October 26, 2005
Welcome to Yoknapatawpha
My project is a history of a small but characteristic little piece of the American South, a "postage stamp of native soil," as William Faulkner referred to Lafayette County, Mississippi, the main source of his fictional Yoknapatawpha County. The central idea of the project is to use Faulkner's fiction to inform the historical interpretation and to use history to illuminate Faulkner's world.
Faulkner included a map of the town of Jefferson (in Yoknapatawpha) in the endpaper of Absalom, Absalom! that indicates where some of the events of his novels occurred. According to Janet Murray, Faulkner's map "binds the multinovel, multifamily, multicentury saga together, giving us a taste of how Faulkner himself saw his mythical Yoknapatawpha County, not as a mere backdrop for his elaborately spoken stories but as a continuous geographical and historical realm that transcended all the stories told about it."
I plan on creating an interactive map of Yoknapatawpha, using primary sources from Faulkner Collection at the University of Virginia (I'll explain later), that allows the reader to explore not only the fictional realm of Faulkner's County, but its actual historical roots as well. Murray contends, "the encyclopedic capacity of the computer allows for storytelling on the Faulknerian scale and invites readers to come up with similar contextualizing devices--color-coded paths, time tines, family trees, maps, clocks, calendars, and so on--to enable the viewer to grasp dense psychological and cultural spaces without becoming disoriented." I hope to use this encyclopedic capacity to invite readers into Yoknapatawpha.
I'm envisioning several things with this project. This summer, Oprah had a Faulkner summer reading list and her website includes a little map of Jefferson... Mine will obviously be much better and will delve deeper, but you get the idea. I'd like to integrate some sort of java zoom viewer, ala the Holocaust Museum's Szyk exhibit and I'm also digging the Alexander Hamilton Exhibition's map of New York with the pop-up postcards. I'm thinking that sort of design would fit in with the "postage stamp" theme... and with my projected title, "Welcome to Yoknapatawpha" (like a postcard)
As a Masters student at UVa, I had a research assistantship with Stephen Railton, who created the Uncle Tom's Cabin site and the Mark Twain in his Times site. During my T.A-ship of his Faulkner seminar, Railton worked on an interactive timeline of Absalom, Absalom! and we began discussions of a foray into a new Faulkner site, similar to his previous work on Twain. I've been in discussions with him throughout the semester about this project I want to work on and where it could fit into a larger project.
Special Collections at UVa holds the largest collection of Faulkner's manuscripts including holograph and typescript material from nineteen published novels and two unpublished novels, as well as manuscripts, typescripts, letters, photographs, documents, books, and other printed materials by and about Faulkner. By working with Professor Railton, I will have access to these materials.
I also have the following books that may or may not help, so we'll see: William Faulkner and the Tangible Past: The Architecture of Yoknapatawpha; Faulkner's County: The Historical Roots of Yoknapatawpha; William Faulkner: Toward Yoknapatawpha and Beyond; William Faulkner and Southern History; and William Faulkner: The Yoknapatawpha Country.
P.S. It's pronounced YOK-na-pa-TAW-pha.
Posted by mhess3 at October 26, 2005 07:48 PM
As a huge fan of Faulkner,I am particularly excited to se this come to fruition. What an interesting and imaginative idea. You go girl!
Posted by: amanda at October 29, 2005 04:20 PM
As a huge fan of Faulkner,I am particularly excited to see this come to fruition. What an interesting and imaginative idea. You go girl!
Posted by: amanda at October 29, 2005 04:21 PM
i am really looking forward to this.
i don't claim to be any where near as technicaly advanced as you are, but i am hoping i can learn a little from how you are going to go about using the Yoknapatawpha map and employ some of it in my work.
Posted by: nona at October 31, 2005 03:07 PM