Meet the Anton Fellows:
Faulkner on Faulkner
Michael LaFrancis's research
Winner of the Nobel Prize, William Faulkner (1897-1962) authored some of America’s most memorable novels,
including The Sound and the Fury; As I Lay Dying; Light in August; Absalom,
Absalom!; and Go Down, Moses. As a native Mississippian who grew up during the period of
Jim Crow, Faulkner was able to speak first hand about the complexities of Southern society. Several of
his novels were set in a fictitious northern Mississippi county that he named Yoknapatawpha.
Michael LaFrancis ’06, an English major and philosophy minor, is using an Anton Fellowship to fund an
extended visit to the William Faulkner Collection at the University of Virginia, where Faulkner once
served as writer-in-residence. There, Michael is sifting through Faulkner’s letters, journals and
manuscripts to explore a complex issue relating to The Sound and the Fury that has perplexed numerous
readers and scholars. Michael will use his research to write a senior honors thesis under the direction of Professor Betsy
Huang this fall.
Set in Mississippi during the first three decades of the 20th century, The Sound and the Fury focuses
on the once proud, but now decaying Compson family, especially Caddy Compson, as seen through the eyes
of her three brothers, Benjy, Quentin, and Jason, and the family’s African-American servant, Dilsey.
After reading a substantial amount of related primary and secondary material, Michael is curious about
the relationship between various self-commentaries Faulkner made about this novel, their relationship to
the text, and the clearly resultant fissures. In particular, Faulkner often made misleading or outright
incorrect commentary about his work, such as claiming that The Sound and the Fury was a failure when in fact
he apparently had higher regard for it than any of his other texts. In addition, the various drafts for
the 1933 introduction are radically different, at times even conflicting. Furthermore, despite detailed
commentary prior to publication from Malcolm Cowley, the editor of The Portable Faulkner, about
inconsistencies between Faulkner’s 1945 Compson Appendix and the events of The Sound and the Fury (1929),
he chose to leave them uncorrected, and for a time even insisted on having the Appendix published at the
beginning of the book as a preface.
Michael has agreed to share with us, via email, reflections on his work at the archive during the next
month. Check the listings in the blue box to see what he's doing!
Faulkner's home "Rowan Oak" in Lafayette County, Mississippi. From the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Historic
American Buildings Survey or Historic American Engineering Record, Reproduction Number HABS, MISS,36-OXFO,9-4.||