Light in August (Text Key 221)


Light in August, Faulkner’s seventh novel and the fourth set in Yoknapatawpha, was written in about six months’ time, from 17 August 1931 to 19 February 1932. It was published on 6 October 1932, in a run of 8500 copies with a second printing of 2500 to follow shortly. By 1944, like all of Faulkner’s novels except Sanctuary, it was out of print. Following the issue of Malcolm Cowley’s Portable Faulkner (1946) and the award to Faulkner of the Nobel Prize in Literature (1950), his literary stock began to rise. The first of many subsequent reprintings was the 1950 Modern Library edition. In 1985, Noel Polk’s corrected text of the novel appeared with an introduction and notes by Joseph Blotner (Library of America). The Library of America text was reprinted in paperback by Vintage International in 1990, and we have used that edition in our digitized work on the novel.

Joseph Blotner provides the most credible explanation for the genesis of the novel’s title: in August 1931, Faulkner and his wife, Estelle, were enjoying a drink on the east porch of their home, and she commented that the quality of the evening light in August seemed somehow different than at other times of the year. He apparently went straight to his manuscript and changed the working title of "Dark House" to "Light in August."

Dating the Story: We have dated events in the present tense of the novel in August 1932. This might seem curious, given that the novel was in press by then and that the title was generated in 1931. However, as three of the novel’s most assiduous chroniclers have argued, the specific dates given in the book do point to a date of 1932 (Cleanth Brooks, The Yoknapatawpha Country; Stephen Meats, in Francois Pitavy’s William Faulkner’s Light in August; Hugh Ruppersburg, Reading Faulkner: Light in August). We have followed Meats and Ruppersburg in declining to cite specific dates because, as with so many thematic elements in the novel, ambiguity and uncertainty are Faulkner’s intentions and not his mistakes. In providing a range of dates for the August 1932 events, we have followed the instructions of the text.

SOURCES: Blotner, Faulkner: A Biography; Michael Millgate, New Essays on Light in August.

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Harrison Smith and Robert Haas
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New York
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Vintage International
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New York
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How to cite this resource:
Towner, Theresa M., James B. Carothers, Elizabeth Cornell, Chad Jewett, Cheryl Lester, and John Padgett. "Faulkner's Light in August." Added to the project: 2013. Additional editing 2021: Theresa M. Towner. Digital Yoknapatawpha, University of Virginia,