Oh, Mr. Faulkner, do you spend? Money is conference topic

OXFORD, Miss. (AP) — Finances were a constant worry for William Faulkner during his early years as a writer.

So, an expert says it’s fitting that that a literary conference will focus on the theme “Faulkner and Money: The Economies of Yoknapatawpha and Beyond.”

Jay Watson is a professor of Faulkner studies at the University of Mississippi and director of the 44th annual Faulkner & Yoknapatawpha Conference, which takes place July 23-27 on the Ole Miss campus in Oxford. The conference draws part of its name — Yoknapatawpha — from a fictional county in Faulkner’s works.

Watson said the theme was suggested at least a decade ago by Noel Polk, another Faulkner expert who was faculty at both the University of Southern Mississippi and Mississippi State University. Polk died in 2012.

“William Faulkner spent his first 25 years or more as a serious writer of fiction in almost constant financial difficulty,” Watson said in a University of Mississippi news release. “He had trouble supporting his extended family off his writing alone, and he worried all the time about money.

“His own financial arrangements, both personal and professional, his relationship to the literary marketplace and his search for other sources of income available to established writers all have the potential to shed important light on the profession of authorship in 20th century America,” Watson said.

The Nobel laureate’s writing is also full of financial themes, including get-rich-quick schemes and con games.

“His people — and sometimes individual characters — run the gamut from enormous wealth to miserable poverty,” Watson said. “Many are unduly preoccupied with money, much like their creator. There’s a lot to learn from Faulkner’s work about the economics of rural and small-town life, of the South and of modern America.”

Sessions about teaching Faulkner will be led by James B. Carothers of the University of Kansas; Terrell L. Tebbetts of Lyon College; Brian McDonald of the Lancaster, Pennsylvania School District; Charles Peek of the University of Nebraska at Kearney; and Theresa M. Towner of the University of Texas at Dallas.

The J.D. Williams Library at the university will display Faulkner books, manuscripts, photographs and memorabilia during the conference.

Faulkner collector Seth Berner is organizing a display of his collection. Collaborators on the Digital Yoknapatawpha Project, a database and digital mapping project at the University of Virginia, will give updates about their work.

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