University of Mississippi

William Faulkner Remembrance Day Program Planned for July 6, 2012

“A William Faulkner Remembrance”

July 6, 2012

Friday, July 6, 2012 will mark the fiftieth anniversary of the death of William Faulkner, perhaps the most distinguished figure in the rich cultural heritage of the Lafayette-Oxford-University (LOU) community.  To commemorate this milestone, promote reading and literacy in the community, and celebrate the role of the arts in our collective life, “A William Faulkner Remembrance” will bring together the LOU community and interested visitors to our area to remember and honor Faulkner’s legacy, a half-century after his passing.  Thanks to the assistance and generous sponsorship of the University of Mississippi departments of English and Southern Studies, the Center for Writing and Rhetoric, the Mississippi Humanities Council, the Lafayette-Oxford Foundation for Tomorrow, the Oxford Convention and Visitors Bureau, Vintage Books, the First National Bank of Oxford, the Lyric Theater, and the City of Oxford, all Remembrance events will be free and open to the general public.

The day’s itinerary will link the sites of town, county, and campus, along with other significant spaces from Faulkner’s personal history.  The program of events will get underway  with a marathon reading of Faulkner’s final novel, The Reivers, on the grounds of Faulkner’s home, Rowan Oak.  Like the marathon readings of Absalom, Absalom! in 1997 (for the 100th anniversary celebration of Faulkner’s birth) and Go Down, Moses in 2005 (for the Mississippi Reads initiative), the reading will draw on volunteer participants who will each read aloud a short section of the novel.  Beginning at 6:30 a.m., it will unfold over several hours.  Refreshments will be served on the grounds of Rowan Oak, and tents and fans will be set up to help keep everyone comfortable in the July heat.

Following the marathon reading, we will adjourn to the second-floor courtroom of the Lafayette County Courthouse, a building immortalized in Faulkner’s fiction, for a pair of keynote addresses at 4:15 p.m.  Faulkner scholar Philip Weinstein will address the significance of the writer’s life and career.  Weinstein, the Alexander Griswold Cummins Professor of English at Swarthmore College, is the author of Faulkner’s “Subject”:  A Cosmos No One Owns, “What Else But Love”:  The Ordeal of Race in Faulkner and Morrison, Unknowing:  The Work of Modernist Fiction, and the 2010 biographical study, Becoming Faulkner:  The Art and Life of William Faulkner, winner of the 2011 C. Hugh Holman award from the Society for the Study of Southern Literature (and reviewed in these pages in the Summer 2011 issue).  Following Weinstein’s address, keynote writer Randall Kenan will comment on Faulkner’s legacy from the literary artist’s point of view.  Kenan, Associate Professor of English at the University of North Carolina and a former John and Renee Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi, is the author of a novel, A Visitation of Spirits, the story collection, Let the Dead Bury Their Dead, a biography of James Baldwin for young readers, and two works of creative nonfiction, Walking on Water:  Black American Lives at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century, and The Fire This Time.  In his fiction he has created a rural North Carolina community he calls Tims Creek, a domain that bears suggestive affinities with Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County.

Remembrancers will reconvene at 8:00 p.m. for a “late show” screening of the 1969 film adaptation of The Reivers (directed by Mark Rydell and starring Steve McQueen, Sharon Farrell, Rupert Crosse, and Will Geer) at the Lyric Theater on the Oxford Square.  The Lyric, of course, has its own special place in Faulkner history, as the venue for the local premier of Today We Live (the first film to be adapted from a Faulkner work) in 1933 and the international premier of Intruder in the Dust in 1949.

In all of these ways the organizers and sponsors seek to create an event that will bring together Faulkner lovers, readers young and old, families, educators and students, and other citizens from the town, county, university, state, and beyond, to recognize and celebrate Faulkner’s extraordinary life and work, his ties to the LOU community, and his formative contributions to the cultural life of the area.  Though the Remembrance is a separately conceived, organized, and funded event from this year’s Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference (July 7-11), which will also feature fiftieth-anniverary reflections and observances, the two programs have been scheduled back to back in anticipation that each event will help create interest in the other, to the benefit of both programs and the local community.  As such, registrants for Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha are invited to come to Oxford a day early and join in the Remembrance festivities on July 6.

To inquire about or volunteer for the marathon reading, send an email message to reivers@olemiss.edu.  Volunteers should provide their names and contact information and may, if they wish, indicate a specific time window or part of the day (early morning, mid-morning, midday, afternoon) during which they are available to read.  The schedule of readers will be finalized later in the spring.  Inquiries concerning other Remembrance events should be directed to Jay Watson, Organizer, at jwatson@olemiss.edu.