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Faulkner and Yoknapatawhpa in Oxford

An annual conference in Oxford returns for a 42nd year.


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Modern, postmodern, cubist, hack, Count No 'Count, genius, Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winner.

There's a reason why scholars still get in a tizzy close to a century after he published his first book and why the Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference is the longest continuously running conference in America dedicated to the work of a single author.

Alberto Moravia said, "You can find Faulkner's fingerprint everywhere."

For the past 42 years, scholars and William Faulkner enthusiasts from around the globe have gathered in his little postage stamp of native soil that is Oxford, Mississippi, and through annual themes, taken stabs at wrangling his indomitable voice that could very well be described as a singularity.

This year the conference takes place Sunday, July 17th through Thursday, July 21st and focuses on Faulkner and the Native South.

"His influence on native writers has become more and more interesting to scholars of Southern literature, and it is time to look at the native presence and elements in his work," Dr. Jay Watson, the Howry Chair of Faulkner Studies at the University of Mississippi, says.


More than 30 scholars, experts, professors, and others will serve as either keynote speakers or panelists during the conference, including some of the leading Southern Native American writers and scholars of today.

"Well, I'm biased, so I think it's all exciting, but one of the more exciting guests is LeAnne Howe, who is a citizen of the Choctaw Nation and a novelist, poet, and playwright, and she will talk on what Faulkner has meant to her as a writer," Watson says.

Melanie Benson Taylor will present a talk on "Faulkner's Dialectical Indian: Modernity, Nativity, and Violence in the New South" on Sunday afternoon and is considered the leading scholar on Southeastern Native American Southern literature.

"[Taylor] wrote Reconstructing the Native South: American Indian Literature and the Lost Cause, which is probably the most important book anyone has written on literature of Southeastern Indians," Watson says of the Dartmouth chair of Native American studies.

The conference kicks off Sunday with a 1 p.m. reception at the University Museum on University Ave. and concludes Thursday with a closing party at the iconic Square Books on the Oxford Square.

Most panels and presentations take place in Nutt Auditorium across the street from the Ford Center on University, and full conference registration includes a cocktail party on Tuesday evening and a picnic on the grounds of Faulkner's home, Rowan Oak, Wednesday evening. A choice of three guided tours either through north Mississippi, of the architecture of Oxford and the surrounding Lafayette County, or of the Mississippi Delta is available for an additional fee.

Coupled with the sometimes obsessive behavior that Faulkner can inspire, the conference serves as a draw to the 100 to 200 people every summer because of the uniqueness of the environment.

"The lightning in the bottle is that at the conference we bring participants into Faulkner's world, not only the world that he worked in and that shaped him, but also the world on which he based his fictional Yoknapatawpha County," Watson says. "It is still possible to see the places and sites that inspired him and his imagination. There's a lot of energy there. That is why people are willing to come to a small town during the hottest part of the year."

Registration for the full conference is $175 for students and $300 for others, and walk-ups are accepted. The fee covers admission to all program events, a buffet supper on Sunday, a reception Tuesday, the Rowan Oak picnic, refreshments, and a closing reception. It does not cover lodging or other meals.


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