Faulkner’s Short Stories Focus of 2018 UM Common Reading Experience

Photo courtesy of Ole Miss Communications

Selected short stories of a University of Mississippi alumnus and one of the most acclaimed American authors of the 20th century will be the focus of the university’s 2018 Common Reading Experience. 

The Common Reading Experience will showcase Nobel Prize-winning author William Faulkner’s short stories, many of which are set in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County. 

All incoming freshmen and transfer students will be provided the collection of short stories with instructions to read selections before the fall semester begins. Instructors will utilize the texts in their classes, and faculty and staff are also encouraged to read the works.

Having an entire class, the university and the community revisit Faulkner’s work together will be a special experience, said Kirk A. Johnson, associate professor of sociology and African American studies and co-chair of the Common Reading Experience selection subcommittee. 

“Many of our students – even Mississippians – get only a passing nod to Faulkner in high school English classes,” Johnson said. “This will be the first time that an entire cohort will have full-on exposure to the work of the man who made Oxford a worldwide literary destination.”

Faulkner studied at the university and wrote many literary classics at his home, Rowan Oak, which sits on 32 acres off Old Taylor Road. He lived and worked there from 1930 until his death in 1962. In 1972, his daughter, Jill Faulkner Summers, sold the house to the university to secure it as a place for people to learn about her father and his work.

When the Common Reading Experience was created in 2012, the founders had envisioned focusing on a Faulkner work one year. This year, the committee worked with Jay Watson, Howry Professor of Faulkner Studies, to choose several short stories from the “Collected Stories of William Faulkner.” The subcommittee will determine a list of stories, which will comprise the 2018 Common Reading Experience selection.

Once the selections are made, the committee will provide more details about university and community events and discussions planned to augment the Common Reading Experience throughout 2018. 

The program aspires to an enriched sense of academic community through a communal reading of a text, said Bob Cummings, chair of the Department of Writing and Rhetoric and of the CRE committee.

“By providing students the same text to read before arriving on campus, and then engaging that text in several common classes, followed by numerous programming events outside of the classroom, the Common Reading Experience helps students explore and develop their own thoughts and intellectual identities in the context of their peer groups,” Cummings said.

Bryan Stevenson’s “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption” was the 2017 CRE selection. Previous selections include “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot, “Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter” by UM professor Tom Franklin, “The Girls of Atomic City” by Denise Kiernan and “The Education of a Lifetime,” a memoir by Chancellor Emeritus Robert Khayat.

More information on the Common Reading Experience can be found here

By Michael Newsom

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