Description and Objectives
The Faulkner and O’Connor course will introduce students to a classic collection of short fiction from the most important of the Southern writers- William Faulkner, Caroline Gordon, Eudora Welty, Katherine Anne Porter, and Flannery O’Connor. This study of mostly short fiction from these writers, as well as some criticism from Walker Percy, Wendell Berry, Faulkner, O’Connor, and Gordon, will offer a representative explication of the Southern Literary Renaissance. This movement came from a culture that proved to be very fertile ground for imaginative works of the highest order, as there was a shared vision among these writers of the sacredness of nature, the sinfulness of humanity, and the living presence of the past. Our guideposts in this exploration will be short selections from the seminal literary contributions of Faulkner and O’Connor, who each uniquely achieved a perfection of art and form that few other writers have achieved. At first, emphasis will be placed on understanding Faulkner’s style, as his language has more of a lengthy ear to it, reflecting a rhythm from the oral tradition. Students will be introduced to Faulkner’s mythical kingdom, Yoknapatawpha County, his “own little postage stamp of native soil”, and reflection of his hometown of Oxford, Mississippi. Faulkner’s characterization of his mythical kingdom reflects the saga of the human heart in conflict with itself, and so it therefore is representative of not only the South, but of the broader, modern world. We then turn our attention to Flannery O’Connor, one of the great masters of the short story, whose works enlarge the moral boundaries of that medium while simultaneously exploring the farthest reaches of comedy. O’Connor’s use of the grotesque, which she defines as “the good under construction,” highlights the plight of modern humanity while illustrating moments of crisis where grace can intervene. For good measure we will study excerpts from Caroline Gordon’s insightful book, How to Read a Novel, as well as a selection of her exemplary short stories, as Caroline Gordon served a both a friend and mentor to Flannery O’Connor. Highlighting our approach to these works will be the identification and appreciation of what Faulkner, in his Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech, termed “the old verities and truths of the heart, the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed- love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice.”
- The Portable Faulkner, edited by Malcolm Cowley
- As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner
- Collected Works, by Flannery O’Connor
- Mystery and Manners, by Flannery O’Connor
- The Collected Stories of Caroline Gordon, by Caroline Gordon
- How to Read a Novel, by Caroline Gordon
Students can expect to be quizzed at least once weekly on the assigned reading material. Quarterly, students can expect several in-class writing assignments as well as a couple of formal, typed compositions. There will be a cumulative midterm examination of the course material. All homework is due at the beginning of class. Late work will be penalized one letter grade down for each day that the assignment is late.
Students are encouraged to read and take active reading or marginal notes in his text so that pertinent passages or puzzling lines can be marked for discussion in class.
Students are expected to strive to improve in their individual “habit of art” as students, the customary reading and writing that reflects mature, academic thoughtfulness. As well, students should strive to emulate Flannery O’Connor’s “habit of being”, an excellence of action and an interior disposition that increasingly reflects the truth and beauty of the object or specified subject matter.