About six years ago, John Corrigan was working on his Ph.D. about William Faulkner and visited the University of Virginia Library’s Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections to examine the renowned Southern writer’s manuscripts. There he met UVA English professor Stephen Railton, who was bringing together Faulkner scholars for a new project, and asked Corrigan to join. They would create a website that maps and organizes characters, events and locations of Mississippi’s fictional Yoknapatawpha County prevalent in Faulkner’s novels and short stories to aid in studying and teaching the writer’s masterful and difficult works.
Corrigan, who is Canadian, lives in Taiwan and has been teaching at National Chengchi University there. He uses that website, “Digital Yoknapatawpha,” in his teaching as well as in his research.
“This project has been crucial for my students,” said Corrigan, who added that they come from not only Taiwan, but also China, Japan and European countries. “William Faulkner is one of the great American modernist writers, but he’s incredibly intimidating.”
Corrigan said he uses “Digital Yoknapatawpha” – which comprises data from 14 novels and 54 stories written by Faulkner and published between 1929 and 1962 – as a type of guide that gives context, but not interpretation. It’s not going to take the place of reading, but gives students ways to follow characters and insight into Faulkner’s use of language, according to several of the collaborating scholars. The website also links to manuscripts and audio recordings, bringing together resources that would take students countless hours of searching, Corrigan said.
With a few months remaining under the nearly $300,000 grant the National Endowment for the Humanities Collaborative Research division awarded three years ago to develop the website, the team of about 35 scholars has reached a milestone: all the data of characters, events and locations have been entered.