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Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference 2016 to focus on culture

Mississippi’s Native American culture influenced William Faulkner’s writing.

That’s one of the ideas that will be examined at the University of Mississippi’s 2016 Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference on July 17-21.

This year’s theme is “Faulkner and the Native South.” Participants will explore elements of the Choctaw, Chickasaw, European and African cultures and histories that Faulkner used in his writing.

Jay Watson, the UM Howry Professor of Faulkner Studies and a professor of English, is the conference director.

“This year’s conference, ‘Faulkner and the Native South,’ will explore Faulkner’s imaginative engagement with the world of Southeastern Indians, the Native roots of his fictional Yoknapatawpha County, the significance of Faulkner’s literary legacy for Native American writers, and the

history, culture, and contemporary life of the Chickasaw and Choctaw nations, the indigenous people of North Mississippi that Faulkner wrote about in his fiction,” he said.

“This is the first time we have gathered to discuss what Mississippi Indians mean to Faulkner and what he means to them. So, in that respect, everything this year will be new.”

This year organizers are changing the focus of one of their North Mississippi guided tours from “Faulkner country” of New Albany and Ripley to a focus on the Chickasaw country in and around Tupelo.

“That was the center of Chickasaw life in the period leading up to Indian Removal in the 1830s,” Watson said. “This year also marks the first time we have had a Native writer as our featured writer at the conference.”

LeAnne Howe, a citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, spent a year at UM as the John and Renée Grisham Writer in Residence in 2006-2007. The writer and filmmaker will lead a reading and discussion.

Watson said Robbie Ethridge, of the UM sociology and anthropology department, will start the conference with a multimedia presentation on “Mr. Faulkner’s Indians: A Brief History of the Indians of Mississippi,” on Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

Watson said Howe will compare Faulkner’s stories of the Choctaw and the Chickasaw with what those peoples themselves know about their homelands in her keynote lecture Sunday night at 7:30 p.m.

The schedule for Wednesday, July 20, features two sessions focusing on the contemporary worlds of the Chickasaw nation and the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. “A Chickasaw Homecoming” is scheduled for 11 a.m., and “The Mississippi Choctaw Today” will begin at 3:30 p.m.

Watson said these sessions will address economic development, language, and cultural survival. All of these sessions will be held in the Nutt Auditorium on the UM campus.

Two North Mississippi guided tours on Thursday, July 21, will for the first time incorporate sites of Native significance:  the Chickasaw country tour and the Mississippi Delta tour. These tours are available to conference registrants only.

Throughout the conference, the university’s J.D. Williams Library will display Faulkner books, manuscripts, photographs and other memorabilia.

About LaReeca Rucker

LaReeca Rucker is a writer, reporter and adjunct journalism instructor at the University of Mississippi's Meek School of Journalism and New Media.

A veteran journalist with more than 20 years of experience, she spent a decade at the Gannett-owned Clarion-Ledger - Mississippi's largest daily newspaper - covering stories about crime, city government, civil rights, social justice, religion, art, culture and entertainment for the paper's print and web editions. She was also a USA Today contributor.

This year, she received a first place award from the Mississippi Press Association for “Best In-Depth Investigative Reporting.” The story written in 2014 for The Oxford Eagle chronicles the life of a young mother with two sons who have epilepsy, and details how she is patiently hoping legalized cannabis oil experimentation will lead to a cure for their disorder.

Her website is www.lareecarucker.com.

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