On the Borders: Faulkner conference to examine ‘geographies’

By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

OXFORD – William Faulkner’s readers know sense of place is crucial to his fiction.
“We always talk about Faulkner’s ‘postage stamp of native soil’ – that’s his expression – and how most of his fiction seems to have emerged out of that,” said Don Kartiganer, director of the 38th annual Faulkner & Yoknapatawpha Conference at the University of Mississippi.
This year’s conference will stretch the idea of place beyond Mississippi and his fictional Yoknapatawpha.
The theme “Faulkner’s Geographies” will include New Orleans, where the writer spent six months. It’ll encompass Haiti, where the main character of “Absalom, Absalom” developed into manhood.
“As far as geographies go, Faulkner spent time in Hollywood, he spent time in New York City, he spent time in Japan,” Kartiganer said. “He gets in these other places. What happens is we read those other places back into Yoknapatawpha, and we begin to see things in Yoknapatawpha that we might not have seen before.”
From July 17 to 21, fans will gather in Oxford and the University of Mississippi to immerse themselves in the places and boundaries of Faulkner’s fiction.
The theme for this year’s conference is, in part, an acknowledgment that the rest of the world helped shape that “postage stamp of native soil.”
“When we read Faulkner, we realize he may be locating a lot of stuff in Mississippi,” said Kartiganer, Ole Miss’ Howry professor of Faulkner studies emeritus, “but Mississippi isn’t the only place where these things happen.”

Mix of events
The conference will include picnics, cocktail parties and other social events.
Barbara Ladd will discuss “Places and Spaces in Faulkner,” Peter Froehlich will explore “The Proper Frontier in Late Faulkner,” and Lorie Watkins Fulton will cover “Women in Motion: Escaping Yoknapatawpha.”
Those and other papers will be presented, and there will be question-and-answer sessions and panel discussions.
“We’re having a special panel called ‘The Curators of Rowan Oak,’” Kartiganer said. “We’ve assembled virtually all of the living curators of Rowan Oak.
“They’ll talk about Faulkner’s house and how it’s evolved. They have some great stories to tell about people who have come to visit and sometimes steal. Stuff has been missing. Not any more, they’re paying much more attention to it, but occasionally stuff has disappeared.”
The conference also has room for Faulkner’s fans to channel their own creativity.
“There’s ‘Faulkner on the Fringe.’ We have an event where people get up and say what they want to say about Faulkner,” Kartiganer said. “They write poetry, sing songs, do dramatic readings. It’s a blast.”
All of the fun will focus on one of the most well-respected writers of the 20th century, and those who cherish his work.
“What you’re getting are a bunch of people, most of whom are not academics, who read Faulkner,” Kartiganer said, “and they really get a kick out of spending five days in Oxford in July.”

Contact M. Scott Morris at (662) 678-1589 or scott.morris@journalinc.com.