In honor of William Faulkner, the man who helped shape the town, the Oxford and Ole Miss community will honor the 50th anniversary of his death this Friday, July 6, with a “William Faulkner Remembrance”, followed by the 39th Annual Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference “Fifty Years After Faulkner,” July 7-11.
The events kick off at 6:30 am Friday with a marathon reading of Faulkner’s final novel, The Reivers, at the author’s home, Rowan Oak. More than 100 people are signed up to read sections of the novel. The first five readers are: Pat Patterson, mayor of Oxford; Andy Mullins, chief of staff to the chancellor; Jeff Busby, president of the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors; Gray Tollison, member of the Mississippi Senate; and Campbell McCool, local real estate developer. Surviving members of the Faulkner family will read the final passages of the novel.
“The focus of the reading is to bridge the gap between the academic university and the local citizens of Oxford,” said Pip Gordon, a graduate student at Ole Miss who is organizing the reading. “It seems symbolic that the first five readers represent the town, the county, the university and the state.”
A pair of keynote addresses will be given at the Lafayette County Courthouse after the marathon reading. Philip Weinstein, author of the 2010 biographical study Becoming Faulkner: The Art and Life of William Faulkner, will speak at 4:15, followed by novelist Randall Kenan, a former John and Renee Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi.
The day of remembrance will conclude with an 8 p.m. screening of the 1969 film adaption of The Reivers at the Lyric Theater on the Oxford Square. All of Friday’s events are free and open to the public.
On Saturday, the Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference will gather writers, teachers and literary scholars from throughout the world for numerous lectures, panels, and sessions on “Teaching Faulkner.” The conference will last five days and requires registration and a fee.
Given the 50th anniversary of Faulkner’s death, this year’s conference is expected to be one of the largest since its inception.
“Because of this milestone, we have brought together the largest gathering of speakers ever since the conference started 39 years ago,” said Dr. Jay Watson, Howry Chair of Faulkner Studies, professor of English at UM and organizer of the conference. “This is an occasion to celebrate — to pause and reflect on Faulkner’s life and work.”
Some of this year’s events include: daylong tours of North Mississippi, the Delta and Memphis; a writers panel at Nutt Auditorium moderated by local author Tom Franklin; and two exhibitions and the University Museum — John Turner Shorb’s “Absalom, Absalom!,” a series of mixed-media works inspired by Faulkner’s 1936 novel, as well as a showing of paintings by Faulkner’s wife, Estelle.
According to Watson, approximately 200 people have signed up for the conference. Watson said the crowd is a diverse one filled with teachers, students, retirees, and devoted Faulkner followers.
“William Faulkner helped give this community its identity,” Watson said. “He helped create a center of gravity here for future writers and literary figures. Looking around, I’d say that community still seems to be thriving.”
For more information on the Remembrance Day and the Faulkner Conference, visit http://www.outreach.olemiss.edu/events/faulkner/.
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