William Faulkner

Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Wikipedia.

Faulkner, William

Faulkner, William, 1897–1962, American novelist, b. New Albany, Miss., one of the great American writers of the 20th cent. Born into an old Southern family named Falkner, he changed the spelling of his last name to Faulkner when he published his first book, a collection of poems entitled The Marble Faun, in 1924. Faulkner trained in Canada as a cadet pilot in the Royal Air Force in 1918, attended the Univ. of Mississippi in 1919–20, and lived in Paris briefly in 1925. In 1931 he bought a pre–Civil War mansion, “Rowanoak,” in Oxford, Miss., where he lived, a virtual recluse, for the rest of his life. As a writer Faulkner's primary concern was to probe his own region, the deep South. Most of his novels are set in Yoknapatawpha county, an imaginary area in Mississippi with a colorful history and a richly varied population. The county is a microcosm of the South as a whole, and Faulkner's novels examine the effects of the dissolution of traditional values and authority on all levels of Southern society. One of his primary themes is the abuse of blacks by the Southern whites. Because Faulkner's novels treat the decay and anguish of the South since the Civil War, they abound in violent and sordid events. But they are grounded in a profound and compassionate humanism that celebrates the tragedy, energy, and humor of ordinary human life. The master of a rhetorical, highly symbolic style, Faulkner was also a brilliant literary technician, making frequent use of convoluted time sequences and of the stream of consciousness technique. He was awarded the 1949 Nobel Prize in Literature. His best-known novels are The Sound and the Fury (1929), As I Lay Dying (1930), Sanctuary (1931), Light in August (1932), Absalom, Absalom! (1936), The Unvanquished (1938), The Hamlet (1940), Intruder in the Dust (1948), Requiem for a Nun (1951), A Fable (1954; Pulitzer Prize), The Town (1957), The Mansion (1959), and The Reivers (1962; Pulitzer Prize). In addition to novels Faulkner published several volumes of short stories including These 13 (1931), Go Down, Moses (1942), Knight's Gambit (1949), and Big Woods (1955); and collections of essays and poems.


See the reminiscences of his brother, John (1963); biographies by H. H. Waggoner (1959), J. Blotner (2 vol., 1974, repr. 1984), and P. Weinstein (2009); studies by R. P. Adams (1968), L. G. Leary (1973), and J. W. Reed, Jr. (1973); J. N. Duvall, ed., Faulkner and His Critics (2010); M. Gorra, The Saddest Words: William Faulkner's Civil War (2020).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Faulkner, William


Born Sept. 25, 1897, in New Albany, Miss.; died July 6, 1962, in Oxford, Miss. American writer.

Faulkner came from an aristocratic southern family of plantation owners. During World War I he served in the Canadian Air Force but did not see combat. After the war he attended the University of Mississippi for one year, then worked as a house painter, a clerk, and a postmaster. Faulkner’s first published work was a collection of verse, The Marble Faun (1924), written under the influence of French symbolism. In 1925, Faulkner met the writer S. Anderson. Faulkner’s first novel, Soldiers’ Pay (1926; Russian translation, 1966), was written in the spirit of the “lost generation”; the novel Mosquitoes (1927) shows the influence of A. Huxley.

Faulkner’s novel Sartoris (1929; Russian translation, 1973) is the first in a cycle of works set in the fictional Southern county of Yoknapatawpha. The novel The Sound and the Fury (1929; Russian translation, 1973) explored and developed the theme, first announced in Sartoris, of the dying patriarchal tradition of the agrarian South and the disintegration and dehumanization of its social relations. Faulkner linked the decay of the South to a fatal error committed in the past—the recognition of slavery as a legal institution. Faulkner’s heroes, who include members of the old plantation-owning generation and sharecroppers of the type portrayed in As I Lay Dying (1930), are perishing along with the “Southern civilization” that gave them birth.

Sanctuary (1931), which described the crimes of a sadistic gangster who purely by chance falls into the hands of the police, brought Faulkner, hitherto a critics’ writer, commercial success and an invitation to Hollywood as a screenwriter and consultant. The novel Light in August (1932; Russian translation, 1974) plunged even deeper into the world of the South, depicting the dying principles of racism and puritanism and their cruel and unalterable influence on people’s lives. One of Faulkner’s finest novels, Absalom, Absalom! (1936), concerns the fate of the Southern colonel Sutpen, whose drive is powerless to reverse the inevitable course of events: his every initiative dies, every idea is doomed from the outset.

Incipient predatory capitalist relations and the decay of the old patriarchal relations were the subject of Faulkner’s “Southern epic”—the trilogy comprising The Hamlet (1940; Russian translation, 1964), The Town (1957; Russian translation, 1965), and The Mansion (1959; Russian translation, 1961)—which depicted the representatives of the “new generation,” the Snopes family, a clan of cruel, cold-blooded businessmen. For Faulkner, only the Snopeses are capable of surviving in the changed spiritual climate of the South.

Faulkner’s later works of note include Requiem for a Nun (1951; Russian translation of A. Camus’s dramatization, 1970), Intruder in the Dust (1948; Russian translation, 1968), an unusual detective novel, and A Fable (1954). Throughout his career, the short story remained Faulkner’s favorite genre; his collections include These Thirteen (1931) and Go Down, Moses (1942).

Although Faulkner’s early works leaned toward the experimental European novel, particularly the stream of consciousness novel, his work unquestionably belongs to the literature of critical realism. Faulkner’s creative method is characterized by a profound historicism, a tendency to use symbolism and to develop a narrative on several temporal levels, and the use of lofty rhetoric. A profoundly national writer, tied by birth to the fate of the American South and its past and present, mythology, culture, language, and everyday life, Faulkner was at the same time a classic writer of 20th-century world literature. His work is illuminated by a faith in the inexhaustible nature of the human spirit and in man’s boundless capacity for compassion, sacrifice, and fortitude.

