Illustration from an article in The Atlantic by Joe Fassler.
“A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner
“A Rose For Emily” is a classic short story by William Faulkner, anthologized in so many required reading collections that one loses count:
William Faulkner (born William Cuthbert Falkner), (September 25, 1897–July 6, 1962) was an American author. One of the most influential writers of the twentieth century, he was awarded the 1949 Nobel Prize in Literature. His reputation is based on his novels, novellas, and short stories. However, he was also a published poet and also was a screenwriter of such movies as The Big Sleep.
“A Rose For Emily” is a deceptive story, short and yet within its few pages lays a mystery. And each reading of the story will reveal nuances and details perhaps missed the last time.
The story begins with the funeral of Miss Emily Grierson, an eccentric lady of the town whose life was caught up in her home. For your consideration, here is “A Rose for Emily.”
Can you tell what happened?
“A Rose For Emily” originally appeared in These Thirteen, a 1931 collection of short stories. The collection was dedicated to his first daughter, Alabama, who had died nine days after her birth on January 11, 1931, and to his wife Estelle.
The First Edition of These Thirteen
Faulkner’s first release of short stories, it contained the following pieces:
Additionally, modern and comprehensive collection of Faulkner’s stories can be found in William Faulkner Collected Stories from Vintage (Amazon, here)
From the Vintage promotional materials:
Forty-two stories make up this magisterial collection by the writer who stands at the pinnacle of modern American fiction. Compressing an epic expanse of vision into hard and wounding narratives, Faulkner’s stories evoke the intimate textures of place, the deep strata of history and legend, and all the fear, brutality, and tenderness of the human condition. These tales are set not only in Yoknapatawpha County, but in Beverly Hills and in France during World War I. They are populated by such characters as the Faulknerian archetypes Flem Snopes and Quentin Compson, as well as by ordinary men and women who emerge so sharply and indelibly in these pages that they dwarf the protagonists of most novels.
“No man ever put more of his heart and soul into the written word than did William Faulkner. If you want to know all you can about that heart and soul, the fiction where he put it is still right there.” —Eudora Welty
“For all his concern with the South, Faulkner was actually seeking out the nature of man. Thus we must turn to him for that continuity of moral purpose which made for greatness of our classics.” —Ralph Ellison
After reading “A Rose For Emily” it may be of use to regard a poem by Faulkner entitled “After Fifty Years” (find it here): a meditation on mortality.
It’s an interesting poem in several ways. It may be useful to discuss why Faulkner chose the form of the sonnet for this piece.
Faulkner at UVA
Additionally, true scholars and fans of Faulkner must certainly peruse an incredible resource: the website archive, Faulkner at Virginia.
In 1957/58 William Faulkner was Balch Writer in Residence at The University of Virginia. While he was there, he gave many class lectures and answered many student questions.
Frederick Gwynn and Joseph Blotner, members of UVA’s English department, had the idea to record these sessions on a reel-to-reel tape recorder, and create transcripts of those lectures.
This website featuress those clips, which you can explore by title, where the author answers the students’ questions in class asked about “A Rose For Emily” and all of his other works. My recommendation is to explore this website on a full screen if possible, and start with the tab “Contexts”. Then, click on “Clips” to see the recordings organized by novel and story title. It’s a treasure trove.
Faulkner on audio, articles, photographs, transcripts, magazine clippings – I strongly encourage any student studying William Faulkner to explore this website, if only to hear him teach you how to pronounce ” Yoknapatawpha.”
“Between Solitude and Loneliness” by Donald Hall
Illustration from The New Yorker
The second selection for Week Five is an essay by the poet Donald Hall, entitled “Between Loneliness and Solitude” (The New Yorker.)
From his biography:
“Donald Hall is considered one of the major American poets of his generation. His poetry explores the longing for a more bucolic past and reflects the poet’s abiding reverence for nature.”
In December 1993 he and Jane Kenyon were the subject of an Emmy Award-winning Bill Moyers documentary , A Life Together. In the June 2006, Hall was appointed the Library of Congress’s fourteenth Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry. He lives in Danbury, New Hampshire.”
Here, Hall examines his long partnership with his wife, the poet Jane Kenyon. What are your thoughts on Hall’s essay?
Hall’s essay can be found here.
The language is sparse, reflective and declarative.
From the website of The Academy of American Poets:
“Hall has published numerous books of poetry, including The Selected Poems of Donald Hall (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015), The Painted Bed (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2002) and Without: Poems (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1998), which was published on the third anniversary of his wife and fellow poet Jane Kenyon‘s death from leukemia. Other notable collections include The One Day (Mariner Books, 1988), which won the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and a Pulitzer Prize nomination; The Happy Man (Secker & Warburg, 1986), which won the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize; and Exiles and Marriages (Viking Press, 1955), which was the Academy’s Lamont Poetry Selection for 1956.
In a review of White Apples and the Taste of Stone: Selected Poems 1946–2006 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006), Billy Collins wrote: “Hall has long been placed in the Frostian tradition of the plainspoken rural poet. His reliance on simple, concrete diction and the no-nonsense sequence of the declarative sentence gives his poems steadiness and imbues them with a tone of sincere authority. It is a kind of simplicity that succeeds in engaging the reader in the first few lines.”
It’s worthwhile to take a few moments to read Hall’s poem, “The Painted Bed.”
It provides an interesting tangent to the study of his essay as well as Faulkner’s story and poem.
Additionally, check out “My Son, My Executioner” –another poem which was added to the Wonderlings discussion by member Rick Williams, in which the narrator laments;
We twenty two and twenty five,
who seemed to live forever,
observe enduring life in you
and start to die together.
(from “My Son, My Executioner”)
In an interesting synchronicity, here is Hall reciting the poem (first in the lineup) as part of a program at, of all places, The University of Virginia, where Faulkner was writer in residence. And so we come full circle. Enjoy.