Born April 13, 1909, Welty spent what she describes as an idyllic childhood in Jackson, Mississippi with her two brothers, Edward and Walter, and their doting parents, Chestina, a schoolteacher, and Christian, an insurance executive. Welty lived in her familial homes in Jackson for most of her ninety-two years— Welty’s education and employment history indicate her comfort in a variety of places and situations. Yet she consistently anchored herself in Jackson, coming home for good to nurse her ailing mother in the 1960s. Along with Welty’s artful gentility and modesty, this idea of the single southern woman spending most of her adult life in her childhood home have caused some to criticize her for only adressing polite subjects in her work. Further, anecdotes about Welty’s “niceness” abound in print, especially in her obituaries, and these stories add to the image of the benign Welty. At her funeral in July 2001,it was said that her last words were to a doctor who leaned over her bed and asked, “Eudora, is there anything I can do for you?” Her rumored reply: “No, but thank you so much for inviting me to the party.” As this story illustrates, the public Welty was genteel, always humble, always ready to make those around her comfortable. Welty was widely and deeply loved in her region, and the idea of her taking such an exit from life, as if she were one of many guests at a dinner party, epitomizes her generous presence there. These stories, however, present a carefully crafted persona, and readers unfamiliar with the coded language of southern gentility persist in misreading Welty’s work through a one-dimensional version of her life as a southern charmer. Some recent criticism about Welty’s work has begun to challenge the established view of her as a modest and politically simple writer.
Welty’s father, Christian, and his fascination with machines of all sorts gave Welty her intense concentration upon time and clocks, on travel, on telescopes and cameras. The camera that her father would bring out to record all special occasions gave Welty her visual sense and love of photography. Photography has a profound influence on Welty’s mode of writing, teaching her that “Life doesn’t hold still,” Photography taught me that to be able to capture transience, by being ready to click the shutter at the crucial moment, was the greatest need I had”. Welty’s formal career as a photographer never really materialized, though two exhibitions of her photographs were mounted in New York, and five selections from her photographs have been published to date, most notably: One Time, One Place (1978) and Photographs (1989). These collections are beginning to receive international attention from critics in the visual arts, and several exhibitions of her work have been mounted since her death. As she explains her choice of vocation, she tells us that she “felt the need to hold transient life in words—there’s so much more of life that only words can convey.... The direction my mind took was a writer’s direction from the start”. Yet while Welty obviously did feel her primary medium to be language, she did not hold photography in abeyance, but continued to use a camera until 1950, when she left her Rolleiflex on a bench in the Paris Metro, and out of anger at her own carelessness, did not replace it. . She describes her writing style with an experience she had in writing “ Death of a Traveling Salesman: “As usual, I began writing from a distance, and the writing draws me toward what is at the center of it.... In writing the story I approach the setting and went inside with the character to figure out what was there. And in doing this I received the shock of having touched, for the first time, on my real subject: human relationships.” An extremely private person, she continually resisted linking her personal life to her writing. Welty writes that there is “no explanation outside fiction” for her stories; they are gifts from the writer. How do you think her work as a photographer affected her “storytelling?” She describes her photography as “snapshots.” What is the distinction between a photograph and a “snapshot,” and why would she make this distinction?
Welty used bottle trees in her short story &quot;Livvie,&quot; which was set near the Old Natchez Trace, a famous colonial &quot;road&quot; used by Indians, merchants, soldiers, and outlaws between Natchez and Nashville, Tennessee. This photograph, like many others taken by Welty during her work for the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, appears in One Time, One Place: Mississippi in the Depression: A Snapshot Album (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1996).
Title and describe this image. As anyone working in a darkroom knows, there are many levels of exposure, and the rightness of a print’s saturation depends upon the viewer.
Southern women storytellers
Southern Women Storytellers Cambridge College LIT 311 Instructor: Christina Brownell
What is the Geography of the South? <ul><li>Many distinct and separate regions </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Mississippi Delta </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Georgia Woods </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Louisiana Bayous </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Florida Beaches </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Appalachian Mountains </li></ul></ul>
People and Places of the South <ul><li>White </li></ul><ul><li>Black </li></ul><ul><li>Urban </li></ul><ul><li>Rural </li></ul><ul><li>Lower-class </li></ul><ul><li>Middle-class </li></ul><ul><li>Historical </li></ul><ul><li>Modern </li></ul>
The “Southern Woman Writer” <ul><li>Distinctions: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>A subgenre of American fiction that is associated mostly with women born around the beginning of the 20 th century to mid 20 th century </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Strongly influenced by traditions of earlier writers (Hurston, Faulkner, Wright…) </li></ul></ul>
Storytellers <ul><li>Southern writers are storytellers first and foremost </li></ul><ul><li>Their style is to encourage readers to read between the lines – indirect storytelling </li></ul><ul><li>Their stories are filled with Biblical allusions, quotes, religion, dialect and folklore </li></ul><ul><li>Writers include details of everyday life, local nature, specific habits of people, specific places </li></ul>
Recurrent Themes <ul><li>Alcohol </li></ul><ul><li>Violence (often at gunpoint) </li></ul><ul><li>Weight of the past </li></ul><ul><li>Music – blues, jazz, gospel, bluegrass </li></ul><ul><li>Self-righteous defense of slavery </li></ul><ul><li>Black-White relationships </li></ul><ul><li>Sexuality </li></ul><ul><li>Human oddities (misfits) </li></ul><ul><li>Humor </li></ul>
What traits characterize Southern Women writers? <ul><li>Southern women tell their tales… </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Lower-class women, not qualified as “ladies” had the freedom to speak out </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Strong, capable, enduring survivors </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Stubborn and rebellious </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Although sheltered, they managed a rich inner life </li></ul></ul>
Eudora Welty (1909–2001) <ul><li>Well-loved writer </li></ul><ul><li>Wrote about rural Mississippi </li></ul><ul><li>Worked for Federal Works Project as photographer </li></ul><ul><li>Close observer of her surroundings </li></ul><ul><li>Characters: comic, eccentric, charming, and grotesque </li></ul><ul><li>Careful use of dialect and speech intonations </li></ul>
“ A Genius of Human Relationships” <ul><li>Eudora Welty took many photos during the Depression, when she worked as a publicity agent for the WPA. From 1933-36 she traveled across rural Mississippi taking photographs and documenting rural lives. </li></ul>
Eudora Welty Photographs “ Home By Dark” Yalobusha County 1936 (Courtesy Eudora Welty LLC and Mississippi Department of Archives and History) <ul><li>What does this </li></ul><ul><li>photograph tell us </li></ul><ul><li>about how Eudora </li></ul><ul><li>Welty views the south? </li></ul>
Welty’s view of humankind Side Show, State Fair , 1939
Connecting the Image to Text <ul><li>In a 1989 interview, Welty was asked what an “outsider” might think when viewing her photos. </li></ul><ul><li>“ They might or might not know that poverty in Mississippi, white and black, really didn’t have too much to do with the Depression. It was ongoing. I took pictures of our poverty because that was reality, and I was recording it. The photographs speak for themselves. The same is true for my stories.” </li></ul>