University of Virginia, Charlottesville (Location Key)


The University of Virginia was established in Charlottesville in 1819 as the creation of Thomas Jefferson, whose last name is at the center of all the maps of Yoknapatawpha as the name of the city that is the county seat. Faulkner himself first visited the University in the fall of 1931, as one of the participants in a conference on Southern writers; according to reports from others in attendance, he was drunk every time they saw him. Faulkner acquitted himself much more respectably during the two semesters he spent here as Writer-in-Residence in the late 1950s. At one of his first public appearances in Charlottesville, however, he told the audience that he liked Virginians because they were all snobs. Afterwards he had to explain what he meant. His attitude toward the University of Virginia is also ambivalent. In his first Yoknapatawpha fiction, Flags in the Dust, both the Sartoris twins begin college there, but because they can't seem to behave, the family decides to "separate 'em," as Jenny puts it; they shoot dice and the loser, Johnny, has to transfer to Princeton (380). In Sanctuary Gowan Stevens boasts about having graduated from Virginia, where he claims several times that "they taught him how to drink like a gentleman" (57). However, he's drunk when he says that, and in the novel his drinking results in his getting a woman into a very perilous situation at the Old Frenchman place and then unchivalrously abandoning her to a terrible fate; halfway through the novel he sneaks out of Yoknapatawpha in disgrace. A third reference to UVA occurs in the short story "Elly." Elly tries to convince her racist grandmother - writing it out because of the old woman's deafness - that Paul de Montigny "is not a negro he went to Va. and Harvard" (218). The grandmother, already sure that Paul is black, doesn't believe her. But while he could have been both a Negro and a Harvard student, Elly is right that if he attended Virginia he couldn't have been black: no African Americans were admitted to the University until several decades after the story takes place - just before the time Faulkner became its Writer-in-Residence - and the student body wasn't fully integrated until after the Civil Rights movement.

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University of Virginia, Charlottesville
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University of Virginia, Charlottesville