PET scan of the human brain

Yoknapatawpha Heatmaps

Heatmaps use colors to measure levels or locations of activity. The heatmaps here are our attempt to represent the way Faulkner's imagination inhabits different parts of Yoknapatawpha in different texts and at different points in his career, according to the color scheme below. The "cooler" colors on the left (violet, blue) indicate the least activity; the "hotter" ones to the right (yellow, orange) indicate the most:

For example, the heatmap of "Mule in the Yard" (below) tells us that this short story takes place on the west side of Jefferson, and that the narrative's central site is on the edge of town near the railroad tracks – Mannie Hait's backyard, as you could learn by going to the story's DY homepage.

It has to be clearly noted that our maps are approximations rather than precise measurements of the way Faulkner's imagination inhabits the various places in his mythical county. In many cases the project's editors had to rely on their own scholarly judgment to decide where to locate a specific setting (as acknowledged in the "Authority" data field for each Location). And the color of any particular site on the heatmaps was determined by an algorithm we designed not just to reflect the text as accurately as possible but also to produce a display that was visually legible. For those who are interested in the details: the algorithm multiplied each Event at a particular setting by 20, and the number of pages of each of those Events by 10; those totals were added to a standard base number and the resulting number determined "imaginative intensity," i.e. the color that would be assigned the Location on the map. The "base number" was needed to make each Event visible. The map of Light in August below is a good example of what our heatmaps do and don't reflect about the texts. There are over 500 Events in the database for this novel. Without the multipliers and base number, Locations with only one or a very few Events would be too faint to register at all. So the Light in August heatmap slightly exaggerates the amount of activity in places like Winterborne's Farm and the Country Church. But we felt it was important to represent all the parts of the county that Faulkner imaginatively inhabited while writing the novel, and the "hotter" colors do indicate which places occupied the most of his attention.

One other point to keep in mind is that, in order to display texts on one screen, our maps often rely on insets. So on the Light in August map, the "McEacherns'" inset is not in the northern part of Yoknapatawpha, but somewhere still further north, perhaps even in Tennessee. In some cases, almost all or all of a Yoknapatawpha fiction occurs outside the county boundaries – as is true of "Race at Morning" below, where the oval inset represents the hunting ground in "The Delta" some two hundred miles west of Yoknapatawpha.

You can access the heatmaps via the links at top of page, where they can be viewed in chronological order in the various categories listed in the menu. The second set of maps – Jefferson, Southeast Quadrant, and so on – were selected on the basis of where the "hottest" part of the display is located. Using the control buttons below each map, you can either play an entire set or advance through the maps one at a time. The title and date of each publication are displayed on the map, and the timeline below the map indicates each text's chronological position in Faulkner's career between 1929 and 1962. The perpendicular line is red for the text on display (so you can see that "Race at Morning" is one of Faulkner's late texts); the red line turns purple when you move to the next text in the sequence.

To connect a specific heatmap with the identifiable Locations in that story, you have to visit that story's homepage. The map sequences viewable here are intended to allow you to look for patterns across the course of Faulkner's career. With these maps you can discover, for example, which texts are centered in Jefferson, or note when Faulkner moves the center of a text north or south of Jefferson, or even entirely outside the county. It's ultimately up to you to decide what these patterns can reveal about the relationship between the various regions of Yoknapatawpha, the habits of Faulkner's imagination or the changing preoccupations of his career.

Map Sequences