Wednesday, August 17, 2022

UM Conference to Examine Faulkner’s Modernisms

By Edwin B. Smith

University of Mississippi

The life and works of author William Faulkner will be inspected using modernism as a theme during the 48th annual Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference, which opens Sunday (July 17) at the University of Mississippi. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Nobel Prize-winning Mississippi author William Faulkner will be examined through the lens of modernism during the University of Mississippi’s 48th annual Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference, set for July 17–21.

Focusing on the theme “Faulkner’s Modernisms,” the hybrid international conference includes five days of lectures, panels, tours and other presentations. All keynote presentations, panels, film screenings and teaching sessions will be held in-person with a remote option for international scholars prohibited from traveling to the U.S.

“Few literary scholars would dispute the fact that William Faulkner deserves a place in the front ranks of modernist writers,” said Jay Watson, Howry Professor of Faulkner Studies and conference coordinator. “Yet there is far less consensus on what his modernism – or what literary modernism in general – actually entails or how to characterize its defining elements.

“This year’s conference will take up these questions with fresh eyes and an open mind, in the spirit of what literary critics have come to call the ‘new modernist studies’ scholarship.”

Keynote speakers and topics for the conference include:

  • Leigh Anne Duck, of the University of Memphis, who will discuss “Modernist Phenomenologies of Segregated Space: A Hypothesis”
  • Jack D. Elliott Jr., Mississippi Department of Archives and History, who will talk about “Shadows on the Wall: Colonel W.C. Falkner in Legend”
  • Susan Stanford Friedman, University of Wisconsin, whose topic is “Family, Nation, Sin: Faulkner in Conversation with Albert Wendt (Samoa) and Elif Shafak (Turkey)”
  • Julian Murphet. University of Adelaide, who will talk about “Divisions of Aesthetic Labour; or, When is Faulkner not Modern?”
  • Michael Zeitlin, University of British Columbia, who will discuss “Mechanical and Human Factors in Faulkner Aviation.”

This year also marks the second Ann J. Abadie Lecture in Southern Studies at the conference. This lecture series is sponsored by the UM Center for the Study of Southern Culture and honors the center’s longtime associate director, Ann Abadie, who also helped establish the Faulkner conference and co-edited dozens of volumes of conference proceedings.

The second Abadie Lecturer is the distinguished novelist Percival Everett, author of more than 30 novels and story collections. A Distinguished Professor of English at University of Southern California, Everett will read from his award-winning fiction and discuss the role that Faulkner has played in his life and work.

Watson said he hopes to deepen understanding of Faulkner’s work by placing it in the context of modernism.

“We seek new insights into the diverse ways in which Faulkner encountered, and responded to, the modernity of his 20th century Mississippi world,” he said.

Registration for the five days of events is $300 per person, and $150 for students. It’s also possible to register for a single day of the conference for $50. Remote registrants are encouraged to upgrade to the latest version of Zoom software before the conference begins.

To register or for more information, visit https://www.outreach.olemiss.edu/events/faulkner/ or contact Jay Watson at jwatson@olemiss.edu.


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