“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
As part of my DMCI project (which has totally changed directions, but that is for another blog post) I have been reading through the histories of Mary Washington. Today, as I was reading through I gasped when I saw the heading, “Faulkner Speaks”. William Faulkner, one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century, here at little old Mary Washington (College). I could not believe it. I fell in love with Faulkner when I took a seminar on him and Toni Morrison in 2008. At the time, I was learning to think like a historian (or really just learning to think, thanks liberal arts degree!) through my various classes at Mary Washington and the deep connection between literature and history kept my brain constantly on fire with “wow” moments. History is a story we tell ourselves about the past. Literature can also tell a story about our past. Through the creation of fictional narratives and characters whose experiences and personalities embodied the Southern myth (story/concept/idea/theme/history?) Faulkner was able take on the post-Civil War South in ways a straight-forward history book cannot. There aren’t many historical “facts” in his stories, but there are a lot of truths.
The blurb in the book about Faulkner is short, but there was a footnote at the bottom identifying the school’s newspaper (The Bullet) as the source. Lucky for me most of The Bullet editions have been digitized and are up on the Internet Archive. Shockingly, Faulkner’s visit was not enough to make the first page. I guess he hadn’t quite reached legendary status in 1957.
According to the paper Faulkner spent some time as the writer-in-residence at the University of Virginia. During this time Mary Washington was affiliated with the University of Virginia as the liberal arts college for women. Curious to see if there were any more details I could find out about Faulkner’s visit I did a quick search and found the Faulkner at Virginia: An Audio Archive. It is a treasure-trove of Faulkner audio that I had never seen before! It appears this went up in 2010, which explains why I did not come across it during the seminar I took in 2008. I scrolled through the collection, giddy with excitement, and found the audio of Faulkner’s visit to Mary Washington broken up in to two parts. The page with the audio and the transcript for tape 1 can be found here and the audio and the transcript for tape 2 can be found here.
I could not get the audio on the tape 2 page to work, but I managed to find it buried in the site (yes, I’ve contacted someone about the problem). It already appears to be fixed. That was quite fast, so thanks to whoever at U of VA got right on it!
Below are direct links to both the first and second audio tapes.
They are worth a listen both for Faulkner’s reading of “Shingles of the Lord” and the Q&A at the end.
Just six years ago, when I took the Faulkner seminar, neither The Bullet newspaper nor the Faulkner audio archive were available freely online. What was previously buried is now more easily discovered and shared. Faulkner’s visit to Mary Washington is no longer just a blurb in a book on our shelves. Sure, maybe all these pieces could have been brought together many years ago by going to the physical archives and scanning and transcribing. But to think in 2014 I can sit at my computer and within ten minutes I had it all. How cool is that?