Discussion Topics (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Some of Eudora Welty’s characters are called “grotesques,” or exaggerated to the point of caricature. Which characters seem to fit that definition?
How does Welty use humor in her works?
How does Welty’s fiction reflect her belief in the continuing presence of the past?
What evidence do you find in Welty’s works of her belief in the value of the family?
How do Welty’s characters deal with community pressures?
Welty typically uses several points of view in a single work in order to show how differently people see reality. In which works is that technique especially effective?
Other Literary Forms (Critical Survey of Short Fiction, Second Revised Edition)
In addition to her many short stories, Eudora Welty published novels, essays, reviews, an autobiography, a fantasy story for children, and a volume of photographs of Mississippi during the Depression, One Time, One Place: Mississippi in the Depression, A Snapshot Album (1971), taken during her stint as photographer and writer for the Works Progress Administration.
Achievements (Critical Survey of Short Fiction, Second Revised Edition)
Eudora Welty possessed a distinctive voice in southern, and indeed in American, fiction. Her vibrant, compelling evocation of the Mississippi landscape, which was her most common setting, led to comparisons between her work and that of other eminent southern writers such as William Faulkner, Carson McCullers, and Flannery O’Connor. Welty’s graceful, lyrical fiction, however, lacks the pessimism that characterizes much of established southern writing, and though her settings are distinctly southern, her themes are universal and do not focus on uniquely southern issues.
The honors and awards that Welty amassed throughout her long career are so many as to defy complete listing in a short space. Among her major achievements are four O. Henry Awards for her short stories (first prizes in 1942, 1943, and 1968, and a second prize in 1941), two Guggenheim Fellowships (1942, 1949), honorary lectureships at Smith College (1952) and the University of Cambridge (1955), election to the National Institute of Arts and Letters (1952) and to the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1971), honorary LL.D. degrees from the University of Wisconsin (1954) and Smith College (1956), a term as Honorary Consultant to the Library of Congress (1958-1961), the William Dean Howells Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters for The Ponder Heart (1954), the Gold Medal for Fiction of the National Institute of Arts and Letters (1972), the Pulitzer Prize in fiction (awarded in 1973 for her 1972 novel The Optimist’s Daughter), the National Medal of Literature and Medal of Freedom (1981), the National Medal of Arts (1986), the naming of the Jackson Public Library in her honor (1986), and a Rea Award (1992).
Other literary forms (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
In spite of her success and acclaim as a novelist, Eudora Welty always regarded herself as essentially a writer of short stories. In an interview that appeared in the fall, 1972, issue of The Paris Review, she said, “I’m a short-story writer who writes novels the hard way, and by accident.” In 1980, all of her previously collected short fiction and two uncollected stories were published in one volume, The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty. Another new collection, Moon Lake, and Other Stories, was published in the same year, and Retreat was released in 1981. Prior to that, some had appeared in Short Stories (1950) and in Selected Stories of Eudora Welty (1954). Other early short-story collections are A Curtain of Green, and Other Stories (1941); The Wide Net, and Other Stories (1943); The Golden Apples (1949), regarded by some as a loosely structured novel but considered by Welty to be a group of interconnected stories; and The Bride of the Innisfallen, and Other Stories (1955). Welty also published numerous essays and reviews, some of which were collected in The Eye of the Story: Selected Essays and Reviews (1978). In addition, she published a book for children, The Shoe Bird (1964), and books of her own photographs, One Time, One Place: Mississippi in the Depression, a Snapshot Album (1971) and Eudora Welty: Photographs (1989). A memoir, One Writer’s Beginnings, appeared in 1984.
Achievements (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
Although it was not until she wrote Losing Battles and The Optimist’s Daughter that Eudora Welty’s name began to appear on the best-seller lists, her work had long been recognized and appreciated by discerning readers. In five decades of writing and publishing, she received nearly every major award for fiction offered in the United States. Among them are the prestigious William Dean Howells Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters for the most distinguished work of American fiction for the years 1950 through 1955, the National Institute of Arts and Letters Gold Medal for the Novel in 1972, the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1973, and the National Medal for Literature at the American Book Awards ceremony in 1980. In addition, she was awarded several honorary doctorates, Guggenheim fellowships, special professorships, and membership in the National Institute of Arts and Letters.
Uninterested in either fame or fortune, Welty simply wanted the opportunity to write and the assurance that there are readers who enjoy her work. She repeatedly expressed gratitude to such writers and editors as Robert Penn Warren, Cleanth Brooks, Albert Erskine, Ford Madox Ford, and Katherine Anne Porter, who were among the first persons of influence to recognize her ability and to promote interest in her early stories. Warren, Brooks, and Erskine accepted some of her first stories for the Southern Review and thus opened the door for subsequent publication in such magazines as The Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s Bazaar, and The New Yorker. This exposure to a national audience also facilitated the publication of her first volume of stories.
Bibliography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Champion, Laurie, ed. The Critical Response to Eudora Welty’s Fiction. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1994.
Evans, Elizabeth. Eudora Welty. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1981. This accessible survey discusses both Welty’s fiction and her essays and reviews. The brief literary biography of Welty in the opening chapter is useful and offers interesting information on Welty’s relationship with her publishers and editors in the early part of her long literary career.
Devlin, Albert J. Eudora Welty’s Chronicle: A Story of Mississippi Life. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1983. Devlin analyzes certain works, such as Delta Wedding, in great detail. He offers insightful criticism and suggests that Welty’s writing contains a historical structure, spanning from the territorial era to modern times.
Georgia Review 53 (Spring, 1999). A special issue on Welty celebrating her ninetieth birthday, with articles by a number of writers, including Doris Betts, as well as a number of critics and admirers of Welty.
Kaplansky, Leslie A. “Cinematic Rhythms in the Short Fiction of Eudora Welty.” Studies in Short Fiction 33 (Fall, 1996): 579-589. Discusses the influence of film technique on Welty’s short fiction; argues that in taking advantage of cinematic rhythm in her stories, Welty developed her mastery of technique and style.
Manning, Carol S. With Ears Opening Like Morning Glories: Eudora Welty and the Love of Storytelling. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1985. An advanced book offering a critical interpretation of Welty’s writing. Manning believes that the root of Welty’s creativity is the Southern love of storytelling. Offers a select bibliography.
Mars, Suzanne. Eudora Welty: A Biography. Orlando, Fla.:...
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