Faulkner Center increases its scholarly offerings

Published 3:36 pm Friday, October 26, 2007

The Center for Faulkner Studies at Southeast Missouri State University has added to its collection of papers about the Nobel Prize-winning author.

The center has acquired copies of about 400 pages of U.S. State Department records that relate to William Faulkner’s visits to eight foreign countries during the 1950s, including Japan, Greece, Italy, France and Venezuela.

“I’ve been doing Faulkner studies for 30 years, and it took me two years to figure out where they were,” said Robert Hamblin, director of the Faulkner center in Cape Girardeau, Mo., earlier this week.

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He said copies of the documents were provided to the school thanks to the assistance of U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, the help of a State Department archivist, and the University of Arkansas, where the originals are kept.

Faulkner, who won the 1949 Nobel Prize for Literature, served as a U.S. cultural ambassador, making visits to foreign lands on behalf of the United States Information Service, a cultural adjunct to the State Department, Hamblin said.

The acclaimed Mississippi author is considered one of the great writers of the 20th century for works including “The Sound and the Fury,” “As I Lay Dying” and “Absalom, Absalom!”

International visitors to the Center for Faulkner Studies are particularly interested in his visits overseas, which have been little studied by his biographers, Hamblin said.

Hamblin said Faulkner was well-received abroad, and his work remains extraordinarily popular in many foreign nations. He believes Faulkner traveled to other lands — doing readings, giving interviews and attending cultural events — as a service to his country, but said the quiet writer had reservations about it, as he struggled with alcoholism and depression.

“Faulkner was reluctant to do it. He was drinking heavily, and afraid he’d be an embarrassment to people,” Hamblin said.

The original documents remain at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. Vera Ekechukwu, research assistant to the J. William Fulbright Papers which are kept there, said the Faulkner-related papers are housed in special collections at the university’s Mullins Library. She said they have been available to researchers since 1994.

Providing copies to the Center for Faulkner Studies in Missouri should make it more convenient for Faulkner scholars to research. “It’s more practical to have them all together there,” she said. The University of Arkansas can also assist researchers seeking copies of the documents in its collections, she said.

The Center for Faulkner Studies was established in 1989, after the university acquired a collection of Faulkner materials assembled over 30 years by Louis Daniel Brodsky of St. Louis.

It calls itself one of the four largest collections of Faulkner materials. The collection includes thousands of pages of manuscripts, letters and photographs.

On the Net:

Center for Faulkner Studies: http://www.semo.edu/cfs