Thursday, July 15, 2010

William Faulkner At The University of Virginia

photograph from Special Collections Library, University of Virginia

The past is not dead. In fact, it's not even past.

This morning NPR featured a piece on an exciting new digital archive that should be of interest to many of our readers. It's the Faulkner at Virginia audio archive, an impressively comprehensive document of the writer's time on campus in Charlottesville during the 1957-1958 academic year.

This archive was directed by Professor Stephen Railton, with the assistance of a vast number of folks in the UVA community, and it is incredibly thorough: all facets of Faulkner's visit are covered in the contexts section of site, as this essay is complemented by ample photographs as well as dozens of primary sources from contemporary newspaper accounts and even Faulkner's own correspondence. For readers of Faulkner, this is a treasure. 

The entire audio archive of Faulkner's various lectures and discussions is included therein, and a full manuscript is also included--all of which is searchable. I have long been considering writing about Yoknapatawpha County--that landscape located between the creative mind of William Faulkner and his "apocryphal county" of Lafayette in Mississippi. This archive is a great step towards considering how this writer's visions of South, and of the rural, still haunt us and still feel so necessary to our lives. 

Here's just a taste; the audio clip can be found here:
Unidentified participant: Sir, why do you sometimes satirize the South, and at other times very—very strenuously satirize it? [And] what is your general feeling of the South, and the deep South?
William Faulkner: It's my country, my native land, and I love it. I'm not trying to satirize it. I'm—I'm trying—that is, I'm not expressing my own ideas in the stories I tell. I'm telling about people, and these people express ideas which—which sometimes are mine, sometimes are not mine, but I myself am not trying to satirize my country. I love it, and it has its faults, and I will try to correct them, but I wouldn't try to—to correct them when I'm writing a story, because I'm telling—talking about people then.
Enjoy wandering through these discussions. Also: In 2008, the University of Virginia Magazine featured this write-up on Faulkner's visit, including a video interview with alumni remembering his visit.