|Heatmap of the United States|
About Temporal Heatmaps
Heatmaps use colors to measure levels or locations of activity. These temporal heatmaps represent the way Faulkner's imagination inhabits different periods in the history of Yoknapatawpha in different texts and at different points in his career, according to the color scheme below. The "cooler" colors on the left (blue, violet) indicate the least activity; the "hotter" ones to the right (orange, yellow) indicate the most:
For example, the timeline below plots the events in Faulkner's best-known short story, which begins in the 1920s with Miss Emily Grierson's death but then moves back and forth through the history of her personal and civic relationships. Note the vertical line that intersects the timeline in the early Twenties; throughout Digital Yoknapatawapha, such a vertical line always marks the date of the event with which the text begins. The brighter color next to that line here shows how much attention the narrative pays to that 'present.' However, the brightest spot on the timeline indicates that the narrative returns most often to the period somewhere around 1880.
"Somewhere around 1880" - it has to be acknowledged that these heatmaps are all approximate.The temperature of the various spots on these timelines was determined by an algorithm that weights number of events along with the number of pages. However, although Faulkner or his narrators often do provide specific dates for what happens in a story or novel, much of the time the editors of Digital Yoknapatawpha have to date events using their best scholarly and critical judgment. What these maps can tell us about Faulkner's art should be interpreted in relative rather than absolute terms: the hottest spots indicate how far from the present in which the story is being published the reader is being taken, and what part(s) of the historical record the story seems most interested in exploring.
Gray areas inside the timeline indicate the periods in which no events occur. Colored areas outside the timeline are visible whenever a text includes events that occur before 1800 or after 1960, as is the case with Go Down, Moses (below). Though the hottest part of this map is very close to the 1942 present when the novel was published, the amount of color on this timeline is one way to measure how deeply the novel looks into the Southern past. Among the 68 Yoknapatawpha fictions, only Requiem for a Nun takes place across a longer temporal span.
Another characteristic of Faulkner's imagination that can be seen on these timelines is how far each story travels in time, how widely spaced on the timeline are its earliest and most recent events. "Delta Autumn" (below top) is a very short story, but its narrative sweep takes in several centuries of history. It would be interesting to find the average chronological span between the first and the last events in all Faulkner's short stories, and then compare that scale with the short fiction of the other modern masters of the form - Hemingway, O'Connor, and so on. On the other hand, the Faulkner canon also contains stories like "The Hound" (below bottom), where all the action takes place at a single point on the timeline - in this instance, less than two weeks. When and why Faulkner compresses a story's temporal scope may also be worth exploring.
Events in the database are often identified by a date range - 1895-1898, say - rather than a single date. The algorithm used in these heatmaps invariably uses a single date: when there's a range, it selects the earlier. You can note the difference in the way the events would appear when the whole range is used by comparing these heatmaps to the cumulative displays available at each story's own page. Below, for example, is the heatmap of the story "Hair" followed by the timeline that appears below the map for "Hair" after all the events have played or you select the "Show all [events]" layer; note that on this timeline, the darker purple "bruising" signifies a higher number of events. Each of these two kinds of timelines brings different aspects of the narrative into focus.
The strength of the heatmaps is in the way they visually call attention to the most active historical epochs for each text. I'll admit that when we created these displays, I was surprised to discover how many of the texts are 'hottest' at or near the moment of their publication, rather than in "the past" that we know Faulkner said was "never dead." That is one of the stories these graphic displays allow us to see. Of course his world is haunted by the past, as revealed by how much typically appears to the left of the timelines' vertical lines. And by comparing the display of the fictions in order of their publication with the one that organizes them according to the date of their greatest heat, we can see when on the timeline of his career Faulkner gets interested in various moments in the history of the South. For example, it is in the mid-1930s that the antebellum and Civil War eras take center stage in his imagination (below). It is not just individual fictions, but his larger career that moves back and forth through Yoknapatawpha's past and present.
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