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Faulkner conference returns, focuses on ‘Mississippi Confluence’

The University of Mississippi is preparing for the return of the annual Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha conference with the theme, “Faulkner, Welty, Wright: A Mississippi Confluence.”

The conference makes a return after last year’s conference, “Faulkner’s Modernism,” was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Howry Professor of Faulkner Studies and director of the annual conference Jay Watson said circumstances have painted them into a corner, but even though the conference has become more streamlined it has increased accessibility.

For the first time, Faulkner fans and enthusiasts can look forward to the five-day conference being held remotely in a series of Zoom meetings July 18- 21, 2021.

“This is not a permanent change,” said Watson. “What has always made this conference special is right in the name: Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha. 

“We bring scholars, readers and Faulkner lovers together on the ground where Faulkner lived and wrote to think about him and his achievements. We want to bring that back.”

Unlike previous conferences, this one will expand its focus outside of William Faulkner to two other influential 20th Century Mississippi writers: Eudora Welty and Richard Wright. 

According to Watson, Faulkner, Welty and Wright are key influences of “Mississippi modernism,” literature that is responding to the Mississippi’s modernization.

The program features seven keynote speakers, including Julia Wright, daughter of Richard Wright, and her son, Malcolm Wright. 

On Tuesday, July 20, J. Wright will speak about her father and Faulkner’s response to the lynching of Emmett Till in Sunflower County in 1955.

In addition, there will be lectures and meetings on topics ranging from Mississippi writers of the past and present to crime fiction and prison studies. Also, guests can look forward to screenings of The Past is Never Dead and Almos’ a Man.

Only three conference events are free to the public: the Ann J. Abadie Lecture with Natasha Trethewey, the Almos’ a Man screening with Malcolm Wright and the Library Lecture with Carl Rollyson.

Watson said he is looking forward to the Ann J. Abadie Lecture the most.

“[The Abadie Lecture] honors the long, brilliant work of Ann Abadie at the Center for the Study of Southern Culture,” said Watson. “She was a formative figure in the creation of this conference and she’s been an integral part since it’s beginnings.”

While these select lectures are free, registration is still required by participants.

On July 19-21, the conference will offer “Virtual Cocktail Hour,” a section at the end of the day’s program that gives guests the chance to break into smaller groups and discuss that day’s lectures.

The price of registration is $100 for regular guests and $50 for students.

For more information on the program and how to register, visit the University of Mississippi Department of Outreach and Continuing Education’s event site at https://www.outreach.olemiss.edu/events/faulkner/.