By Caroline Blinder (eds.)
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Extra resources for New Critical Essays on James Agee and Walker Evans: Perspectives on Let Us Now Praise Famous Men
Two internal partitions create four rooms. The back of the structure has been complicated by an L extension and a lean-to addition, though the relation of these to the internal arrangement of rooms is somewhat ambiguous (see plate 16). The front façade is elaborated with a roofed porch and pierced by two symmetrically placed windows. Among the several varieties of traditional, southern, double-pen structures, the Gudger dwelling appears to fall in the category of the so-called dogtrot house. Evans’s photograph of this house front (plate 5) is a beautiful example of the aesthetic strategy that informs many of his Famous Men images: the use of seemingly simple symmetries and frank surfaces as a screen for ever more layers of elaboration and complexity.
I now want to O n t ol o g ic a l A s p e c t s of F A M O U S M E N 31 suggest, if too briefly, as in Famous Men, the chief such categories questioned are the most elemental ones of self/other and life/death. Addie’s section, in which, among much else, she also speaks of her husband as “already dead” when he is still alive, is placed in the action of the novel after her death, as if she might be speaking or thinking beyond the grave. ” “The nihilists,” he continues, “say it is the end; the fundamentalists the beginning; when in reality it is no more than a single tenant or family moving out of a tenement or a town” (As I Lay Dying, 42–43).
A key link in the sleep/ sex/death chain is the famous passage in which Agee evokes rather than describes the Gudger family asleep in the adjoining room (FM, 51–52), and so fully that he imagines himself joining them, more than metaphorically, in sleep: “I become not my own shape and weight and self, but that of each of them, the whole of it, sunken in sleep like stones; so that I know almost the dreams they will not remember, and the soul and body of each of these seven” (FM, 52). His descriptions take in the intimate parts of their bodies and, during the following pages, which are partly a kind of aftereffect of this reverie and partly a continuation of it, he speculates on George’s sexual feelings for his sister-in-law Emma, and hers for him; and he even wonders about the possibility of Emma desiring to go to bed, perhaps simultaneously, with George, Walker Evans, and himself!
New Critical Essays on James Agee and Walker Evans: Perspectives on Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by Caroline Blinder (eds.)