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Faulkner at Virginia Photo
Photograph by Ralph Thompson
© Rector and Visitors, University of Virginia

During the 1957 and 1958 Spring semesters, William Faulkner was the Writer-in-Residence at the University of Virginia. During that time he appeared at thirty-six different public events, reading from his work and answering over 1400 questions from students, faculty and others. Thanks to two members of the Department of English, Frederick Gwynn and Joseph Blotner, most of those sessions were recorded, and preserved on tape in the University of Virginia Special Collections Library. Over 28 hours of the recordings have been digitized, and are available online in the Faulkner at Virginia audio archive . The mp3 clips available below have been taken from that archive, and are playable on most devices.

“Wash” Audio Clips

Dialect: race and class distinctions. (7 May 1957; 0:57)
Dialect: class distinctions. (7 May 1957; 0:32)
Wash Jones' dialect. (6 May 1958; 0:55)

Dialect: Race and Class Distinctions. (7 May 1957; 0:57)

Edward Stephenson: May I come back for a moment to this distinction between the speech of the Negroes and of the—of what used to be called the poor white trash. In your short story "Wash," Mr. Faulkner, when Wash is talking about Colonel Sutpen, he call—you spell it K-E-R-N-E-L, when the Negroes are talking you spell it C-U-N-N-E-L. Is that supposed to be "Kernal' that Wash says, and "Cunnel" that the Negroes say. In other words, Negroes drop the "r."

William Faulkner: That's correct.

Edward Stephenson: That's the idea.

William Faulkner: That's correct. And the—what we call the redneck white man has a hard "r."

Edward Stephenson: He has the—

William Faulkner: He says "fur" for far. He says "far" for fire.

Edward Stephenson: Yes.

William Faulkner: The Negro don't have the hard "r."

Edward Stephenson: I assumed that that was the purpose of that. Now if Colonel Sutpen or one of his—upper class characters was speaking, then you just use the conventional spelling, which really would be rather like Wash's pronunciation, though not as hard on "r"'s.

William Faulkner: That's right, it's between—

Edward Stephenson: But the—between Wash and the Negroes, "Kernal" versus "Cunnel."

William Faulkner: Yes.


Dialect: Class Distinctions. (7 May 1957; 0:32)

Edward Stephenson: In that same story, Millie says to Wash, "You'll have to holler—you'll have to holler louder than that." "Holler," I suppose. H-O-L-L-E-R, you spelled it. That comes back to the question we asked last week about what would you do with "winder" if you wanted to have one of the poor white trash—

William Faulkner: Well—

Edward Stephenson: It's a problem, isn't it? Because now if this were one of the upper class characters, H-O-L-L-E-R would represent "holla," But knowing that it's Wash's daughter it's going to be "holler."

William Faulkner: That's right.

Edward Stephenson: So we have to know something about the background.


Wash Jones' dialect. (6 May 1958; 0:55)

Unidentified participant: In connection with this, sir, Wash Jones uses speech characterized by the following: "air" for "are," "yit" for "yet," and "hit" for "it," and various others of course. Although we know from our studies in our class that this is generally common Southern speech, many of your characters on somewhat the same social plane as Wash Jones do not use this type of speech. In the genealogy at the rear of the—Absalom, Modern Library Absalom, Absalom!, Wash Jones is said to—it's said that the date and location of his birth is unknown. Could we assume possibly that he comes from—from somewhere in Tennessee, if he uses this speech?

William Faulkner: From a hill country, yes.