Description   |   Syllabus

Writing Race: Faulkner and HIs Progeny
UC Berkeley
Fall 2021


Writing Race

Faulkner and His Progeny

English 166 /Tues & Thurs 9:30-11/Wheeler 300

Mark Danner


"The past is never dead," Faulkner famously said. "It is not even past." In our time of racial turmoil, few High Modernist writers feel more contemporary. Faulkner managed to construct in Yoknapatawpha County a second reality where the country's racial present and past are enacted and re-enacted in painful and often brutal detail. His intricate portrait of a land bound together and ripped apart by the fallen inheritance of race has never seemed more startlingly present. We will explore the major works of this foundational American writer and seek to understand what makes his work so vibrant for readers and writers. And we will trace his influence through a range of storytellers from here and abroad, from Juan Rulfo, Flannery O'Connor and Gabriel Garcia Marquez to Toni Morrison, Alice Munro and Cormac McCarthy.



Warning Some books in this course contain words – including racial and ethnic slurs -- that are offensive. We will be discussing this issue in class but please be prepared for it in your reading.


Course Reader Ryan Lackey is our course reader. He will be having office hours on Thursdays and Fridays and can be reached at


Class Requirements This class will be a mixture of lectures and discussion, backed up by a large amount of reading, and some writing. The most important requirements are that students


*Attend all class sessions

*Keep up with reading and writing assignments

*Participate in discussions

*Offer a class presentation, in collaboration with one or two colleagues

*Complete one five-page midterm paper and one ten-page final paper


A student’s record of attendance and participation in class discussion, together with the quality of his or her writing, will determine the success of our class and contribute the better part of the grade.


Schedule Note that all classes will meet Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9:30 am in Wheeler 300.


Reading Our primary reading will draw on a series of novels and memoirs by William Faulkner and other writers. They are listed below under Required Texts. I strongly urge you to obtain these books in your own copies and in the edition specified either from local bookstores or from online suppliers, so that you will be able to highlight and annotate them and so that during discussions we will all be “on the same page.”

Favorite Passages Always come to class with a favorite passage of a paragraph or two drawn from that session’s assigned reading. Be prepared to read the passage out loud and say a few words about why you chose it.

Writing and Final Exam There will be two papers required in this class, a short creative paper or story of 5-6 pages and a longer analytic paper of 8-10 pages. The short paper is due October TK, the final paper is due December TK.

      To bolster the clarity and vigor of your prose, I strongly suggest studying two works: George Orwell’s essay, “Politics and the English Language,” which can be readily found on the web, and Strunk and White’s little manual, The Elements of Style.


Class Presentation Every student will be required to put on a class presentation in collaboration with one or two other students. The presentations should last ten to fifteen minutes and take up some subject ancillary to the class, having to do with Hemingway, his era, masculinity, writers he’d influenced or all of those. Use of images and video is strongly encouraged.


Office Hours I will want to meet individually with each of you at least once during the semester. I will be holding office hours Friday mornings. We will begin to schedule these a few weeks into the semester. You are welcome to come talk to me about the class, the reading or anything else of interest. Note that our course reader, Ryan Lackey, will also be available to meet with students on Thursdays and Fridays.

Grading Students will be graded on their preparedness and their participation in class, the strength of their presentations and the quality of their written work, roughly as follows.


Attendance            25 percent

Participation          25 percent

Writing                  25 percent

Presentation           25 percent



Required Texts


William Faulkner, Collected Stories (Vintage, 1995)


William Faulkner, Flags in the Dust (Vintage, 2012 [1929])


William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury: The Corrected Text (Vintage, 1990 [1929])


William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying (1991 [1930])


William Faulkner, Sanctuary (1993 [1931])


William Faulkner, Light in August (1990 [1932])


William Faulkner, Absalom! Absalom! The Corrected Text (1990 [1936])


William Faulkner, Go Down, Moses (1990 [1942])


Chester Himes, Yesterday Will Make You Cry (Norton, 1998 [1953])


Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in a Time of Cholera (Vintage, 2020 [1985])


Cormac McCarthy, Child of God (Vintage, 1993 [1973])


Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon (Vintage, 2004 [1977])


Juan Rulfo, Pedro Paramo (Grove, 1994 [1955])


Richard Wright, Native Son (Harper, 2005 [1940])




Gunga Din (1939)


To Have and Have Not (1944)


The Big Sleep (1946)


Land of the Pharaohs (1955)


© 2022 Mark Danner