Yoknapatawpha County is a fictional Mississippi county created by the American author William Faulkner, based upon and inspired by Lafayette County, Mississippi, and its county seat of Oxford, Mississippi (which Faulkner renamed Jefferson). Faulkner often referred to Yoknapatawpha County as "my apocryphal county".
From Sartoris onwards, Faulkner would set all but three of his novels in the county (Soldiers' Pay, Pylon, The Wild Palms and A Fable were set elsewhere), as well as over 50 of his stories in Yoknapatawpha County. Absalom, Absalom! includes a map of Yoknapatawpha County drawn by Faulkner.
The word Yoknapatawpha is pronounced [jɒknəpəˈtɔfə] ("Yok'na pa TAW pha"). It is derived from two Chickasaw words—Yocona and petopha, meaning "split land". Faulkner said to a University of Virginia audience that the compound means "water flows slow through flat land". Yoknapatawpha was the original name for the actual Yocona River, a tributary of the Tallahatchie which runs through the southern part of Lafayette County, of which Oxford is the county seat.
The area was originally Chickasaw land. White settlement started around the year 1800. Prior to the American Civil War, the county consisted of several large plantations (by family surname): Grenier in the southeast, McCaslin in the northeast, Sutpen in the northwest, and Compson and Sartoris in the immediate vicinity of Jefferson. Later, the county became mostly small farms. By 1936, the population was 25,611, of which 6,298 were white and 19,313 were black.
Richard Reed has presented a detailed chronological analysis of Yoknapatawpha County. Charles S. Aiken has examined Faulkner's incorporation of real-life historical and geographical details into the overall presentation of the county. Aiken has further discussed the parallels of Yoknapatawpha County with the real-life Lafayette County, and also the representation of the "Upland South" and the "Lowland South" in Yoknapatawpha.
- Reed, Richard (Fall 1974). "The Role of Chronology in Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha Fiction". The Southern Literary Journal. 7 (1): 24–48. Retrieved 2016-11-05.
- Hamblin, Robert. "Faulkner's Map of Yoknapatawpha: The End of Absalom, Absalom!". Center for Faulkner Studies.
- Aiken, Charles S. (January 1977). "Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County: Geographical Fact into Fiction". Geographical Review. 67 (1): 1–21. Retrieved 2016-11-05.
- Aiken, Charles S. (July 1979). "Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County: A Place in the American South". Geographical Review. 69 (3): 331–48. Retrieved 2016-11-05.