My Road to the Ph.D.: I Was Run Over By a Faulkner…


I only had to attend my American Lit course this morning as History of Lit Theory only meets Mon-Wed.  In a grand attempt at industriousness, I decided to buckle down and get a solid chunk of reading done for today.  From about 8:30 – 10, followed by 12:30 – 1:30, and again from 5:45 – 11pm, I sat on my bed and read William Faulkner’s book, Go Down, Moses.  While there was one extended chapter of “The Bear” that I relatively enjoyed, this book was brutal.  Of course, reading it in its entirety over a 7 1/2 – 8 hours probably wasn’t helping.  In order to stay on top of the readings, however, this will probably not be the only time I experience what I will term the “Paperback-Man Marathon”–an Iron-Man Marathon for the reader.

One of Faulkner’s defining characteristics is his stream of consciousness method of writing in addition to a refusal to operate within the generally accepted guidelines of normal and proper writing.  I would quickly mark up and correct a student’s paper when I noticed they would include paragraphs that were entirely too long, grouping ideas together that clearly demanded paragraphs of their own.  Faulkner won a Pulitzer Prize with good reason–this man can contort even the most simple sentence into a paragraph-long hurdle daring readers to try and successfully clear it.

Needless to say, I am no hurdler and I definitely feel like I experienced a few face-plants tonight.   Fortunately, Faulkner is a considerate writer in that he simply continues right along with his narrative requiring readers to have made sense of those tangled and obtuse paragraphs as he refers back to them in later parts of the narrative.  In essence, once you’ve discovered that you’ve fallen off the plot line, he simply proceeds to run you over with more details leaving you with the feeling of being literary road kill.

I think perhaps if I have a group of students whom I take a keen dislike for, I will expose them to the godfather of Southern Literature.

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About fhelvie

I live in CT with my wife and two sons. I am also writing my doctoral dissertation, which is focused on the relationship between American literature and comic book superheroes. I have served as a panelist at a number of conferences discussing my research in comics, medieval literature, and pedagogy. Most recently, I had the good fortune to present at the New York Comic Con. In addition to my work in comics scholarship, I'm also a full-time professor of developmental English.
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