ENGLISH 362 - The American Novel
Spring 2020, Section 101 - A Publishing Collaboratory: William Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom!
Instruction Mode: Section 101 is  Online (see other Sections below)
Subject: English Language and Literature (ENGLISH)
Department: LSA English Language & Literature
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Requirements & Distribution:
Waitlist Capacity:
With permission of instructor.
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:


Are you interested in southern literature and history? Modernism? Unreliable narrators? The work of William Faulkner? A career in publishing? If even one of these things intrigues you, then this may be the course for you. I have been asked by W.W. Norton Publishers to create a Norton Critical Edition of William Faulkner’s 1936 masterpiece, Absalom, Absalom! This novel is an historical fiction written during the Depression about the antebellum and postbellum South, centering on the violently ambitious figure of Thomas Sutpen, who, born poor in the mountains of West Virginia, learns to be a slaveholder in Haiti, and then ruthlessly builds a plantation domain in the cotton frontier of Mississippi. Decades after his death, numerous narrators try, in various conversational pairs, to tell the tale of Sutpen, and, by doing so, reckon with questions about slavery, the confederacy, interracial sex, biracial identity, gender and racial performance, and hidden genealogies. It is a kind of detective story, where the narrative, dialogic, gendered and raced means of construing truth are indistinguishable from that mutable thing which is history itself.

Norton Critical editions assemble 1) an annotated text of the original work 2) excerpts from contemporaneous documents that provide historical and cultural contexts and 3) selections from the best criticism available. Given that the audience of these critical editions are—in large part—upper-level undergraduate students, it seems that you all would be the perfect co-researchers and co-designers of this edition. W.W. Norton has never had one of their editions student-designed and test-driven before, so they are very excited about this experiment. We will spend the first week reading the Norton edition of an important preceding Faulkner novel, The Sound and the Fury (1928), in which he introduces key characters who will return in the later work. This will also give us a chance to get to know the Norton Critical Edition format. We’ll then spend two weeks reading and generating questions about Absalom, Absalom!, asking: what would you appreciate having textual notes about? What types of documents from the period covered by the novel (roughly the 1830s-1930s) should we collect to help the interpretive process? What lines of inquiry would we want the scholarship to address? Then we’ll spend the remaining weeks searching for ideal primary and secondary sources. Hatcher’s Special Collections Library happens to have a large Faulkner collection; we’ll spend part of a class learning about their collection and then incorporate it into our research. My goal is to have my contact at Norton skype with our class to talk about academic publishing.

Course Requirements:

You will create an editorial portfolio during the course consisting of: your 5pp “Introduction” to the volume; your top three picks for criticism and for sources, with substantive defenses for their inclusion.


ENGLISH 362 - The American Novel
Schedule Listing
101 (LEC)
MW 1:00PM - 4:00PM
5/5/20 - 6/22/20

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