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American Rambler with Colin Woodward

Jan 10, 2021

Michael Gorra is a native of Connecticut who has taught at Smith College since the 1970s. A professor of English, his most recent book is The Saddest Words: William Faulkner's Civil War. This book builds on a career dedicated to examining writers such as Henry James and V. S. Naipaul. In Faulkner, Professor Gorra has tackled one of our most brilliant and baffling novelists.

Raised on a steady diet of sci-fi, Michael entered college thinking he wanted to write novels. Or at least, he knew he didn't want to work in his father's fruit business. He ended up pursuing an English degree, though he he only came to the idea of being an academic later. As an undergrad at Amherst, he encountered the no-nonsense novelist Robert Stone and decided writing fiction wasn't for him.

After decades of teaching, a prolonged stay in Germany in the late-90s helped open Michael's mind about the importance of place and history in writing. It certainly helped him when examining Faulkner. As The Saddest Words shows, few American writers have done as well as Faulkner has in exploring the intersection of history and geography in his "postage stamp" in Mississippi.