Randolph High School
Lesson Plan: A Closure Activity for Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying
As I Lay Dying is a work that students often find inaccessible because of its form,
its themes, and, to northern students, its southern setting.
In order to bring closure to some of the themes as well as some of the difficulties
in the work, I end our discussion of the novel with an examination of the cover
artwork of 3 editions of the novel. I have found that looking at ways in which a
publisher has chosen to present Faulkner’s text visually helps students to
articulate what they have learned about the novel.
Prior to this, I have placed As I Lay Dying in the Southern gothic and modernist
traditions. We have also discussed the art references within the text.
I make overhead transparencies of two previous covers of As I Lay Dying found
at the following website: http://www.lib.umich.edu/spec-
The first is the cover for the l963 Penguin edition, and the second is a cover for a
1987 Vintage edition, both shown below. For the third cover, we examine the
1990 Vintage international edition we use in our class.
I. I show the first cover from the Penguin edition and ask the following questions:
How would you characterize the style of this drawing? The tone?
What visual elements are the most striking?
If you didn’t know anything about the novel, what kind of text might you
expect from looking at this artwork?
What elements from the novel are depicted here?
What aspects of the novel are emphasized in this cover art? Do you feel
that it represents the novel accurately?
II. I next show the transparency of the l987 Vintage edition, which is a painting,
and pose the same questions.
III. Last, we look at the cover of the edition we read. It is a collage of a
photograph of a dead or sleeping woman cut into the photograph of a wooden
door. I pose the same questions but add these two:
How does this cover suggest the modernist elements within the novel?
What impact does the non-realistic use of a photograph rather than a drawing or
painting have on the representation of this work?
IV. I end our discussion by asking students which of the covers comes closest to
representing the text of the novel and to justify their responses. If there’s time, I
ask students either individually or in groups to create their own cover for this
novel and to explain their design choices.