Jerry Lewis.

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