"Absalom, Absalom!"

Stephen Senturia

Wednesdays, March 14 - April 25 1:00 - 3:00 p.m. 7 sessions
The Engineering Center, One Walnut Street

Fiction is, at its simplest, the telling of a story. The author arranges the telling, but the telling is done by some agent: the narrator. The paradigmatic narrator is singlevoiced, objective, and knowledgeable; but in the works of William Faulkner, we  find an enormous richness of narrative invention, especially, what could be called displaced narration, where the story emerges from a merging of points of view or from a retelling of some kind.  

We will begin with the opening chapter of Sartoris, the first of Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County novels. It will herald Faulkner’s ability to bridge time within individual sentences, sweeping the relevant history into the present and anticipating the future. We will then turn in earnest to Absalom, Absalom!, arguably Faulkner’s greatest novel. It takes us into a fuzzy area between narration and myth, a multiply displaced telling of events through various witnesses, reported down through the years, with many details lost in the haze of time. Our goals are to enjoy one of the world’s greatest books and deepen our sensitivity as readers to the richness of story and characterization that different narration styles can provide.

Because we will be doing close reading and citing specific page references, it is important to have the Vintage 1990 edition, William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom!, The Corrected Text. Other editions may have different pagination. Additional readings will be distributed electronically.

Teaching Style: Seminar     Weekly Preparation: 2-3 hours

    Stephen Senturia

    Stephen Senturia taught Electrical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for 36 years. Since his retirement, he has been writing, both fiction and a blog entitled Education as Conversation. His first novel, One Man’s Purpose, was published in 2015. He has also been an active seminar leader at the Harvard Institute for Learning in Retirement on subjects as diverse as the craft of fiction, adapting fiction to film, the geology of the Colorado Plateau, and the physics of musical instruments. In the Fall of 2016, he led a Beacon Hill Seminar entitled “Faulkner’s Narrators,” focused on The Sound and the Fury.