Faulkner Stories Selected for 2018 UM Common Reading Experience

Ten 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 Ole Miss freshmen and transfer students will get 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.

A committee of faculty, staff and students chose 10 thought-provoking stories, said Stephen Monroe, chair of the Department of Writing and Rhetoric and of the Common Reading Experience Steering Committee.

“In reading the stories together, our community will engage invigorating themes and Mississippi realities,” Monroe said. “Before Faulkner became a Nobel laureate, he was a member of the university community, as both a special student and staff member.

“Everyone affiliated with UM should read at least a little Faulkner. I’m pleased that we’ll have that opportunity this fall.”

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,” which students will all receive. 

The CRE subcommittee met recently and selected the following stories for participants to read:

  • “Barn Burning”
  • “Two Soldiers”
  • “Shall Not Perish”
  • “A Rose for Emily”
  • “Hair”
  • “Dry September”
  • “Uncle Willy”
  • “Mule in the Yard”
  • “That Evening Sun”
  • “The Brooch”

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.

The Common Reading Experience is designed to acclimate new students to the academic life of the university, said Leslie Banahan,  assistant vice chancellor for student affairs and co-chair of the CRE selection sub-committee. 

“At its best, the Common Reading program helps us build a learning community and provides opportunities for discussion centered around one book,” Banahan said. “Reading is at the core of the college experience; what better way for a new student to begin his or her college career than by reading a great work of literature such as short stories written by Faulkner?”

For more information on the Common Reading Experience, go to http://umreads.olemiss.edu/

Author: Michael Newsom

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