Reading Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! with Carl Rollyson (Virtual Course)

Date / Time

  • December 14, 2022
    7:30 pm - 9:00 pm
  • December 28, 2022
    7:30 pm - 9:00 pm
  • January 11, 2023
    7:30 pm - 9:00 pm


Sponsored by Margaretta and Jack Noonan


  • Tuition for this course is $300.
    • 10% off for Rosenbach members and the Delancey Society. Not a member? Learn more.
    • Thanks to our generous sponsors, scholarships are available for this course to cover tuition. Learn more and apply here.
  • This course is limited to participants who are 18 years of age or older.
  • This is a virtual program held over Zoom.
  • Please check your spam folder for your email confirmation. If you have questions, please call (215) 732-1600 or email [email protected].
  • Registration opens for Delancey Society members on July 18, for members on July 25, and for the general public on August 1.


Course Description

Many readers consider Absalom, Absalom! (1936) William Faulkner’s greatest and most difficult novel.  Set in the antebellum South, during the Civil War and the early years of Reconstruction, and in the early twentieth century, this work is a meditation not only on the history of the South but on history itself, on the way history is made and told. The novel grew out Faulkner’s many earlier efforts in stories and novels to come to terms with his region’s past but also with the trajectory of American and world history as he saw it unfolding in 1930’s America. If readers find the novel difficult, it should be noted that Faulkner found writing it difficult as well.  The course will explore how this novel got made by focusing on the circumstances of Faulkner’s life and family history and his awareness of how important race was to his definition of America. Because the sentence structure of the novel is so intricate—paralleling the intricacy of history—special attention will be paid to the close reading of certain passages. If possible, bring with you to class the Library of America edition of the novel, which is included in William Faulkner: Novels 1936-1940, so that you will have immediate access to passages read in class. 

The first session will begin with a basic discussion of what happens in the first chapter of the novel, and how that chapter prepares readers for what is to come in the subsequent eight chapters. It is recommended that you read the entire novel, after the first session, not worrying too much about what you do not understand, then re-read the chapters assigned for subsequent sessions.  Certain biographies and other books about Faulkner (listed below) will be helpful in situating your reading of the novel, but none are required for the course. 

Absalom syllabus

About the Instructor

Carl Rollyson, Professor Emeritus at Baruch College, The City University of New York, is the author of the two volume The Life of William Faulkner for University of Virginia Press.  He has also published numerous biographies of literary figures such as Sylvia Plath, Susan Sontag, Lillian Hellman, Amy Lowell, Rebecca West, and Norman Mailer. His writing has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the New Criterion, and the Washington Post. Carl Rollyson recently led a course on Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury at the Rosenbach.  

About Rosenbach Courses

Revisit beloved classics or experience new ones with Rosenbach courses. Book lovers delve into fiction, history, and poetry with the guidance of a literary expert and the company of other readers. See all upcoming courses.

By registering for this program, you will be added to The Rosenbach’s email database to receive future communication about programs and events. If you’d prefer not to receive these messages please email [email protected]g with unsubscribe in the subject line.