Games of Property

Law, Race, Gender, and Faulkner's Go Down, Moses

Games of Property

Book Pages: 352 Illustrations: 21 illustrations Published: July 2003

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, Law, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Criticism

In Games of Property, distinguished critic Thadious M. Davis provides a dazzling new interpretation of William Faulkner’s Go Down, Moses. Davis argues that in its unrelenting attention to issues related to the ownership of land and people, Go Down, Moses ranks among Faulkner’s finest and most accomplished works. Bringing together law, social history, game theory, and feminist critiques, she shows that the book is unified by games—fox hunting, gambling with cards and dice, racing—and, like the law, games are rule-dependent forms of social control and commentary. She illuminates the dual focus in Go Down, Moses on property and ownership on the one hand and on masculine sport and social ritual on the other. Games of Property is a masterful contribution to understandings of Faulkner’s fiction and the power and scope of property law.


Games of Property adduces an extraordinary range of citations and references as Davis works through her argument.” — Kathleen Pfeiffer , Studies in the Novel

"[A] fascinating methodological case study of interdisciplinary work in literature and law, one serving as a useful index to critical issues in American and Faulkner studies as well. . . ." — Mary A. Knighton , Faulkner Journal of Japan

"[F]ull of remarkable insights that urge a new assessment of Go Down, Moses. . . . [F]or anyone interested in the novel and Faulkner's relationship(s) to race, it is definitely required reading." — D. Matthew Ramsey , Modern Fiction Studies

"Davis certainly succeeds in shaking the foundations of normative readings of Faulkner's work and convincingly widens the lens into a fuller understanding of the complicated negotiations of law and race in the maintenance of power." — Jason Gary Horn, American Literature

"Davis distinguishes herself yet again with an innovative and insightful reading of one of the most challenging fictional works in William Faulkner's canon. Drawing on legal history, game theory, social history, feminist theory, gender theory, cultural studies, critical race theory, and American and African American literary studies, she takes us back into the familiar terrain of Faulkner's fiction with fresh insights into the vagaries of race, gender, and the law that reside in the complex realities of the American south. . . . Games of Property is obviously a welcome contribution to Faulkner studies. . . . Davis has herself crossed several disciplinary boundaries and provided us with a model of interdisciplinary thinking and discourse at its best." — Marilyn Mobley McKenzie , Novel

"Davis's Games of Property is an original and powerful critical work, but more than that, it is an exciting read." — Jan Pilditch, Australasian Journal of American Studies

"Davis's theoretically informed literary analysis is conducted at the highest level being produced at this cultural moment." — Steven B. Canaday, Journal of Southern History

"For aficionados of Faulkner interested in race theory, Davis's work, which examines the textual construction of racial and gender identities, is long overdue. . . . Highly recommended." — T. L. Jackson , Choice

“Every now and then, a book comes along that takes us utterly by surprise, reconfiguring old geographies of criticism with originality, power, and brilliance. Thadious M. Davis has produced just such a book. We (and William Faulkner!) are blessed by her attention to race, property, agency, game theory, and critical legal studies. Yoknapatawpha and its creator find radically new use value for a new millennium in Davis’s labors, and we are all gifted with beautifully written scholarship, and an indispensable pedagogical meditation. Davis’s ‘Book of Moses’ is must reading.” — Houston A. Baker, Jr., author of Turning South Again: Re-thinking Modernism/Re-reading Booker T.

”From the opening lines, we are in the presence of an original and powerful voice that expands the boundaries of the field of ‘law and literature’ and offers a fresh way of understanding one of William Faulkner’s most elliptical texts.” — Linda K. Kerber, May Brodbeck Professor of History, University of Iowa

”It may sound hyperbolic to claim that nothing like this exists in Faulkner scholarship, but that’s my claim. Games of Property contributes to a new understanding of not only Go Down, Moses, but of much of Faulkner’s work.” — Linda Wagner-Martin, Frank Borden Hanes Professor of English and Comparative Literature, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Thadious M. Davis is Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of English at Vanderbilt University. She is the author of Nella Larsen, Novelist of the Harlem Renaissance: A Woman’s Life Unveiled and Faulkner’s “Negro”: Art and the Southern Context. She is the coeditor of Satire or Evasion?: Black Perspectives on Huckleberry Finn, published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Illustrations viii

Acknowledgments x

Introduction: The Game of Genre 1

1. The Game of Challenge

2. The Object of Property 77

3. The Game of Boundaries

4. The Subject of Property 174

5. Conclusion: The Game of Compensation 223

Notes 263

Bibliography 309

Index 330
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing

Honorable mention, 2003 William Sanders Scarborough Prize, Modern Language Association

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3139-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3103-2
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