This is a part of a series called Literary South, which highlights important literary landmarks and the writers and authors who made them known.
William Cuthbert Faulkner was born September 25, 1897, in New Albany, Mississippi, then a town of around 200 people a few miles from Tupelo. When he was less than one year old, his family moved to nearby Ripley for his father to take a job with the railroad. Instead, the company was sold and the family moved yet again, this time to Oxford, where it would be easier to find work.
Faulkner had early success in school but didn’t graduate from high school. His mother, grandmother, and caretaker supported him in his creative pursuits and as a young man, he started writing poetry. In 1919, he enrolled at the University of Mississippi but only lasted three semesters before dropping out.
He met mentor Philip Stone at age 17, who introduced him to the work of James Joyce and encouraged him to become a writer. In 1927, he wrote his first novel, Flags in the Dust, which drew heavily from his experiences in the South, but it was rejected by publishers until changes were made. It was released as Sartoris. His style from then on became much more experimental, as seen in later novels.
In 1929, Faulkner married Estelle Oldham and the next year bought a home for them in Oxford called Rowan Oak. When he needed money in 1932, he went out to Hollywood to be a screenwriter with MGM Studios. He won a 1950 Nobel Prize and was a writer in residence at the University of Virginia from 1957 to 1958, but died of a heart attack, aged 64, on July 6, 1962.
Faulkner Locations in Mississippi
Faulkner Family Home, Oxford
While not open to the public, a green placard denotes the 1931 home of William’s parents, Murry and Maud. The land was originally purchased by William’s grandfather in the 1800s.
510 S. Lamar Street
Rowan Oak, Oxford
Owned by Faulkner and his family from 1930 until his wife Estelle’s death in 1972, Rowan Oak is now managed by the University of Mississippi. At William Faulkner’s house, you’ll find furniture from the period, his belongings and scribblings for the plot of A Fable on the wall.
The Greek Revival home in Oxford underwent many changes during his time there, including the addition of the entire back of the house.
719 Old Taylor Road
The University of Mississippi (“Ole Miss”), Oxford
Roam the campus of Ole Miss where Faulkner spent a few semesters and still spent time after dropping out. Go on a campus tour or visit during a game weekend when The Grove will be full of excited tailgaters.
University, MS 38677
Oxford Memorial Cemetery, Oxford
When you go to visit Faulkner’s grave at Oxford Memorial Cemetery, be sure to bring a bottle of bourbon to leave on his headstone. There’s a legend circulating around the author’s plot because of the mysterious “E.T.” buried next to him and his wife. You may also see the cemetery written as Saint Peter’s, which is the older part.
N. 16th Street and Jefferson Avenue
Other Locations to Visit
Faulkner House Books, New Orleans, Louisiana
In 1924, Faulkner was working on his first book when he rented a room in a yellow house in Pirate’s Alley in New Orleans. He and his friend had raucous parties there. Today, the site is home to Faulkner House Books, named in the writer’s honor. The store sells books by and about William Faulkner as well as other titles.
624 Pirate’s Alley
See the other haunts of Faulkner, Williams, and Rice in New Orleans with a two-hour literary walking tour.
Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, Charlottesville, Virginia
The majority of Faulkner’s manuscripts, including books, personal papers and other items, are at the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville where Faulkner was a writer in residence. They have the largest collection of written and printed materials related to Faulkner.
160 McCormick Road