Today, we are happy to bring you our conversation with Theresa M. Towner, editor of DIGITIZING FAULKNER: Yoknapatawpha in the Twenty-First Century
What inspired you to write this book?
Almost ten years ago, one of my favorite professors from grad school, Steve Railton, asked me to join his team in developing a website devoted to Faulkner’s fiction set in Yoknapatawpha County. I had almost no experience in digital humanities but lots of it in reading and writing about Faulkner, so I agreed to come on board. Pretty soon, my work as Associate Director of Digital Yoknapatawpha (www.faulkner.iath.virginia.edu) inspired me to develop a volume that would bring the study of digital humanities into traditional scholarly conversations. I wanted to show readers the variety of things we can learn using this new method of studying Faulkner.
What did you learn and what are you hoping readers will learn from your book?
Working on DY data entry, I learned lots of little things about Faulkner’s fiction, like what kinds of details make up a character’s daily life—what one wears, what another eats, how another talks about other people. Overall, I learned new ways to read, and putting this book together I learned that my contributing authors had, too. They’ve written on their discoveries of new ways into Faulkner’s locations, characters, events, novels, and short stories and on the ways he constructs narrative to build themes and investigate cultural issues. Most importantly, everyone involved in making this book wants readers to read Faulkner. I hope our readers will learn that there is no one “right” way to understand Faulkner’s fiction.
What surprised you the most in the process of writing your book?
There really weren’t any surprises since I had chosen the contributors, but I was very gratified by the enthusiasm they all brought to the book, even during the revisions I asked them to make. Everyone was excited about reaching toward two audiences with one volume. Editing this book is the most collegial publishing experience I’ve ever had.
What’s your favorite anecdote from your book?
I have two:
Whenever we could, we complained about data entry. Literature scholars are good complainers but not usually well-suited to using data fields.
When one contributor had to withdraw from writing a chapter, the scholar who agreed to write it used the original author’s title for the essay. Told you it was a collegial project!
I’m editing all of Faulkner’s short stories for publication in a new volume for the Library of America, which has already published corrected texts of his novels, and I’m writing an essay on the short stories about the Civil War that he published in the Saturday Evening Post for a volume on that magazine’s representations of war. Over the next year, I’m also finalizing plans for a new book on Oz, Narnia, and Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Those three imagined worlds have a lot in common with Yoknapatawpha.