Portrait of William Faulkner by Carl Van Vechten, December 11, 1954
William Faulkner
on the Web:

An Introduction

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 critics alike.

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 page.

Types of information found in each section are as follows:

* The Library includes plot synopses, commentary, and listings relating to written works by William Faulkner, including novels, short stories, and poetry, as well as other writings.

* 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 Web site.

* 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 Faulkner work.

* 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 Faulkner Quotes.

* 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 useful.

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 glossary.)

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 egjbp@olemiss.edu.

You may also write me at the following address:

John B. Padgett
The Department of English
The University of Mississippi
University, MS 38677

Number of hits to 'The Library' pages

This page was last modified on Tuesday, October 10, 2000 at 11:56 AM -0500

Copyright © 1995-2001 by John B. Padgett

The Library Sole Owner/Proprietor The Town The MovingPicture House The Playroom The Carriage House Additional Resources