Faulkner was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1949.


A Green Bough. New York, 1933.
The Wild Palms. New York [1939].
Collected Stories. New York, 1950.
Big Woods. New York, 1955.
Knight’s Gambit. New York, 1956.
The Reivers. New York, 1962.
The Unvanquished. Harmondsworth, 1965.
Essays, Speeches, and Public Letters. London, 1967.
Flags in the Dust. New York, 1973.
In Russian translation:
Sem’ rasskazov. Moscow, 1958.
[Izbrannoe.] Moscow, 1973.
Sobranie rasskazov. [Edited by A. M. Zverev.] Moscow, 1977.


Mendel’son, M. “U. Folkner.” In his book Sovremennyi amerikanskii roman. Moscow, 1964.
Zasurskii, Ia. N. “Potok soznaniia: Shum i iarost Uil’iama Folknera.” In his book Amerikanskaia literatura XX v. Moscow, 1966.
Cowley, M. “U. Folkner: Svezhii vzgliad na Folknera.” In his book Dom so mnogimi oknami. Moscow, 1973.
Palievskii, P. V. “Put’ U. Folknera k realizmu: Amerika Folknera.” In his book Puti realizma. Moscow, 1974.
Palievskii, P. V. “Folkner i Kamiu.” Ibid.
Brooks, C. William Faulkner: The Yoknapatawpha Country. New Haven-London, 1963.
Adams, R. Faulkner: Myth and Motion. Princeton, N.J., 1968.
Reed, J. W. Faulkner’s Narrative. New Haven-London, 1973.
William Faulkner: Four Decades of Criticism. East Lansing, Mich., 1973.
William Faulkner: A Collection of Criticism. New York, 1973.
Blotner, J. Faulkner: A Biography, vols. 1–2. New York, 1974.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Faulkner, William (Cuthbert) (b. Falkner)

(1897–1962) writer; born in New Albany, Miss. He lived in nearby Oxford, Miss., nearly all his life, writing, farming, and hunting. The scanty education he had after the tenth grade included fitful attendance at the University of Mississippi after his World War I service with the Canadian Air Force. (The war ended while he was still in training.) A writer from adolescence, he published his first poems in his early twenties, and during the next few years spent time in New Orleans, where he was encouraged by Sherwood Anderson. When his first book of poems, The Marble Faun (1924), was published, he added the "u" to his name. He traveled to Europe later in 1925, before returning to Oxford. His first published novels were Soldier's Pay (1926) and Mosquitoes (1927). The Sound and the Fury (1929) was the first of the complex stream-of-consciousness novels for which he was to become known. In the same year, Sartoris was published, the first of a series of novels centered on the Sartoris family in a fictionalized Oxford. He married Estelle Oldham Franklin in 1929. Over the years he created a historical saga centered on five families in his fictional Yoknapatawpha County. His famously complex and difficult prose brought to life characters of the South, by turns degenerate, cruel, and macabre, and a major theme of his work was the toll taken by white Southerners' treatment of African-Americans. Other early fiction included As I Lay Dying (1930), Sanctuary (1931), Light in August (1932), Absalom, Absalom! (1936), The Unvanquished (1938), The Hamlet (1940), and Go Down Moses (1942). Never that popular, he had to earn money by writing Hollywood screenplays in the 1930s, and, by that time, was known to drink heavily and habitually. By the middle 1940s his critical reputation was in eclipse; his rediscovery as a major writer began with the publication of The Portable Faulkner (1946), edited by Malcolm Cowley. Faulkner won the 1949 Nobel Prize in literature; his Collected Stories (1950) won a National Book Award (1951); and A Fable (1954) won a National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize (1955). He was writer in residence at the University of Virginia (1957; 1958). Later works include The Town (1957), The Mansion (1959), and The Reivers (1962). He died of a heart attack in Mississippi.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
References in periodicals archive ?
See, e.g., WILLIAM FAULKNER, THE HAMLET (1940) (Flem was a particularly controversial character among a cadre of contentious personas).
William Faulkner, for instance, stands as an example of a writer who grasped the concepts and then purposefully broke them.
Both are of William Faulkner in uniform: the first, from 1918, of Royal Flying Cadet Faulkner, looking, as James Watson remarks, remarkably like Charlie Chaplin's Little Tramp, but with none of Chaplin's jaunty irony, and the second, from the late 1950s, of 'Tally-ho, William Faulkner', posed in his Farmington Hunt Club pink, a magisterial crop replacing the cadet's limp cane.
* In voting for a state flag bearing the Confederate battle emblem, the people of Mississippi seem to have followed, in a perverse way, native son William Faulkner's dictum: "The past is never dead.
When William Faulkner read the scene in question, he too seems to have detected a cruel Dr.
Meacham's selections include works done by writers such as James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, William Faulkner, and Walker Percy.
At the Sparkhill Police Court yesterday William Faulkner, aged 29, of Albion Road, Greet, was charged with being drunk and disorderly and assaulting Sergeant Candle and Police-constable Dumbleton.
Finally, the book uses William Faulkner's Sanctuary and Zora Neale Hurston 's Their Eyes Were Watching God to explore critiques of Southern society's attempts to "control the labor and leisure of Southern women in the 1920s and 1930s," (307).
Author William Faulkner kept the terminology terse and to the point.
Sally Wolff's Talking about William Faulkner. Interviews with Jimmy Faulkner and Others takes an approach to oral biography that is radically different from the Halpert and Dunaway projects.
William Faulkner: The Contemporary Reviews admirably demonstrates the energy and ability of Professor Inge, editor of the 'American Critical Archives' series.