How (and why) to read William Faulkner - Sascha Morrell
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If you’re interested in learning more about the connections between theme, form, and style in some of Faulkner’s best fiction, Yale University’s Wai Chee Dimock has developed a series of free lectures for Open Yale Courses on Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury (Lectures 6 to 9), As I Lay Dying (Lectures 13 to 15) and Light in August (Lectures 22-25). Want to hear what Faulkner himself had to say about his work? The University of Virginia has an archive of audio recordings from 1957-58 when Faulkner was writer-in-residence there. In this clip, you can hear Faulkner talking about The Sound and the Fury as his favorite and “the most passionate” of his novels.
Populated with unforgettable characters and steeped in strange folklore, almost all of Faulkner’s fiction is set in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County. Faulkner modeled Yoknapatawpha on his native Lafayette County in Mississippi, but he called it “a cosmos of my own,” and used it as a testing ground for examining some of the deepest fractures in Southern and United States history. You can view Faulkner’s hand-drawn maps of the fictional county, showing the locations of key events in his novels, on the University of Virginia’s Digital Yoknapatawpha project website. The same website has many other resources, including teaching resources, animated visualizations of character relationships in Faulkner’s novels, and manuscript pages from drafts of Faulkner’s novels, such as The Sound and the Fury. You can also explore some of the real-world spaces and stories that inspired Faulkner through the maps, images, and other resources on the Lafayette County Digital Museum website and through the photographs of Martin J. Dain for his series “Faulkner’s World.”
For a more intimate view of Faulkner’s literary life, take a look around William Faulkner’s home in Oxford, Mississippi through the Rowan Oak museum website, where you can also read a concise biography of the author.
Although Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, and other Black writers have praised Faulkner’s nuanced treatment of Southern race relations and the traumatic legacies of slavery, Faulkner’s fiction is best read in conjunction with the work of authors better placed to represent Black experiences in the South. The Center for Black Literature offers some excellent reading suggestions from across a century of Black writing, as well as relevant scholarship.
The University of Mississippi's William Faulkner on the Web archive is no longer updated, but has a vast array of additional resources on myriad aspects of Faulkner's life, writing, and relevant literary and historical contexts. For updates on all things Faulker, including upcoming events and new publications, follow the William Faulkner Society on Twitter @faulknersociety. You can also visit their website here.
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