An Introduction to Eudora Welty

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    An introduction to Eudora

    Welty

    Dr. Julia Eichelberger

    Department of English

    The College of Charleston

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    Eudora Welty (1909-2001) is widelyregarded as a master of the short story form.She was an astute and compassionate

    observer of life in rural and small-townMississippi, the state where she spent most ofher life.

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    Welty was also an accomplished photographer. Shetook a series of now-famous portraits of

    Mississippians she met in the 1930s while working for

    the WPA.

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    Sunday School, Holiness Church.Jackson 1935-1936

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    From Petrified Man (1939) to herlast novel, The Optimists Daughter

    (1970), Welty wrote fiction thatcaptured the cadences and speechpatterns of a variety of residents of

    the US South.

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    Why I Live at

    the P.O.

    Click to hearWelty reading.

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    Readers also admire Weltysattention to detail in portraying her

    characters homes, gardens, foods,cultural traditions, and theirconnections to popular culture.

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    From an early story, A Curtain of Green

    She planted every kind of flower that she couldfind or order from a catalogueplanted thicklyand hastily, without stopping to think, without any

    regard for the ideas that her neighbors might electin their club as to what constituted an appropriatevista, or an effect of restfulness, or even harmonyof color. Just to what end Mrs Larkin worked sostrenuously in her garden, her neighbors could notsee. They might get sick and die, and she wouldnever send a flower.

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    Like much literature of the twentiethcentury, from any region, Weltys texts

    explore the relationship betweenindividuals and the social and familialstructures that sometimes nurtureindividuals and sometimes deform

    them.

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    Virgie came with strange kinds of sandwicheseverybody

    wanted swap herstewed peach, or perhaps banana. Inthe other childrens eyes she was as exciting as a gypsywould be.

    Virgies air of abandon that was so strangely endearingmade even the Sunday School class think of her in terms ofthe futureshe would go somewhere, somewhere away off,

    they said then, talking with their chins sunk in their handsshed be a missionary. . . Miss Lizzie Starks mother, oldMrs. Sad-Talking Morgan, said Virgie would be the first ladygovernor of Mississippi, that was where she would go. Itsounded worse than the infernal regions. . . .

    June Recital

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    Where is the Voice Coming From? was written in 1963,almost immediately after Jackson civil rights leader Medgar

    Evers was assassinated in his driveway. Horrified, Weltyimagined the person who would commit such a crime.

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    Some of my publications on Welty:

    Historicizing The Ponder Heart. Eudora Welty Review 1 (2009): 135-142.

    The Way for Girls in the World: Lauras Escape from Drowning in Delta

    Wedding. New Essays on Delta Wedding, ed. Reine Bouton. New York:Rodopi Press, 2008. 47-63.

    Prophets of Recognition: Ideology and the Individual in Novels by Ellison,Morrison, Bellow, and Welty. LSU Press, 1999.

    Some of my conference papers on Welty:

    Historical and Literary Lynchings in Eudora Weltys Fiction. Society for the

    Study of Southern Literature, Lafayette, LA, March 2002. The Discourse of Sexual Violence in Weltys Narratives of Infidelity. Eudora

    Welty Society, South Central Modern Language Association, New Orleans, LA,October 29, 2004.

    Bizarre Confluences: Eudora Welty in the Pages ofHarpers Bazaar.Eudora Welty Society, American Literature Association, San Francisco, May2008

    My last two conference papers treated Weltys unpublished letterswritten to two close friends who shared her love of gardening and with whomshe sent drafts of her work in progress during the 1940s and 50s. Her privateletters are witty, poignant, and lyrical, just as we would expect from readingher published work.

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    Eudora Welty was an accomplished stylistwhose lyrical sentences often conveyinvisible as well as visible realities.

    Throughout her career she continued toexplore new ways of writing and newways of understanding human

    subjectivity and the deep, often unseenaffinities that connect individuals to oneanother.

    Click hereto see photos of Weltys home inJackson, which is now a museum, and tolearn more about the author.

    http://www.eudorawelty.org/house.htmlhttp://www.eudorawelty.org/house.html
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    Listen to a panel discussionon Weltysphotography. This was held in New Yorkin honor of her centennial year (2009).

    Students in my upcoming course,English 350, Spring 2010 (MW 2-3:15),will be able to study all Weltys stories,three of her novels, and her memoir, aswell as her photographs and herbiography.

    http://www.smithsonianmag.com/multimedia/videos/41496307.htmlhttp://blogs.cofc.edu/eichelbergerj/courses/http://blogs.cofc.edu/eichelbergerj/courses/http://www.smithsonianmag.com/multimedia/videos/41496307.html