Why Colonel Sartoris?

Allow me to explain the puzzling title. Colonel Sartoris is William Faulkner's greatest character. He exemplifies those values that his society cherishes, namely tradition, patriarchy, courtliness, and courage. Though modernity's slow march tries to strip him of these things, Sartoris continues to live as he always has, knowing that "the past is never dead. It's not even past." He seeks order in the honorable folkways and mores of his forbears. Let us not forget his example.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Oxford: Southern Picturebook

In trying to describe Oxford, I started to write all kinds of absurd hooks (e.g., "Do you ever wish life would slow down and say howdy?").  Although all of them were true, none of them worked.  They all sounded like promotions for planned communities a la Seaside or radio commercials for Blue Bell.  I honestly couldn't stomach these wrenching cliches as descriptions of something that I've come to dearly love and hold so closely.

But like I say, all of the cliches are true.  Life does in fact slow down.  People are as polite as I've ever seen (I consider myself painfully etiquette-bound, and I was struck by their politeness).  The town is leafy and green and emanates from a square that literally embodies tradition, cleanliness, morality, style, learning, and cuisine.

And all of it anchored by Ole Miss.  It's a campus grand in its modesty and stateliness.  The white columns and red brick are totally at home with themselves.  The architecture itself seems especially
organic, as Ole Miss's Greek Revival architecture takes its cue both from description and from proscription.  Descriptively, the campus sits miles from the Delta, described by some as "the most Southern place on Earth," where Greek Revival columns seem to grow from the ground like cypress trees.  And proscriptively, the buildings take their cue from the architecture of Plato's Athens--as do many universities, of course--but here they even label the focal point of the campus the "Lyceum."  I've rarely seen a campus get it this right.

There should be more to come, but I could go on for hours about Ole Miss's effort to right wrongs, wright leaders, and right its pigskin ship.  But it's enough, for now, to revel in Oxford's near perfection.