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An uncompromising modernist, a great chronicler of the American South, an inspiration and also an immovable obstacle for the generations of writers who followed: the Mississippi-born William Faulkner stands as one of the greatest, and one of the most problematic, figures in all of American literature.
He was a white man of his time and place who did not always rise above it; and yet his work also provides a burning account of the intersection of race, region, and remembrance, a probing analysis of a past that we have never yet put behind us.
These classes offer an initial approach to his enormous oeuvre. The first session, “How to Read a Faulkner Sentence,” shows how to make sense of his famously difficult style, with its long sentences, deep dives into consciousness and sudden switches from one moment in his characters’ lives to another. The second session, “Inventing Yoknapatawpha: The Town and the Families,” looks at the imaginary county in which he set almost all his work and will also consider the real-life models behind that work. Finally, “The Sound and the Fury and the Landscape of Memory” will examine his most famous novel in terms of recent debates about the difficult process of facing the past.
Class meets Mondays: October 5, 19 and November 2.
Students must read “Barn Burning,” “A Rose for Emily,” “Dry September” and “That Evening Sun” in Faulkner’s Collected Stories for the second session; The Sound and the Fury for the third. Gorra’s The Saddest Words: William Faulkner’s Civil War can be purchased from bookshop.org.
Programs taking place online:An access link will be emailed to you after purchase.
Programs taking place in our NYC facilities:Please read our safety guidelines before visiting our building.
Programs taking place online and in our NYC facilities:Please select which experience you wish to participate in when registering. Online participants will be emailed an access link after purchase. In-person participants should read our safety guidelines before attending the program.
Michael Gorra is the Mary Augusta Jordan Professor of English Language and Literature at Smith College and the editor of the Norton Critical Editions of As I Lay Dying and The Sound and the Fury. His Portrait of Novel: Henry James and the Making of an American Masterpiece was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His new book is The Saddest Words: William Faulkner’s Civil War, “a momentous and thrilling book,” writes John Banville.
Reading Faulkner with Michael Gorra