The first seven clips below come from Faulkner's appearance on 13 April 1957 before the combined students from a grad class in American fiction and a college course in the novel. The second below follows up Faulkner's answer to the first. I've kept the questions in the order in which they came up in the session. The last four clips come from four separate sessions from the Spring semester, 1957.
Q: Sir, in Light in August, the central character Joe Christmas had most of his troubles and persecutions and in his search to find himself was based on his belief that he was part Negro and yet it is never made really clear that he is. Was he supposed to be part Negro, or was this supposed to add to the tragic irony of the story?
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Q: Sir, if he is not — does not definitely have Negro blood, well, what is the significance of Gavin Stevens's surmise there at the end when he explains that there's a conflict of blood? That is only a guess that stands for a guess and not a final knowledge of——
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Q: Mr. Faulkner, in working out the situation of Joe Christmas, did you deliberately have in mind a correspondence between his situation and Oedipus, for example, as has recently been brought out in an essay published in the Quarterly magazine?
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Q: Mr. Faulkner, in Wild Palms there is a passage strongly reminiscent of the Grand Inquisitor in Dostoyevsky's Brothers Karamazov, the import of which seems to condemn not Christ but organized religion. In Light in August, much of the action seems to stem from almost fanatical Calvinism. Would it be true to surmise that you favor a strongly individual rather than an organized religion? . . . Then you think perhaps that man must work out his own salvation from within rather than from without?
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Q: Sir, in Light in August much of the action comes back to the theme or the picture of a column of yellow smoke coming up from Joanna Burden's cabin. I was wondering — you had said that in The Sound and the Fury you got the idea of the story from seeing a little girl like Caddy in a tree. I was wondering if that happened with Light in August. Perhaps that was a theme that you had seen and that you started from in that story.
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Q: In Light in August, do you feel that Rev. Hightower dies feeling that he has achieved a certain kind of salvation — received some sort of salvation?
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Q: Mr. Faulkner, most people are very struck by your change in style in Light in August. For example, you use present tense to tell the story in rather than the past. Was that — did you mean something by that or were you just using a new form for dramatic import?
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Q: [The beginning of this tape is missing, and so the clip starts in the middle of Faulkner's answer. The UVA Press book Faulkner in the University gives the following as the question he was asked: "You spoke of titles before, Mr. Faulkner. I’d like to ask you about the origin of Light in August." And according to the same source, his answer began this way: "Oh, that was—in August in Mississippi there’s a few days somewhere about the middle of the month when suddenly there’s a foretaste of fall, it’s cool, there’s a lambence, a luminous quality to the light, as though it came not from just today but from back in the old classic times. It might have fauns and satyrs and the gods and —" You can hear the rest...]
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Q: Mr. Faulkner, why do you choose to so often have your characters dressed in the vestments of—of the Christian myth, making them at times Christ-like, people like Popeye or Joe Christmas or even Benjy, making them at other times Madonna-like, such as the woman in Sanctuary, and at other times Judas-like, such as Lucas Burch in Light in August?
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Q: [This clip addresses the same question as the previous one, the issue of Christian symbolism, though specifically in connection with Joe Christmas. I'm also including it because the questioner makes the common mistake of assuming Joe is 33-years-old when he dies, when he's in fact 36.] Mr. Faulkner, sometimes I’ve heard it said that Joe Christmas in Light in August is supposed to be a Christ figure. There’s some allusion to that or perhaps some evidence for it. He died at 33 [at] his lynching. There’s a few things like that. Did you intend for him to be a Christ figure?
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Q: This question is about Light in August. Could you tell me your purpose in placing the chapter about Hightower’s early life in the end of the novel rather than when Hightower first appeared?
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