Portrait of William Faulkner by Carl Van Vechten,
December 11, 1954
on the Web:
Who was William Faulkner?
William Faulkner on the Web is
intended as an evolving guide to the life and works of William Faulkner, by
all accounts one of America's greatest writers. His apocryphal Yoknapatawpha
County, setting for most of his fiction and patterned after his
real-life home in Oxford and Lafayette County,
Mississippi, is perhaps the most famous address in American literature; it
is a familiar location to literature students of all ages who encounter it
in such often-anthologized stories as "Barn
Burning" and "A Rose for
Emily." Cinema buffs still enjoy films such as To
Have and Have Not and The Big
Sleep which Faulkner co-wrote. Visitors from around the world come
here to visit Rowan Oak, his home in
Oxford, and to attend the annual Faulkner and
Yoknapatawpha Conference at the University
of Mississippi each August. Most important, though, are his novels — The
Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying,
Light in August, Absalom,
Absalom!, and others continue to delight and perplex readers and
Why a web site on Faulkner?
During my tenth and eleventh grade years, my
English teacher, Mrs. Foy, had a simple rule regarding the use of Cliffs
Notes: don't use them. When we were preparing to write term papers on
an American author of our choosing, however, we learned of her sole
exception to this rule: she said it was okay — if not downright necessary
— to consult the ubiquitous, pernicious yellow-and-black paperbacks if any
of us chose to read and write about The Sound and the Fury, a novel
by an author who apparently had been deemed too difficult to be included in
both our tenth- and eleventh-grade English textbooks.
I didn't write about Faulkner or The Sound and
the Fury that year, but I never forgot about the implicit challenge she
had issued to us. A few years later, reading Faulkner for the first time in
a college sophomore literature class, I remembered her words and her own
confession about how difficult Faulkner had been for her as a reader. When I
picked up The Sound and the Fury for the first time — as a personal
challenge, rather than as an assigned class text — I entered a world
unlike anything I'd ever seen before. I chose to read it without Cliffs
Notes, and I must say, it was a daunting task. The scrambled chronology of
the first section, followed by the increasingly cryptic and self-absorbed
stream-of-consciousness of the second, required more of an as-yet amateur
reader than anything I'd ever read before — it was almost like having to
learn how to read all over again. Eventually, I finished the novel. At the
time, I wasn't altogether sure what I had read, but something had happened,
something I could not describe. Now today, nearly two decades later, I am
still at a loss to put into words what happened to me as I read that novel.
In a sense, that was just what Faulkner struggled
to do in each of his works — try to find the exact words to describe and
depict and re-create something of understood or perceived or inherent
importance to one or more characters. Usually the first thing one notices
when embarking upon a Faulkner novel is the language, the sheer
linear movement of words across a page. His language is difficult because it
has to be, because the universal truths, "the
old verities and truths of the heart," contained therein cannot be
easily conveyed or summed up by few words. And so, he requires a great deal
of his readers, who often must put great effort into the understanding of
difficult or abstruse ideas.
Yet despite the difficulty of his works, they
have thrived. Not when they were first published, perhaps, but gradually
over time, critics and scholars have awarded due credit to the value of
Faulkner’s novels. More has been written about William Faulkner’s writing
than perhaps that of any other American writer, and no other writer in
America has written as many books that have been universally accepted as
"masterpieces." I am creating these Web pages as a kind of
introduction to the myriad realms of William Faulkner — to help readers
better understand his works, his life, his world.
Who is behind this web site?
My name is John B. Padgett, and I am a graduate
instructor of English and Ph.D. candidate at the University
of Mississippi in Oxford, Faulkner’s hometown. My chosen field of
expertise is in the literature of William Faulkner, and I am creating these
Web pages in conjunction with my study of Faulkner. I also have designed and
continue to maintain several web sites for the university, including the Department
of English's web site and especially The
Mississippi Writers Page, to which I also have contributed articles on a
number of Mississippi writers (including Faulkner). William Faulkner on
the Web, however, remains my own personal project, and so — to borrow
Faulkner’s words — I am its "sole owner and proprietor."
How are these pages organized?
Information in William Faulkner on the Web
is divided into seven main sections: The Library,
Sole Owner & Proprietor, The
Town, The MovingPicture House, The
Playroom, The Carriage House, and Resources.
Icons repesenting each of these sections are located on the main
contents page and at the bottom of every page; by selecting an icon, you
can link to the contents page of each section.
