As I Lay Dying English Extension Journal

This is the blog of Jeremy Martin of Year 11 English Extension Class (Phillips. It is being used for the purposes of completing Part B "Journal" of the research project given to Year 11 English Extension Classes. The novel chosen was "As I Lay Dying" by William Faulkner.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Reflection Statment

Overall, I feel that this project has been an unique and rewarding experience. The opportunity to carry out independent research at my own pace has been a welcome interruption to normal class work.

Allowing for such a body of time to be spent upon a single area of study allowed me to develop greater insights about my chosen text – William Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying” and to explore avenues not normally given in traditional English assignments – tangents were not seen as a detraction from the word (from my perspective) but rather the development of another insight. Further, the variety of subjects, themes and approaches, which could be taken to this work, was astonishing. The ability to work at my own pace and the division of the project into smaller segments (which were more manageable) lead to less stress and a greater amount of detail to be given to each portion of the project.

The journal, while initially tedious provided a good overview of how I spent my time across the duration of the project and how my time management could improve. The ability to view the evolution of your work (in retrospect) through reading the journal provides an almost impartial standpoint. The journal allows things to be said which may not have a place in the project itself. The informal style of the journal (despite working to outcomes) allowed me to reflect upon that weeks work without the pressures of refining my style to suit my aims – wether it be essay or prose. The journal, which was at first an unwanted inconvenience soon proved to be a worthwhile project within itself – refining my time management, a skill which will prove useful in other projects.

Initially, perhaps I wasn’t focused enough on the overall context of the novel – rather searching for themes, outcomes and even the plot of the overall novel itself. While these proved to be useful, looking back, perhaps less time should have been spent upon this “traditional” approach to a study of a text. Instead, perhaps allowing greater focus for the context itself. Due to Faulkner’s setting of most of his novels in the South (in what was effectively his hometown), the establishment of location and context was relatively easy.

Images proved to be of immense use throughout the project – particularly the Library of Congress web photo catalogue. These images provided a “real” point of reflection upon my work and provided a basis for the descriptions found in “As I Lay Dying” to be seen. Images, particularly of buildings were useful for evoking feelings of the overall style, context and values of the times. The prevalence of a wide variety of churches indicated the overall dominance of faith and religiosity during the time frame in which the novel was set.

The project, while rewarding however was not without its difficulties. The length of the time-frame which we were given made things appear further away than they really were – giving me a false sense of security in my procrastination and time wasting behaviours. The research itself provided the greatest excuse out of any to not continue on with the set work – instead allowing me to convince myself that new/more research was needed in order for pieces to be written.

Overall, the project was ultimately an exercise in self-discipline. It had the potential to provide both a rewarding or disappointing outcome depending upon how one dealt with the tasks at hand. For me, the project provided a unique and independent learning experience, which removed me from my normal comfort zone of “class learning”. The project, while rewarding is not one that I’d be over-eager to repeat, however it has provided me with a greater insight into my behaviours and a foundation which can be taken for improvements into future pieces of work.

PS: There were initial web troubles in setting up the website and blog, if they could not be seen initially, I apologise for any inconvenience caused.

Week Four

This week, I have worked on my composition. I got the idea from my composition due to the centrality of horses in As I Lay Dying and the complications/rift which develops between Addie and Jewel as a result of him working night shift at the farm next door in order to purchase a horse. Further, my Grandparents (one set) live in Nowra - where Archer, the horse too win the first Melbourne cup came from, so I was familiar with the legend that he walked from Nowra to Melbourne due to the lack of train networks. While sources suggest that he travelled by boat, my story is based around the legend of Archer in an attempt to create a journey of a nature such as that found in As I Lay Dying and too emulate Faulkner's style and development of inter-personal relationships between the characters.

Further, I feel that such a topic for the story will allow me to develop a local variety of colloquialisms, such as those found in Faulkner's "As I Lay Dying" (Southern) while still remaining interesting to whomever may read it (likely no-one, however there is a remote chance high-schoolers (along with markers) may read the work - as such the audience has to be kept in mind.

Sources used in my research on this topic

While the topic area needs very little sourcing, I felt some research was neccisary in order to establish a basic foundation of "facts" which would be used in my story.

Among the more useful sites, are:

- - The History of the Melbourne Cup. This site provides a good overall history of the Melbourne cup, with an informative paragraph of the 1st Melbourne cup, in which 2 horses died after a fall and one horse started early. The deaths of Explorers Burke and Wills was newly announced, once again capturing the public imagination with exploring and possibly keeping an audience away from the race (who's attendance was low).

- Racing Victoria's "Parts of A horse" - This site developed within me a greater understanding of how horses run (parts needed to run) and allowed me to show the familiarity with horses each of the characters in my story had through the use of proper names for parts. Further, the interactive nature of the image provides an unusual and user friendly interface. Although, it was a struggle to find "chestnuts".

