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Noel Polk

August 27, 2012

Mr. Noel Earl Polk, 69, died Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2012, peacefully at his home in Jackson surrounded by his family.

A memorial service will be held 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 25, 2012 at the Thad Cochran Building at the University of Southern Mississippi.
The family will greet friends from 1-2 p.m. Saturday.
Wright and Ferguson Funeral Home in Jackson is in charge of arrangements.

Born in Picayune on Feb. 23, 1943, Noel received his B.A. and M.A. from Mississippi College, and in 1970 he earned his Ph.D from the University of South Carolina.

Noel was an internationally recognized literary scholar and gifted professor. Regarded by many as the preeminent Faulkner scholar of his generation, he was a central figure in Faulkner studies for 40 years. He did the editorial work for the corrected editions of all of Faulkner’s novels. Most recently he has co-edited a new edition of Faulkner’s "The Sound and the Fury," finally fulfilling the author’s plan to employ different colors of ink for sections of the opening chapter.

Noel’s interpretive books and critical essays on Faulkner spanned decades and have given significant direction to Faulkner studies. These include "Children of the Dark House"; "Text and Content in Faulkner" (University Press of Mississippi) and "Faulkner's Requiem for a Nun: A Critical Study." He wrote as well on Eudora Welty, notably the 2008 "Faulkner and Welty and the Southern Literary Tradition" (UPM). His "Eudora Welty: A Bibliography of her Work" (UPM) is the standard reference text for Welty studies. He edited "Mississippi's Piney Woods People," "An Anthology of Mississippi Writers" and the restored edition of Robert Penn Warren’s "All the King's Men." He also wrote a memoir, "Outside of the Southern Myth" and recently published a collection of poems, "Walking Safari."

A widely traveled lecturer, he spoke to literary audiences throughout Europe and in Russia, Australia, Japan, and South America. He held guest professorships in France, but is most remembered by his friends and students for his years of inspiring teaching and unselfish mentoring of graduate students in the U.S.

For twenty seven years he was Professor of English at the University of Southern Mississippi and editor of "The Southern Quarterly." He joined the faculty at Mississippi State University in 2004, where he edited the "Mississippi Quarterly" and served on the advisory committee for the College of Arts and Sciences. He also joined in the spirited support of the arts in Mississippi, having helped found the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters to recognize artistic achievement in the state.
Noel will be remembered as fun-loving, generous, kind, gracious and encouraging. He lived life fully—loved to travel, loved his rose bushes, loved going to baseball games, loved his grandchildren, and loved a good gin and tonic. He was absolutely devoted to his children and grandchildren, and despite being a world traveler, he was happiest at home with his friends and family.

He is loved and remembered by his children, Scott Polk of Orlando, Fla. and Jennifer Polk Heidelberg (Michael) of Jackson; three grandchildren, Sam, Emily and Francie Heidelberg, all of Jackson; brother, Mickey Polk (Angela) of Cleveland, Ohio; nephew Chad Polk (Paige) of Terry and niece Holly Polk Kennedy (Brad) of Hernando, and their children.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be given to the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Endowment Fund, P.O. Box 2346, Jackson, MS 39225-2346.

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