Edited By William M. Reynolds
Chapter Nineteen: Educated and Educating in the Post–Civil Rights-Era South: A Critical Memoir
Educated and Educating in the Post–Civil Rights-Era South: A Critical Memoir
P. L. THOMAS
William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” begins with the end: “When Miss Emily Grierson died…” (2012, p. 47). And then Faulkner retreats in time before moving back to the end when the reader, along with the ubiquitous town of the story, discovers that Emily has spent years of her life sleeping with the corpse of her lover, whom the town believed had disappeared before they could marry: “Then we noticed that in the second pillow was the indentation of a head. One of us lifted something from it, and leaning forward, that faint and invisible dust dry and acrid in the nostrils, we saw a long strand of iron-gray hair” (p. 59).
Having been born, raised, and educated in the South, I also taught high school English for 18 years in the high school I had attended. During most of those years my students and I would visit Faulkner’s South; “A Rose for Emily” and As I Lay Dying (1930) were the most common adventures. We confronted together the notion that Emily’s inability to let go of Homer, even as a corpse, represents the South’s death-grip on tradition. Students of mine often resisted loudly when I challenged that clutching the rebel flag in the 1980s and 1990s displayed a callous lack of historical or cultural awareness, and that defending the Civil War as an...
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