Heatmap of the United States

Temporal Heatmaps

Heatmaps use colors to measure levels or locations of activity. The heatmaps here 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:

Timeline Sequences

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 the line 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.

A Rose for Emily Temporal Heatmap

"Somewhere around 1880" - it has to be acknowledged that these heatmaps are all approximate. Faulkner or his narrators occasionally provide specific dates for what happens, but most of the time the editors of Digital Yoknapatawpha have to date events using their best scholarly and critical judgment. As is also the case with the project's spatial heatmaps, the colors on these timelines were determined by an algorithm that weights number of events along with number of pages and that was designed not just to reflect the text as accurately as possible but also to produce a display that was visually legible. 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.

Go Down, Moses Temporal Heatmap

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 a number of stories like "The Hound" (below bottom), where all the action takes place at a single point on the timeline - or in this instance, less than two weeks. When and why Faulkner compresses a story's temporal scope may also be worth exploring.

Delta Autumn

The Hound

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.

Hair Timelines

The strength of the heatmaps is in the way they visually call attention to the most active historical epochs for each text. By choosing the various displays from the links at the top of this page, you can explore the way that, as Faulkner's career moves forward through biographical time, his imagination moves back and forth through Yoknapatawpha's past and present.