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Home:  >News & Events   >News Archives   >2003

30th annual Faulkner & Yoknapatawpha Conference to examine ‘Faulkner and the Ecology of the South’

June 13, 2003

By Donald Kartiganer
Director, Faulkner & Yoknapatawpha

As approaches to literature continue to fluctuate, we find that Faulkner’s fiction has the uncanny capacity to fluctuate with them—that is, no matter the angle of the approach, Faulkner’s work seems to rise to meet it, as the world of his fiction proves to be even more spacious and inclusive than we had imagined. Whatever direction literary criticism takes, it finds Faulkner waiting there to be rediscovered again. The theme of the 30th annual Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference is “Faulkner and the Ecology of the South.” The perspective on Faulkner will have the dual focus of current ecological study, referring to the systems of relations that exist both in the natural world and the constructed world. As Lawrence Buell has recently put it, one of the major tasks of ecocriticism “is to put ‘green’ and ‘brown’ landscapes, the landscapes of exurbia and industrialization, in conversation with each other.”

Faulkner’s fiction is deeply concerned with both the “green” and “brown” landscapes and the “conversation” between them. His created communities—ranging from the townspeople of Jefferson to the country people of Frenchman’s Bend as well as the distinct African American and Native American groups within and without those communities—all exist in place, part of a rich dynamic of peoples and environments.

Six scholars appearing at the conference for the first time are Eric Gary Anderson, associate professor of English at Oklahoma State University; literary critic and poet Ann Fisher-Wirth, professor of English at the University of Mississippi; Keith Marshall, computer graphics designer, art historian, and classical music critic for the New Orleans Times-Picayune; Scott Slovic, professor of literature and environment and director of the Center for Environmental Arts and Humanities at the University of Nevada, Reno; Cecelia Tichi, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of English at Vanderbilt University; and Michael Wainwright, a doctoral candidate at the Royal Holloway Department of English, University of London.

Anderson is the author of American Indian Literature and the Southwest: Contexts and Dispositions and is currently working on a book-length study of Faulkner entitled “Environing Faulkner: Crime, Place, Narrative.” His paper will be on the relations of ecology, blood, and violence in The Sound and the Fury and Sanctuary. Fisher-Wirth is the author of William Carlos Williams and Autobiography: The Woods of His Own Nature and over 50 published poems. She is also editor of the biannual newsletter of the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment and was cosponsor of “‘Coming Nearer the Ground’: An ASLE Symposium on the South” in 2001. She will speak on the interrelations between Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! and Peter Matthiessen’s Mr. Watson trilogy, both of which trace the attempt of ambitious men to tame the lawless wilderness, achieving environmental “development” at the cost of nature’s degradation.

Marshall curated and wrote the catalog for the John McCrady retrospective exhibition at the New Orleans Museum of Art, was a 1999-2001 Core Fellow at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, and has written extensively about Southern art and exhibitions for several art journals. He will compare Faulkner’s verbal creation of Yoknapatawpha County with John McCrady’s visual creation of Lafayette County, paying particular attention to the ways in which Faulkner’s imagery is powerfully visual and McCrady’s essentially narrative.

Slovic was the founding president of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment and is the author of numerous studies of ecocriticism, environmental literature, and American literature. He has written or edited eight volumes, including Seeking Awareness in American Nature Writing: Henry Thoreau, Annie Dillard, Edward Abbey, Wendell Berry, Barry Lopez and, most recently, Getting Over the Color Green: Contemporary Environmental Literature of the Southwest. His talk will address several Faulkner texts in terms of death and violence: their desire to access a sense of visceral, primal involvement in the more-than-human world and thus reveal the genuine organic nature of the human mind and body.

Tichi is the author of five books, including New World: New Earth: Environmental Reform in American Literature from the Puritans through Whitman and, most recently, Embodiment of a Nation: Human Form in American Spaces. She will focus on Faulkner’s environmental concerns and his representations of work—of labor—at a moment when industrial processes obscured the fact of physical labor. Wainwright is working on a doctoral dissertation that studies theories of evolution in relation to Faulkner’s fiction. His paper, drawing from materials in the dissertation, will be on the Snopes trilogy in terms of the ecological dynamics of the rise of the Snopes family.

Returning to the conference will be Thomas McHaney, Kenneth M. England Professor of Southern Literature at Georgia State University. McHaney is the author or editor of seven books on Faulkner, as well as ten volumes of the William Faulkner Manuscripts series. He will discuss the ethical and philosophical relationship between Janisse Ray’s The Ecology of a Cracker Childhood and Faulkner’s Go Down, Moses. François Pitavy, professor emeritus of American literature at the University of Burgundy in Dijon, France. Pitavy is the author of several volumes on Southern literature and Faulkner, including Faulkner’s “Light in August” and, most recently, “Le Bruit et la Fureur” de William Faulkner. He is also the translator of three Faulkner novels and is currently working on A Fable. In “Faulkner’s Impossible Arcadia” he will discuss two attitudes toward nature, one in which the human is dominant, the other in which an Arcadian, peaceful stance is achieved. Faulkner preferred the second, yet he recognizes that the reality of change invariably leads toward the destruction of nature.

Also returning will be Philip Weinstein, Alexander Griswold Cummins Professor of English at Swarthmore College. He is the author of four books, including Faulkner’s Subject: A Cosmos No One Owns and What Else But Love? The Ordeal of Race in Faulkner and Morrison, and editor of The Cambridge Companion to William Faulkner. Weinstein will focus on the various physical sites of Absalom, Absalom!--West Virginia, Tidewater, New Orleans, Jefferson, and Cambridge--each with its own somatic and ideological codes, yet each forced by the novel to interact with each other, thus staging what amounts to a conflict of ecologies.

Other program events will include a reading by novelist and short story writer Tom Franklin, author of Poachers and the forthcoming Hell at the Breech; 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 an exhibition of Faulkner books, manuscripts, photographs, and memorabilia at the University’s John Davis Williams Library. Seth Berner, a well-known collector of Faulkneriana, will conduct a special session on collecting Faulkner.

The conference will begin on Sunday, July 20, with a reception at the University Museums and an exhibition of the work of Thomas B. Allen, whose illustrations of Americana have appeared on several record album covers, in numerous children’s books, and in Esquire, Life, and Sports Illustrated, to name only a few. The Museums events will be followed by an afternoon program of readings from Faulkner and the announcement of the winners of the 14th Faux Faulkner Contest. The contest, coordinated by the author’s niece, Dean Faulkner Wells, is sponsored by Hemispheres Magazine/United Airlines, Yoknapatawpha Press, and the University of Mississippi. Other events will include a Sunday buffet supper served at historic Isom Place, “Faulkner on the Fringe”—an “open-mike” evening at the Southside Gallery, guided day-long tours of Northeast Mississippi, a picnic served at Faulkner’s home, Rowan Oak, and a closing party Thursday afternoon at Square Books. Films relating to Faulkner’s life and work will be available for viewing during the week. Red Hills to Gulf Shores: Autographics, an exhibition of photographs by Todd Bertolaet, will be on display in the Gammill Gallery at Barnard Observatory.

For more information about the conference contact the Office of Professional Development and Non-Credit Education, Post Office Box 879, The University of Mississippi, University, MS 38677-1848; telephone 662-915-7283; fax 662-915-5138, e-mail noncred@olemiss.edu). For on-line information consult www.outreach.olemiss.edu.

For information about participating in the conference through Elderhostel, call 877-426-8056 and refer to the program number 5760, or contact Carolyn Vance Smith by telephone (601-446-1208) or e-mail (carolyn.smith@colin.cc.ms.us).


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