- The article "heads or tails" (if it asks for user name and login just use "ooops" "ooops") is informative and provides a range of facts about various Melbourne Cups - all which helped to provide me with a greater basis for my story.

Images relating to my story

Friday, August 12, 2005

Week Three

I've done some more research into the work of Faulkner himself in order to help me determine which passages are the most signifigant - both contextually and in terms of the flow of the book.

- From "William Faulkner" - By F. Hoffman
“This interpretation of the novel [which] makes Addie imperatively its centre. It is her consciousness and her memory of the Bundren past that makes the narrative passages of her family what they are: reflections in both style and point of view of the place of each Bundren in the whole. Addie has only one monologue to herself, but it is the key to the novel.
It is this quote (along with other research) which ultimately provided me with the reason and major passage for the novel - obviously Addie's sole chapter. The chapter further provides (in my opinion) excellent contextual basis for the novel - through Cora Tull's ironic and moralistic statments about Addie's actions and about the nature of sin.

- From "William Faulkner - From Jefferson to the World" By H. Waggoner

"Her thoughts are obviously a rationalisation, revealing a particular and peculiar perspective, natural, right, in character, and often shrewdly perceptive of objective facts. But these thoughts are as biased by personality as are all the other inward visions except that of Darl"
This quote, to me reveals that Addie's dialogue, while central to the novel can not be accepted in its entirety as fact. Naturally, she is looking to clarify things (she is on her death bed while making this speech, however the reader recieves it once she is dead), however the reader can never entirely eliminate the prospect (despite her forthcomingness that she has not been entirely honest with them.

- The remaining two major scenes - Cora's chapter - just before Addies and Mosely's chapter on his interactions with Dewey Dell were obvious choices given my previous research. While Cora's chapter deals specifically with the nature of Addie's chapter and the attitudes of the religious, Mosely's chapter reveals the results of the practice of these religious ideals and self-conservation embraced by many of the upstanding members of society during the contextual time period.

Images Relating to Part A

The following is a series of images of a variety of 1920s churches - this illustrates the overall style of this era of American history.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Week Two

In this post I'm going to talk about the research which I've conducted over the previous week. I examined mainly internet sources for my context this week (along with brief looks at library books), primarily due to the accessibility and variety of sources avaliable to me on the internet. The internet sites wil be examining specific aspects of the context of the times - the library books have provided me with an adequate over-view of events/cultures at the time the book was published.

- Wikipedia's "Conservatism in North America" entry ( Although this entry has been flagged by users of the service for its neutrality, it nonetheless provides a decent overview of conservative attitudes and values. Overall the site has provided me with a good insight into conservatism across a myriad of aspects (social, political, fiscal . . .) and above all else has illustrated the point that conservatism isn't neccisarily dependent upon financial or social position, but on other aspects.

- Warren M. Hern's "Abortion: Medical and Social Aspects" - This essay relates specifically to Dewey Dell's repeated attempts to gain abortive drugs, one which gains her a lecture about morality and the other which sees her sexually used, but given fake drugs. As well as providing a brilliant insight into social values regarding abortions in America and the responses of individuals, families and communities to abortion, it revealed evidence about the "strength" of the pro-life movement.

In the United States, the majority of citizens think that abortion should be a matter between the woman and her physician. A small minority (about 12 percent) think that abortion should never be permitted under any circumstances. Polls show, however, that questions posing special cases (i.e. the woman's life is in danger, the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest) produce different responses (McKeegan 1992). Some who support choice would support certain restrictions (e.g., the need for parental consent for adolescents), and some who oppose abortion would grant certain exceptions (e.g., the woman's life is in danger)."
This revealed something which had not come across in my previous research, that the pro-life movement is just a vocal minority. However, this fact - although providing evidence to modern abortion isn't representative of the intial context in which the novel was recieved - abortion was outlawed. It did however reveal the conditions under which peoples views would waver - indicating the moral high-horsedness of characters in As I Lay Dying would perhaps shift under other circumstances.

- "Readers Companion To American History -- Abortion"
This site revealed the evolution of attitudes and views to abortion and further illustrated the changing of people's attitudes. It revealed the strength and efforts of lobby organisations such as the AMA (whose actions I'd never heard of) and the roots of 1930s attitudes towards abortion in the late 1800s.

"Led by Horatio Robinson Storer, a Boston physician, the ama and its affiliated medical societies worked in state capitals throughout the nation during the 1860s and 1870s to outlaw abortion at any stage of gestation, except when doctors themselves determined the procedure to be necessary. Though the physicians put forward scientific, social, and moral arguments, their professional aspirations to upgrade and regulate American medical practice also loomed large. The legal status of abortion was altered by state legislatures after the Civil War not in a religious context but in the context of who would be allowed to do what to whom in the practice of medicine.

