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William Faulkner

The original first manuscript page of Faulkner's Sanctuary, 1931. © 2014, Faulkner Literary Rights, LLC. All rights reserved. Used with permission, Lee Caplin, Executor. Courtesy of William Faulkner Foundation Collection, 1918-1959, Special Collections, University of Virginia Library, Charlottesville, VA.

A Cheap Idea

Is there such a thing as an easy situation with William Faulkner? His name is synonymous with complexity. It pervades his style, his storylines, and the format of his novels. Interacting with the public, the man obfuscated, exaggerated, and misled.

Not Local Color

A warlike, various, and a tragical age is best to write of, but worst to write in, said Abraham Cowley. When a people looks back on such an age in its own history, another question is raised as it evokes in memory those wars, the turbulent variety, and the tragedy. From such reflection they will ask: what have these tumults wrought?

Once More: the Actual and the Apocryphal

Some of William Faulkner's remarks about his work are now almost as famous as some phrases in the work itself. He quoted Sherwood Anderson's advice to him in New Orleans that he should go home and write about what he knew, that patch of north Mississippi where he grew up. As he meditated on it he discovered that "my own little postage stamp of native soil was worth writing about and that I would never live long enough to exhaust it, and by sublimating the actual into the apocryphal I would have complete liberty to use whatever talent I might have to its absolute top, so I created a cosmos of my own." It took many readers years to realize that his apocryphal Yoknapatawpha was basic to most of his best work. One of the earliest studies was Ward L. Miner's The World of William Faulkner (1952). Forty years later came Joel Williamson's William Faulkner and Southern History. Others have continued to explore various aspects of Faulkner's art both narrowly and broadly. Now comes Don H. Doyle with a compendious study of the sources from which this artistic vision sprang, presenting Faulkner's county in root and branch from the seeds in early stories to the final flowering in the last novels.


Mr. Faulkner: Writer-In-Residence

It was just as well, for Fred Gwynn and me and our hopes for the University of Virginia's Writer-in-Residence Program in 1955, that our memories of Charlottesville did not stretch back more than a few years. Others recalled a signal event in its cultural life more than two decades before. Ellen Glasgow, Virginia novelist and literary grande dame, felt that Southern writers like herself living in New York were kept from seeing each other by their isolation and the bustle of metropolitan life. She proposed to UVa. English Department head James Southall Wilson a gathering of 20 or 30 leading writers in some pleasant place where they could talk with each other. The president of the university endorsed the idea, and the resulting committee invited 34, including Thomas Wolfe, James Branch Cabell, and William Faulkner. Against his inclination and better judgment, Faulkner made one of the number on Oct. 23, 1931, eagerly awaited because of the publicity that had greeted his sensational novel Sanctuary.


Lucas Beauchamp

He knew Lucas Beauchamp—as well as any white person knew him. Better than any maybe unless it was Carothers Edmonds on whose place Lucas lived seventeen miles from town, because he had eaten a meal in Lucas's house. It was in the early winter four years ago; he had been only twelve then, and it had happened this way: Edmonds was a friend of his uncle; they had been in school at the same time at the State University, where his uncle had gone after he came back from Harvard and Heidelberg to learn enough law to get himself chosen county attorney, and the day before Edmonds had come in to town to see his uncle on some county business and had stayed the night with them and at supper that evening Edmonds had said to him:

Why the Southern Renaissance?

Why the Southern Renaissance ever occurred is still something of a mystery. All that is attempted here is an analysis of some explanations that have been offered by others and a few additional speculations. Before turning to the critical why, however, it is necessary to determine just what it is we are talking about. In the first place, we are stuck with a misnomer in the very word "renaissance." For neither in its literal sense nor in its classic historical usage is this French word really applicable to what happened in the South.