Go Slow Now, or A Dream Deferred: William Faulkner and Civil Rights

deadline for submissions: 
December 1, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
The Faulkner Studies in the UK Research Network
contact email: 

Go Slow Now, or A Dream Deferred: William Faulkner and Civil Rights


Call for Panel Papers at the 2024 Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference “Faulknerian Anniversaries” 

July 21-25, 2024

 University of Mississippi

 Organised by the Faulkner Studies in the UK Research Network


2024 marks both the 50th anniversary of the inaugural Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference in 1974 and, more importantly, the 60th anniversary of the ratification of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which forbids discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, religion, sex, or nationality in the United States of America. Civil Rights has been a central issue throughout American history and has also been at the core of William Faulkner’s life and work.

Faulkner’s own position on the struggle for Civil Rights is profoundly ambiguous and contradictory.On the one hand, many of Faulkner’s most notable and well-regarded works – such as The Sound and the Fury, Light in August, Absalom, Absalom!, and Go Down, Moses – offer what has been described as an “unflinching gaze” at the horrors of enslavement, white supremacist violence, and institutional racism (Kodat, 1997). On the other hand, many of Faulkner’s public statements suggest a hostility towards – and, arguably, even a rejection of – Civil Rights for African Americans. In his 1956 “Letter to a Northern Editor,” Faulkner wrote that he was “strongly against compulsory integration” in the South, stating “I would say to the NAACP and all the organiza­tions who would compel immediate and unconditional integration: ‘Go slow now. Stop now for a time, a mo­ment. You have the power now; you can afford to with­hold for a moment the use of it as a force.’” This letter – in which Faulkner categorically argues for an indefinite deferment of Civil Rights – led to authors such as James Baldwin to denounce Faulkner’s regressive stance on desegregation. Baldwin wrote that “[a]fter more than two hundred years in slavery and ninety years of quasi-freedom, it is hard to think very highly of William Faulkner’s advice to ‘go slow.’” 

With that in mind, the Faulkner Studies in the UK Research Network seeks a maximum of four (4) panelists for a 60-minute conference session on this topic at the 2024 Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference. Given the topic, the panel will ideally consider some or all of the following: 


- Faulkner and the writings of Civil Rights leaders, including (but in no way limited to) Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. DuBois, Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X

- Faulkner’s connection to African American authors, poets, and playwrights including (but in no way limited to) James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, and Lorraine Hansberry 

- Faulkner’s infamous interview with Russell Howe of the London Sunday Times February 1956 and his subsequent retraction of his statements in the pages of Time in April that year

- Faulkner’s “Letter to a Northern Editor” in March 1956, its implications and afterlife 

- Faulkner’s exposure to and representations of lynchings and racialised violence in his life and work 

- Critical Race Theory and the work of antiracism in Faulkner Studies


Panel abstracts should be between 400-500 words and must be sent to the organiser, Dr Ahmed Honeini, at ahmed.honeini@rhul.ac.uk, by December 1st, 2023. The Faulkner Studies in the UK Research Network is dedicated to soliciting papers from scholars who reflect the diversity of Faulkner Studies in terms of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, institutional affiliation, and locality. We aim to include a mix of participants from across the career spectrum (from under- and post-graduate students to full professors). All are welcome to apply. Follow us on Twitter/X: @Faulkner_UK.