The “Hemingway and Faulkner” course is taught by Professor Rutledge, usually during the fall semester of the year. The class studies similarities and differences of the authors and their writing styles through comparing and contrasting some of their novels and short stories.
The course will take two trips during the semester, one to Hemingway’s hometown in Oak Park, Illinois and one to Faulkner’s hometown in Oxford, Mississippi. Each trip has been cultivated to maximize your learning experience through daily activities–and lots of walking!
(Additional scholarship funds are usually sought to help assist in student travel, so that more students are able to make the trips.)
Here is an account of the trip to Oxford, Mississippi by Chelsea McCarty
Have you ever seen a cotton field? It’s an odd question certainly, but if you have seen one you might understand me. I saw my first cotton field on this trip as we took the Natchez Trace–a.k.a. the scenic route–down south. As we drove, Professor Rutledge told us we would be stopping at a cotton field. A cotton field? “How peculiar,” we all thought. But, as the first cotton field of the trip began to peek out from around a corner and Professor Rutledge pulled the van aside, we understood. Speckled with white cotton puffs, the hills rolled slimly into the distance. As silly as it may sound, words cannot express the beauty of a cotton field.
Believe it or not, we did more than look at cotton. We also went to graveyards! We visited various graveyards to see the burial spots of and learn about important figures in Faulkner’s life. At one graveyard, we saw the grave of one of Faulkner’s ancestors that atop it has a statue of the man. The statue once stared off into a vast expanse of fields and beauty, but now stares ironically at a Burger King. At another graveyard, we saw the gravesites of Faulkner and even some of the people who inspired characters in his work.
If you are familiar with Faulkner, then you are familiar with Yoknapatawpha, the fictional town wherein his stories are set. While Faulkner disclaimed his using of neighbors from Oxford as the basis of characters in his stories, there is a great deal of evidence that says otherwise. Some of his stories are reimagined retellings of actual events that happened to people in Oxford. Some characters, like Benjy from The Sound and The Fury, are almost undeniably inspired by people in Oxford. Even if it is just a really odd coincidence that so many factual happenings and real people seem to have similarities with Faulkner’s work, Oxford is a must-see for any Faulkner fan.
When you enter Rowan Oak, Faulkner’s homestead in Mississippi, you stumble into a fairy-tale. The driveway is but a dirt path lined with towering trees that don’t remind you where you are. Strolling the dirt path at sunset gives the scene a particularly mesmerizing feel.
Wandering about Rowan Oak, you learn who Faulkner was, or maybe who he strove to be. The tour guide of the house will tell you fun–as well as sad–stories about the Faulkner family. Some stories shock you, like the story of a drunken Faulkner cynically telling his daughter, “Nobody remembers Shakespeare’s child.” Sometimes you wish such stories weren’t retold, but, alas, they are a part of history. But there are the stories that move you too, like when, against contemporary views towards African Americans, Faulkner held a funeral in his living room for his mammy, “Mammy Callie,” whom he and his family loved and adored. Before her death, he had even had a house built behind his own for her to live in.
The trip concludes after visits to some highlights of Oxford, including the Town Square, Ole Miss University, and a few other hotspots. After having read work by Faulkner and seen where it was that he called home, I feel a real connection to the author and his work that I otherwise wouldn’t have ever been able to have. I learned so much not only on the trip, but also holistically in the course “Hemingway and Faulkner.” It’s a must-do experience for any student of literature, and I highly suggest it.
To see a gallery of photos from the trip, click here.