Most of William Faulkner’s works are set in Yoknapatawpha County, a fictional place inhabited by fictional persons. However, Faulkner integrated it into a geographical setting that included prominent actual places, combining the real, the modified, and the imaginary. Yoknapatawpha County is in north-central Mississippi, seventy miles south of Memphis, Tennessee, the same geographical position as the real Lafayette County, and the geography of the fictional place is based heavily on Lafayette’s geography. Like Lafayette, Yoknapatawpha County is drained in the north by the Tallahatchie River and in the south by the Yoknapatawpha, Faulkner’s fictional name and the older Indian name for the Yocona River. Jefferson, the political seat of Yoknapatawpha County, has many geographical similarities to Oxford, the political seat of Lafayette County.
Despite these similarities, many differences also exist between Yoknapatawpha County and Lafayette County. The geography of Lafayette County and Oxford were changed in four principal ways—locations were shifted, place-names were changed, components were omitted, and reality was blended with fabrication. Objects, places, and events were sometimes shifted among counties and eras. In addition to Lafayette, Faulkner also drew from Marshall, Tippah, and Panola Counties.
Faulkner intended Yoknapatawpha County to be neither Lafayette County thinly disguised nor the entire South in microcosm. Rather, he viewed Yoknapatawpha as a place located in the South that he could use to describe the universal experience of humankind.
- Charles S. Aiken, Geographical Review (January 1977, July 1979)
- Calvin S. Brown, A Glossary of Faulkner’s South (1976)
- Don Doyle, Faulkner’s County: The Historical Roots of Yoknapatawpha (2001)