Faulkner scholar John Matthews on “Faulkner to Film in the Fifties”

  • on 23 Oct 2013
  • Gailor Auditorium
Faulkner poster

Distinguished Faulkner scholar John Matthews, professor of English at Boston University, will speak on film adaptations of Faulkner's fiction in the 1950s, particularly two films by the director Martin Ritt: "The Long, Hot Summer" (1958) and "The Sound and the Fury" (1959). The first stars Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, and Orson Welles (as Will Varner), and the second has Yul Brynner cast as Jason Compson. The two films will be screened Oct. 22. Both are extremely interesting updatings of Faulkner for 1950s audiences, and for the period's social issues.

Ritt, a serious commercial filmmaker, wanted to make movies about serious problems (he did “Norma Rae,” “The Molly Maquires,” “Sounder,” and others). He was also blacklisted for six years in the early 1950s. What does it mean for the post-Nobel Faulkner to be repackaged in this way? What about modernism's relation to film (as adaptors decide what to try to reproduce from the texts and what not to)? How are aspects of high modernism accented in different ways in the '50s by Hollywood (as opposed to what the New Critics were doing)?

The talk is about Faulkner's classic modernist fiction—but also about what was made of it later in the '50s.