In addition to these icons, each page also has
two logos, one at the top representing the section to which the page belongs
(and which will link back to the section's contents page) and one at the
bottom of the page linking back to the main contents
Types of information found in each section are as
||The Library includes plot
synopses, commentary, and listings relating to written works by
William Faulkner, including novels, short
stories, and poetry, as well as
||Sole Owner & Proprietor features
information about William Faulkner himself. Features here include a chronology
of key events in Faulkner’s life, and (eventually) a biographical
sketch and a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) list.
||The Town presents information about
Faulkner’s hometown of Oxford, Mississippi, and includes a clickable map
of Faulkner-related sites in Oxford, a description
of those sites, and a link to an unrelated site, the city of Oxford's
||The MovingPicture House is devoted to
one of Faulkner’s odd jobs that he did to make a living when his books
weren't selling: screenwriting. Presented here is information on
Faulkner’s relationship to Hollywood, both films
that he wrote and films based on a
||The Playroom features just what
its name implies: fun stuff relating to Faulkner. Chief among the
items presented here is the Faulkner trivia
page, which also includes anecdotes and other tantalizing tidbits
about the man and his work. Also here is information about the annual Faux
Faulkner Contest and a selection of Favorite
||The Carriage House features hyperlinks
to relevant World Wide Web sites elsewhere in the world.
||Resources is the repository for
additional information to help readers better understand this complex
writer. Of particular note here is the Yoknapatawpha
glossary, a hyperlink guide to the people, places, and events in
the history of Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha
County. This also is the location for a number of bibliographies
of criticism and other scholarship on Faulkner, including General
Works on Faulkner and bibliographies for individual works. (Note:
Because criticism continues to be written about Faulkner, not to
mention the tremendous amount of criticism already published,
the bibliographies are under perpetual construction.)
In addition to these seven main sections, there
are also several "special topics" available from the main
contents page, including a newsletter with
current Faulkner news, a few "miscellaneous" links, and an
audio welcome from the site author.
I need help understanding Faulkner. Where should I turn for help?
If you are a student reading Faulkner for a class
assignment, the first obvious place to go for help is your instructor.
Barring that, there are a number of resources available that should help you
to better understand Faulkner’s writing, not least of which, I hope, is this
web site. Among the places to turn for help here are the individual entries
on Faulkner’s works as well as the collection of Genealogical
charts and the Faulkner glossary, which
includes brief information about a whole host of people and places in
Faulkner fiction. (Please note: it is still under construction.) Resources
includes a number of bibliographies on general works on Faulkner, while The
Carriage House features links to other web sites which may prove
The best source for detailed explanations and
interpretations of Faulkner, however, are books and articles. Some book
series, such as the "Reading
Faulkner" and the "Annotations
to the Novels" series, offer line-by-line readings of the novels,
explaining difficult passages and offering interesting background
information and interpretations to selected passages.
How can I find out more about Faulkner?
A number of scholarly biographies have been
written about Faulkner, and several more memoirs and reflections of Faulkner
are likewise available. Generally the most renowned biography of Faulkner
remains the first, Joseph Blotner's Faulkner: A Biography (2 vols.,
1974; 1 vol. edition, 1984), but other more recent biographies are likewise
informative and revealing.
I'd like to read Faulkner. Where can I find his works on the Internet?
Faulkner’s works are still protected by
copyright, so except for isolated spots on the Internet, you will not find
Faulkner’s texts available to the general public. A few texts are available
to limited audiences — the University of Virginia's library web site, for
instance, features a number of online texts from a variety of authors which
are available to computer users affiliated with the university.
If you are unable to find Faulkner’s texts
online, the next best thing is to check your local library or to buy his
books from a local bookstore or from an online bookseller. I have created
links to purchase several books by and about Faulkner from Amazon.com on
several different pages within this web site; in the near future, I hope to
expand these listings to allow users to more easily find and purchase
Faulkner-related books. (The meager earnings I receive for book purchases
within this web site are used to help pay for some of the costs of
maintaining this web site.)
Why are there so many gaps of missing information in this web site?
I've been working on this web site since 1995,
but it remains, as it was in the beginning, a hobby: except for the very
small earnings from Amazon.com for books bought via links from this web
site, I receive no compensation whatsoever for my work here. For that
reason, I only get to work on this web site in my spare time, the allocation
of which seems to get smaller and smaller each year. I do what I can, but as
the web site grows, each change or update requires more time to process,
since oftentimes a change on a single page means updating related
information on several others. (This is especially true withe the hypertext
How can I recommend additional information about Faulkner for inclusion in
this web site?
If you have a suggestion or some specific piece
of information (trivia, scholarly publication, Internet site, etc.) that you
would like to see added to these pages, the easiest way to let me know is
with this Add Information form. Also, you can
send me E-mail if you choose.
Regardless of what method you use, please send me as much information about
your proposed addition as you can.
What if I find a mistake in this web site?
Some, alas, are inevitable. I would appreciate
being informed of any errors in the information presented here; I would also
appreciate any comments or suggestions for improvement. In addition, I am
looking for questions for a Faulkner Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Sheet. You can send me E-mail using a handy mail
form, or if you choose, you can send mail directly to me at email@example.com.
You may also write me at the following address:
John B. Padgett
The Department of English
The University of Mississippi
University, MS 38677