William Faulkner Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech Essay Question

Yhalit Leon Eng. III AP Per. 3 Ms. Harrison March 28, 2011 Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech By: William Faulkner 1) Respond: Do you agree with Faulkner’s definition of good literature? If not, how would you revise it? I agree with Faulkner’s definition of good literature because according to him good literature comes from the heart. This is true, because when you write something, you give it your best and put your heart and mind to it. When you write, you get inspired and also, you must dedicate time to it, sacrifice yourself for it and make it seem vivid. 2) (a) Recall: According to Faulkner, why are there no longer problems of the spirit? (b) Deduce: What is the physical fear to which he refers? According to Faulkner, there are no longer problems of the spirit because some people have forgotten that the basest of all things is to be afraid. Many people just question the moment in which they are going to be blown up. Also, it is a writer’s job to write about the honor, compassion and love the spirit felt while he was alive. (b) The physical fears to which he refers are the way oneself looks, what people think about each other and not the feeling you are supposed to have in your heart as a good person. People care about physical beauty and not internal beauty. 3) (a) Recall: According to Faulkner, what alone is the subject matter of good writing ? (b) Interpret: Why does he view most modern literature as ephemeral? According to Faulkner, the subject matter of good writing is the problems of the

William Faulkner - Banquet Speech

William Faulkner's speech at the Nobel Banquet at the City Hall in Stockholm, December 10, 1950 *

Listen to an Audio Recording of William Faulkner's Banquet Speech**

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Ladies and gentlemen,

I feel that this award was not made to me as a man, but to my work - a life's work in the agony and sweat of the human spirit, not for glory and least of all for profit, but to create out of the materials of the human spirit something which did not exist before. So this award is only mine in trust. It will not be difficult to find a dedication for the money part of it commensurate with the purpose and significance of its origin. But I would like to do the same with the acclaim too, by using this moment as a pinnacle from which I might be listened to by the young men and women already dedicated to the same anguish and travail, among whom is already that one who will some day stand here where I am standing.

Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only the question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.

He must learn them again. He must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid; and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed - love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice. Until he does so, he labors under a curse. He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, of victories without hope and, worst of all, without pity or compassion. His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars. He writes not of the heart but of the glands.

Until he relearns these things, he will write as though he stood among and watched the end of man. I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure: that when the last dingdong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking.

I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet's, the writer's, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet's voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.

From Nobel Lectures, Literature 1901-1967, Editor Horst Frenz, Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1969

* The speech was apparently revised by the author for publication in The Faulkner Reader. These minor changes, all of which improve the address stylistically have been incorporated here.

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Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1950


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