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Home:  >News & Events   >News Archives   >2002
Faulkner & Yoknapatawpha Conference to feature ‘Faulkner and His Contemporaries’

April 12 , 2002

By Donald M. Kartiganer

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the Winter 2002 edition of The Southern Register, the newsletter of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi.

OXFORD, Miss. — One of the most striking aspects of William Faulkner’s relationship to the literature of his time is the combination of his physical remoteness from its leading figures and urban centers and his intellectual grasp of its underlying dynamics. He spent the bulk of his life in the small North Mississippi town of Oxford, rejecting the “revolt against the village,” versions of which most of his major contemporaries were carrying out, often to the point of leaving not only their birthplaces but the country itself. Faulkner remained where he was, and yet he was keenly aware of the extraordinary developments taking place elsewhere in the nature of literary expression, and the philosophical, psychological, and cultural shifts that were driving them.

“Faulkner and His Contemporaries,” the 29th annual Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference, will explore the literary and intellectual relations Faulkner shares with other writers as well as the extent to which his work is a reflection of, and a commentary on, theirs. Six scholars appearing at the conference for the first time are Houston A. Baker Jr., of Duke University, Grace Elizabeth Hale, of the University of Virginia, George Monteiro, of Brown University, Danièle Pitavy-Souques, University of Burgundy, France, Peggy Whitman Prenshaw, of Louisiana State University, and Merrill Maguire Skaggs, of Drew University.

Baker, author and editor of more than 25 volumes of criticism and poetry, including Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance and Turning South Again: Re-Thinking Modernism, Re-Reading Booker T., will discuss his personal odyssey through Faulkner: he first studied him at Howard University with Toni Morrison, later taught his work in Paris, and has now returned to the South to read him again in North Carolina. Hale, author of Making Whiteness: The Culture of Segregation in the South, 1890-1940, will explore the shifting politics and aesthetics of “loving and hating” the South for Faulkner and his white male contemporaries.

By the 1950s, toward the end of both of their careers, the American writer with whom Faulkner was most often linked and compared was Hemingway. Monteiro, author and editor of studies in both American and Portuguese literature, including Robert Frost and the New England Renaissance, The Correspondence of Henry James and Henry Adams, Fernando Pessoa and 19th-Century Anglo-American Literature, and Stephen Crane’s Blue Badge of Courage, will trace some “debts” each may have incurred from the other, Faulkner’s to Hemingway in the “Wild Palms” section of If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem, and Hemingway’s to the “Old Man” section of the same novel in some of his later work.

Pitavy-Souques and Prenshaw will take up Faulkner’s relationships with some of his Southern contemporaries. Pitavy-Souques, author of two volumes on Eudora Welty, as well as a book-length study of Canadian women writers, will discuss Intruder in the Dust and The Ponder Heart in the context of the civil rights movement and the way in which both texts enact a transgression against the reigning values of the time. Prenshaw, author and editor of volumes on Eudora Welty, Elizabeth Spencer, other Southern women writers, and Southern cultural history, will describe the responses of Welty, Spencer, and Ellen Douglas to Faulkner’s legacy, with particular attention to the issue of racism. Skaggs, author of two books on Willa Cather, a writer Faulkner much admired, will discuss Faulkner’s use of Cather’s 1922 novel, One of Ours, part of which is set in France during World War I.

Returning to the conference will be Deborah Clarke, of Pennsylvania State University, author of Robbing the Mother: Women in Faulkner, who will bring together Faulkner, Henry Ford, and the automobile culture; Michel Gresset, of the Institut d’Anglais, Université de Paris 7, author of A Faulkner Chronology and Fascination: Faulkner’s Fiction, 1919-1936, who will address Faulkner’s place in the French literary scene; and W. Kenneth Holditch, Research Professor Emeritus of the University of New Orleans, author and editor of numerous studies and editions of the works of Tennessee Williams, who will deal with Faulkner and New Orleans, focusing primarily on his connections with John Dos Passos and Williams.

Also returning will be Donald Kartiganer, author of The Fragile Thread: The Meaning of Form in Faulkner’s Novels and coeditor with Ann J. Abadie of seven volumes of proceedings of the Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference, who will discuss the role of “gesture” in Faulkner and Hemingway, and Thomas Rankin, director of the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, who will consider Faulkner and the photographer Walker Evans and their respective “images” of the South.

In addition to the formal lectures, Reckon Crew, a group of four Nashville singer-songwriters, will present the song cycle As I Lay Dying, evocative musical settings of Faulkner’s classic novel. Composers David Olney, Tom House, Karren Pell, and Tommy Goldsmith use folk, country, blues, and gospel styles to accompany Faulkner’s story of the Bundrens’ sometimes blackly humorous struggle to take Addie Bundren to Jefferson for burial.

Other program events will include discussions by Faulkner friends and family; sessions on “Teaching Faulkner” directed by James Carothers, University of Kansas, Robert Hamblin, Southeast Missouri State University, Arlie Herron, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and Charles Peek, University of Nebraska at Kearney; and guided tours of North Mississippi. Arlie Herron will present a slide show of photographs of North Mississippi, images, as he puts it, “of things and people that reminded me of Faulkner in Oxford, New Albany, the Hill Country, the Delta, and along the River.”

The University’s John Davis Williams Library will display Faulkner books, manuscripts, photographs, and memorabilia; and the University Press of Mississippi will exhibit Faulkner books published by university presses throughout the United States. Films relating to the author’s life and work will be available for viewing during the week. Ms. Booth’s Garden, an exhibition of photographs by Jack Kotz, will be on display in the Gammill Gallery at Barnard Observatory.

The conference will begin on Sunday, July 21, with an reception at the University Museums for Paradox in Paradise, an exhibition of mixed media artworks by Lea Barton. This will be followed by an afternoon program of readings from Faulkner and the announcement of the winners of the 13th Faux Faulkner Contest. The contest, coordinated by the author’s niece, Dean Faulkner Wells, is sponsored by Hemispheres Magazine/United Airlines, Yoknapatawpha Press and its Faulkner Newsletter, and the University of Mississippi. Other events will include a Sunday buffet supper served at the home of Dr. and Mrs. M. B. Howorth Jr., “Faulkner on the Fringe” — an “open-mike” evening at the Southside Gallery, guided day-long tours of North Mississippi on Tuesday, a picnic served at Faulkner’s home, Rowan Oak, on Wednesday, and a closing party Friday afternoon at Square Books.

For more information about the conference, contact the Center for Non-Credit Education, P.O. Box 879, The University of Mississippi, University, MS 38677-1848; telephone (662) 915-7282; fax (662) 915-5138, e-mail noncred@olemiss.edu. For on-line information, including an online registration form, consult the official conference web site at www.olemiss.edu/depts/south/faulkner/.

For information about participating in the conference through Elderhostel, call (877) 426-8056 and refer to the program number 24225, or contact Carolyn Vance Smith by telephone, (601) 446-1208, or e-mail, carolyn.smith@colin.edu.


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