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Student Work

As every teacher knows, students learn in powerful ways by doing their own work, by writing papers or giving presentations or studying for tests and so on. As a digital humanities resource, Digital Yoknapatawpha can provide our students with additional new ways to engage with Faulkner's fictions, ways that can take advantage of their fluency as citizens of the digital world. While DY is being designed to ensure that no one can use it as a substitute for the challenges and rewards of reading Faulkner, as a tool it is intended to enhance a student's ability to interpret and appreciate Faulkner's art. This section of the project features examples of students putting DY to that use.

ENAM 3240 Faulkner at the University of Virginia
Stephen Railton

ENAM 3240 Faulkner was a lecture-discussion class that I taught every other year for about a decade. DY was developed in part in the context of those classes, and I regularly used it during the semester to show students various aspects of the world that Faulkner created. But I didn't require students to use the project as part of an assignment until the Spring semester 2019, by which time I felt that DY contained enough different kinds of resources and functionalities to allow each of the 35 students in the class to bring their own research question to the project with a reasonable expectation of finding a useful way to explore it. That almost proved to be the case. Most of the students' reports re-assured me that the tool we were building would open up new kinds of digital pathways into Faulkner's art, would help students get deeper into particular texts or themes - although I also learned from the experiment where the students' intellectual curiosity bumped up against the limitations of the project.

Eight of those reports are available below, along with the elaborate way in which I tried to describe the assignment for the class. The length of my instructions probably measures my own nervousness about putting DY to this practical test. A few of the students were old hands at using digital resources for their own research, but the majority were (like me) trying this for the first time. I should add that I made the assignment about a third of the way into the semester, by which time the students had seen me demonstrate various aspects of DY on the computer screen at the front of the classroom. Although most of our students are more familiar with digital programs than with Modernist literature - which is one of the rationales behind the creation of DY - and will doubtless quickly figure out their own way around DY, I would definitely recommend teachers give students some exposure to how the project provides access to Faulkner's world before asking them to work on their own with it.

Advisory: Because DY is an evolving project, and we continue to refine the data and enhance the functions, a few places in the texts and visuals below are out of date. But the discrepancies between what my students worked with in 2019 and what DY looks like now don't substantively effect the kinds of models and insights their work can provide for you and your students.

      Stephen Railton: "Using DY Assignment"

      Caleb Briggs: Where Women Are In (Digital) Yoknapatawpha

      Maddie Daniel: Using Digital Yoknapatawpha to Investigate Addie and Dewey Dell Bundren's Relationship in As I Lay Dying

      Ian Greene: Using Digital Yoknapatawpha

      Anya Karaman: Ghost Hunting in Yoknapatawpha

      Jessica Riemann: Using Digital Yoknapatawpha

      Ankita Satpathy: Location and Loss in The Sound and the Fury

      Abigail Sawyer: Using Digital Yoknapatawpha

      Katherine Viti: An Exploration of Quentin Compson’s Arc through Faulkner’s Imagination

LI631 Faulkner Seminar at Southeast Missouri State University
Christopher Rieger

As part of a Faulkner Seminar class, students were required to work in groups of two to create Digital Yoknapatawpha worksheets. My instructions on the syllabus were brief: "For the Digital Yoknapatawpha project, each group will create a short classroom exercise/assignment (suitable for a high school or college classroom) that gets students to use the DY site in some way that will help them understand Faulkner’s work. You should think about how to create a step-by-step lesson that students can use to interact with DY and answer a question or figure something out about a story or novel that they may not have discovered without the DY database." Rather than be too proscriptive, I wanted the students to explore the site and then focus on some aspects of it that they found most interesting or helpful. Having tried to use DY in the classroom the previous semester, I knew that simply turning them loose in the database and seeing what insights they would come up with was not a plan that would yield good results. The size and scope of the database is overwhelming and most students, even graduate students, are not going to be familiar with the best ways of searching in a large database with the unique set of tools DY provides.

I was fortunate to have a three-hour, once-a-week format for this class which meant I could devote fairly large blocks of time to letting the students explore DY on their own while I went around the classroom to help and answer questions. I also made sure that I showed them some video tutorials available on DY and that I led some sessions myself to illustrate the different types of searches available. Faulkner scholars find the ability to search across multiple Faulkner texts to be one of the most useful aspects of DY, but for students who have only read a few texts, this is less of a feature and more of another thing that makes it daunting to figure out how to use the site.

I modeled some examples of searches using just one story or novel and then encouraged students to try similar tactics on different stories. When students came across interesting discoveries, I encouraged them to consider working backwards in order to create a step-by-step guide for their worksheets.

I could have chosen to have the students simply present their findings to the class, so why, it might be asked, have them create worksheets instead? There are several answers to this. Firstly, some of our students are planning to become high school or college teachers themselves. In fact, this particular course also included at least two full-time high school teachers who attend this night class after a full workday. I wanted to give these students something tangible that they could implement in their own classrooms right away or in the near future.

Secondly, I did not want to force the students to use DY for their traditional research papers in the class, though I hoped that some might. A stand-alone assignment in DY that was not high stakes (i.e., didn’t count for a lot of points) I thought would encourage them to be experimental and creative and not worry about "doing it wrong" so much. This did, indeed, work as some groups would pursue one topic only to hit a dead end and switch avenues of inquiry entirely. Working on this a little bit each class over several weeks helped to lessen students’ anxiety and have the freedom of trial and error.

Thirdly, the old maxim that you never really know a literary work until you have to teach it has certainly been true for me. With that in mind, I wanted students to put themselves in the role of teacher or facilitator in order to understand what they were doing in DY and why they were taking the steps that they were. Since our class was able to devote more time to using DY than most probably could, I encouraged the students to think of themselves as facilitators who could help students and teachers who might only have, say, one week to devote to a Faulkner short story or two and to help that audience learn quickly about DY and its potential.

Lastly, I always like for students to have something concrete they can take away from a class. Although the assignment was rather simple and not worth a lot of their grade, those who might want to teach themselves would have an artifact for a teaching portfolio or job applications down the road. I also told them there was a good chance that we would use their worksheets on the actual DY site in the future, and I think the idea that they’re not "just" doing something for a class but also for the "real" world is one that often resonates with students.

I was very pleased with the results of this assignment. The groups focused on a variety of Faulkner texts and different aspects of DY. While they still had time to explore DY, the end results were more focused and tangible in comparison to a more open and less defined video project I also had them complete that semester. The students, too, reported that they felt they understood how to use DY better after being forced to explain it to others in the role of guide or teacher. They were able to pare down the vast array of options that DY provides and focus on a few key tools and concepts that will hopefully introduce more students to the potential of DY.

If you decide to use these worksheets in your classroom, please email and let us know how they worked. If you have students create their own worksheets or other resources, please let us know that too. Maybe we’ll even add them to the site. Feedback can be sent to Chris Rieger at

      "A Rose for Emily," Liam Ohlemdorf and Michelle Daume

      "A Rose for Emily," Jo Nell Cougil

      "A Rose for Emily," Jo Nell Cougill (crossword)

      "Barn Burning," David Farris and Rebecca Sanders

      "Dry September," Thia Hawkins

      "That Evening Sun," Danielle Peach

      "That Evening Sun," Jemima Phillips

      The Unvanquished, Nathan Chandler and Samuel Bocklage

      The Unvanquished, Amanda O’Loughlin and Joshua Naeger