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Lecture Examines Links Between Faulkner Classic And Book Of Daniel

Barry Hudek’s dissertation examines the ‘solitary furnace experience’ undergone by a character in Faulkner’s classic ‘Absalom, Absalom!’ Photo by Nathan Latil/Ole Miss Communications

This year’s Frances Bell McCool Fellowship Lecture in Faulkner Studies at the University of Mississippi examines connections between an iconic William Faulkner novel and the Biblical book of Daniel.

The lecture, titled “Thomas Sutpen’s ‘Solitary Furnace Experience’: The Book of Daniel in William Faulkner’s ‘Absalom, Absalom!'” is set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday (May 4) in Bishop Hall, Room 112. Barry Hudek, a doctoral candidate in English, will present the talk based on his research.
Faulkner writes in “Absalom, Absalom!” that one of the main characters, Thomas Sutpen, undergoes a “solitary furnace experience,” Hudek said.
“When I first read the novel, I thought the phrase was strange, but I thought it might reference the ‘fiery furnace’ story in the Old Testament book of Daniel,” he explained.
The lecture will focus on the implications and meanings of that phrase and why the connection to the book of Daniel is important.
“The hardest part of the lecture is paring down 50 pages of material to 16 pages,” Hudek said. “But all of that fosters stronger work, so I am happy where the project currently is.”
The McCool Fellowship Lecture is delivered by a student studying Faulkner in his or her dissertation, coming in the final year of dissertation work, said Jay Watson, the university’s Howry Professor of Faulkner Studies. The lecture represents an important professional development opportunity for the fellowship recipient, he said.
“It is great practice to address the general public and not just a specialized audience of scholars,” Watson said. The purpose of scholarship, after all, is “not just to study and learn privately, but to create knowledge and to share knowledge.”
The endowment for the fellowship and lecture was established by Campbell McCool, a 1985 UM graduate, in honor of his mother, the late Frances Bell McCool. A 1959 Ole Miss graduate and one of the first recipients of the Robert M. Carrier Scholarship, she spent more than 30 years teaching high school mathematics in Jackson and New Orleans.
“We chose to establish a Faulkner scholarship in the English department and the writing program because we truly believe it is one of the areas where Ole Miss has a growing national reputation and can go head-to-head with any school,” McCool said in 2004, when the fellowship endowment was announced.
A native of Crest Hill, Illinois, Hudek said he is honored to be a McCool fellow. He is on track to receive his doctoral degree in August.
“What Barry is doing as the McCool fellow is part of what faculty, grad students and even undergraduate students are all doing at the university,” Watson said. “It’s a part of the mission of the university and it’s an important learning opportunity for the audience as well.”

By Hannah Juliff
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