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July 5, 2011

Emory Professor to Discuss Faulkner’s Link to a Mid-1800s Plantation Diary

Two years ago, an important literary discovery was revealed – the existence of a wealthy plantation owner’s mid-1800s diary that had been read by William Faulkner and served as the great author’s source for names, incidents and details in his prize-winning novels.

Sally Wolff, a Southern literature professor at Emory University, uncovered the connection between the diary and Faulkner when she was working on a book about the people who knew Faulkner. She interviewed Edgar Wiggin Francisco III, an alumnus of Emory and the son of a friend of Faulkner’s. The diary, she learned, was written by Francisco’s great-great-grandfather, Francis Terry Leak, and was pored over by Faulkner for nearly 20 years.

Wolff will discuss her book about the Faulkner-diary connection—titled "Ledgers of History: William Faulkner, an Almost Forgotten Friendship, and an Antebellum Plantation Diary: Memories of Dr. Edgar Wiggin Francisco III"—in a lecture at the Library of Congress at noon on Tuesday, Aug. 9, in the Mary Pickford Theater on the third floor of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. The lecture is free and open to the public; no tickets are required.

Faulkner (1897-1962), a native of Mississippi and one of America’s most important literary figures, winner of the 1949 Nobel Prize for Literature and two Pulitzer Prizes, is the author of "The Sound and the Fury" (1929); "Light in August" (1932); "Absalom, Absalom!" (1936); and 10 more novels. Most of his work is set in the South, in Yoknapatawpha County, a fictional place that he created. Faulkner’s literary works are known for their rich depictions of Southern life and characters.

Faulkner’s close childhood friend from Mississippi was Edgar Wiggin Francisco Jr., the father of Edgar Wiggin Francisco III. According to Wolff, the son remembers Faulkner’s visits to see his dad at the Francisco family homestead in Holly Springs, Miss., throughout the 1930s. Faulkner was fascinated with the diary’s several volumes, read them carefully and always took copious notes.

The Faulkner-diary connection generated a story in the New York Times on Feb. 11, 2010, titled "Where Faulkner Found His People: Characters’ Names Are Inside a Plantation Diary the Writer Knew Well." Reporter Patricia Cohen said "specialists have been stunned and intrigued not only by this peephole into Faulkner’s working process, but also by material that may have inspired this Nobel-prize-winning author, considered by many to be one of the greatest American novelists of the 20th century."

The lecture is sponsored by the Library’s Humanities and Social Sciences Division, the Literature Section in the U.S. General Division of the Acquisition and Bibliographic Access Directorate, and the Poetry and Literature Center.

The Humanities and Social Sciences Division provides reference service and collection development in the Main, Local History and Genealogy, and Microform and Machine Readable Collections reading rooms at the Library of Congress.

The Literature Section in the U.S. General Division of the Acquisition and Bibliographic Access Directorate is responsible for the creation of bibliographical access to American imprints collected by the Library in literature, language and related areas.

The Poetry and Literature Center at the Library of Congress administers noontime and evening lectures and is the home of the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry.

The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world, holds nearly 147 million items in various languages, disciplines and formats. The Library serves the U.S. Congress and the nation both on-site in its reading rooms on Capitol Hill and through its website at www.loc.gov.

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PR 11-127
07/05/11
ISSN 0731-3527

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