The antiabortion laws and legal decisions of the second half of the nineteenth century, though seldom and selectively enforced, drove the practice of abortion underground. Substantial numbers of women, especially immigrant women with limited access to other (also illegal) methods of fertility control, nonetheless continued to have abortions. Surveys conducted under the auspices of the ama and the federal government confirmed the persistence of widespread abortion in the United States through the 1930s."

While over the course of the week, I have reviewed a wider variety of sources - it is these three which have greater shaped my understanding of the era and subsequently impacted upon the direction which my project will now take.

Images Relating To Part A

- This image is a graph of fertility rates throughout American history. While I'm unaware of its veracity, it serves as a good indicator of overall trends across American history - particularly once one factors in influences such as the avaliability of abortion, loosening of moral boundaries and influx of people (baby boom and reverbarations).

The following series of Images were sourced from and illustrate the cotton fields of Mississipi in the 1920s. Although the images do not specifically relate to the text, they provide a good contextual immersion - cotton and churches being the two dominant forces in Mississipi at the time of the publishing.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Week One

Results of this week's research

Over the course of this week, I have learnt more about "As I Lay Dying" and the work of Faulkner than I initially expected I would. The majority of English time has been spent reading over signifigant areas of the book as the two major critical pieces we are expected to construct on the novel relate to a small number of signfigant scenes.

Reading some of the books in the library, I have come to realise that Addie plays the most signifigant role in the novel. Even beyond the grave, she is the dictator of the characters actions and the main driving force behind the novel. It is her will to be burried in Jeferson which causes the epic journey depicted in the novel.

Further, however I have learnt that the novel isn't only a novel relating to a journey, but rather it is an examination of a family and human behaviours. Faulkner belonged to a group of writers called the "modernists" who were looking to experiment with the form of writing (an example of this is Faulkner's changing of perspective and stream of conciousness approa
ch to "As I Lay Dying" - something which I found annoying and hard to read/get my head around at first. While I'm still not a big fan of the style, it's easier to manage now.) in order to examine new themes. One of these themes which Faulkner dealt with was the clash of the human personality against outside influences/the outside world.

The context of the novel - which was published in 1930 can be viewed as the late 1920s. I believe it was this period which Faulkner (along with his upbringing) drew upon for the novel itself. The crash of th
e stock market in 1929 and flow on affects to the economy, I feel factor into Faulkner's tale - the poverty which the Bundren's live in is a prime example of this.

However, the period it was recieved in (at least initially is the 1930s), however I realise that due to the immense success of the work, the novel has been re-evaluated as the context changes - something evident in
research from books in the library (as a rule, old) and modern internet sources.

Expected outcomes

I believe that my research will continue to reveal facts about the novel and context it was produced in. I feel that I should focus more upon the context it was produced in and slightly less upon the themes examined by the novel - as that is the area we will be ultimately examined upon.

Images related to PART A, series Number One

Thursday, July 21, 2005


This is the introduction to my blog. It will describe the following topics:

  • - My rational for choosing "As I Lay Dying"
  • - The results of my initial research
  • - Predicted or expected outcomes for my research
  • - How I envisage the project working out
Rational for choosing "As I Lay Dying"

I chose the novel "As I Lay Dying" for three main reasons. Firstly, I have been meaning the read the book for a while - as I have a copy at home. Secondly, the story of the conditions under which William Faulkner wrote the novel "As I Lay Dying" are interesting too me. The story is roughly as follows: That Faulkner wrote the novel on the back of an upturned wheelbarrow in between shifts at a power plant (he operated the boilers) over the course of six weeks, all without changing a single word. Thirdly, the novel was provided to the year as a suggested text for this project on the sheet given to us.

I borrowed a copy of the book over the school holidays and read over it - not for the purposes of study, but just for the purposes of reading it and establishing a basic plot.
The Results of My Initial Research
My initial research (in the school library) was both disappointing and encouraging. The school has about five books specifically about William Faulkner, although many more about 1920s-1940s America which mention him (however briefly). However, I found each of the books focusing on Faulkner Specifically focused on the progression of his work, rather than As I Lay Dying as an individual text - one however had a 20 page chapter on the novel, which was quite encouraging.
Predicted or Expected Outcomes for my Research

I believe that the school's books on Faulkner will provide me with a good starting point for further research into As I Lay Dying - particularly in relation to overall themes dealt with by his work (and the conditions/context he grew up in). However, I feel that the internet and other libraries will serve as a more valuable resource for research into the topic area - if only because of the larger pool of total results of which to draw upon.

How I envisage the Project Working Out

I believe that the project will work successfully due to the well known nature of the text providing me with a large amount of texts to draw upon. However, due to the overall size of the project I believe a sustained effort will be necessary in order to make the project more manageable and in order to complete it in time.