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Eudora Welty: A Hometown Perspective

Wetly Painting"It had been startling and disappointing to me to find out (at a young age) that story books had been written by people, that books were not natural wonders, coming up of themselves like grass. Yet regardless of where they came from, I cannot remember a time when I was not in love with them…"

Eudora Welty, Mississippi's most critically acclaimed living author, lived about 3 blocks from Millsaps College. She was born on April 13, 1909 and died July 23, 2001. She served as Writer in Residence at the College in 1964-65 and was an emerita member of its Board of Trustees. An active community participant, Miss Welty often attended campus functions and maintained a presence with the College, as she did with the city of Jackson at large. This page will endeavor to represent Eudora Welty and her work from the Jackson and Millsaps College perspective. The portrait shown here was painted by Jackson artist Karl Wolfe in 1982. It was commissioned by a group of Miss Welty's friends and is on display in the Millsaps-Wilson Library.

 

 

Selected Internet Sites Featuring Eudora Welty

Resources

Eudora Welty Chair in Southern Studies

Each spring since 1983, Millsaps College has hosted a visiting scholar as the Eudora Welty Professor of Southern Studies. Individuals holding the Chair have been:

1983 - Cleanth Brooks, literature

1984 - Joel Williamson, southern history

1985 - Sam Hill, religion

1986 - Paul Binding, literature

1987 - William Havard, history

1988 - Ellen Douglas, literature

1989 - William Winter, former governor

1990 - C. Vann Woodward, Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, Shelby Foote, Trudier Harris, Paul Gaston; history

1991 - William Christenberry, photography

1992 - Michael Kreyling, literature

1993 - John Shelton Reed, history

1994 - Wayne Flynt, history

1995-96 Clyde Edgerton and Susan Ketchin, literature

1997 - Roland Freeman, photography

1998 - Beth Henley, playwright

1999 - Ellen Douglas, literature

 

Southern Literary Festival, 1984

In 1984 the Southern Literary Festival was held on the Millsaps campus as a celebration of Miss Welty's 75th birthday. In addition to the other festivities of the regional conference, the Millsaps library created the Eudora Welty Collection.

Eudora Welty Film and Fiction Festival May 1-4, 1996 Jackson, Mississippi

"..I am a writer who came from a sheltered life. A sheltered life can be a daring life as well. For all serious daring starts from within."

welty photoIn 1996 a week-long conference, a special tribute to Eudora Welty, was held in Jackson, concurrently with a Writers' Conference of the Mississippi Writers Association. The eclectic program included such diverse happenings as presentations by many authors, a Songwriters'Tribute, ceremonies at Davis School where Miss Welty attended, readings and gala affairs. Funding was provided in part by the Mississippi Arts Commission.

A speaker at this conference was Dr. Suzanne Marrs, noted Welty scholar, friend and former Welty Scholar-in-Residence at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Dr. Marrs, who reorganized the Welty Collection and wrote a finding aid (The Welty Collection, University Press of Mississippi, 1988), is a member of the Millsaps College English faculty.

Notes: The quotes shown are from One Writer's Beginnings, as featured in a Welty Festival brochure. The photos included were taken at various Millsaps events and show Miss Welty speaking to Millsaps students and author Ellen Douglas, the 1999 Welty Scholar.

 

Eudora Welty, Mississippi Home Ties April 10-13, 1997 Jackson, Mississippi

In the spring of 1997 the Eudora Welty Society and Millsaps College co-sponsored a scholarly conference entitled Eudora Welty, Mississippi Home Ties which was directed by Dr. Marrs and which drew participants from across the country and from Denmark and France as well.

 

Eudora Welty, Mississippi Home Ties
by Dr. Suzanne Marrs

On October 8, 1998, the 92nd Street Y presented "A Tribute to Eudora Welty," and a very fitting tribute it was. Prompted by the publication of the two-volume Library of America collection of Welty's works, the Y invited Michael Kreyling, Ann Beattie, Richard Ford, Randall Kenan, William Maxwell, Joyce Carol Oates, and Elizabeth Spencer to speak. Maxwell unfortunately was at the last minute too ill to appear, but poet Karl Kirchwey, Director of the Unterberg Poetry Center, ably spoke in Maxwell's stead.

Kreyling opened the evening, presenting an overview of Welty's career and accomplishments. He was then followed on stage by the other participants, each of whom commented on and read excerpts from their favorite Welty story. Ann Beattie began by reading from "Old Mr. Marblehall" and by providing a compelling interpretation of the story. Richard Ford then presented selections from "No Place for You, My Love," a story which he has long admired. Randall Kenan followed with a reading from "Powerhouse." Before reading, Kenan explained that he, as an African American, had found his first encounter with "Powerhouse" somewhat off-putting, but that as he had reread and reread the story, he had come to recognize its brilliance and its powerful portrait of a narrator who intuitively longs to break free from the racism that is part of his or her make-up. Following Kenan's presentation, Karl Kirchwey quoted from a letter William Maxwell had sent: in the letter Maxwell explained that "The Bride of the Innisfallen" was the first Welty story he, as fiction editor of the New Yorker, had convinced the magazine to accept. Kirchwey then drew upon a very convincing Irish accent in reading "The Bride of the Innisfallen" as excerpted by Maxwell. Joyce Carol Oates came next; she discussed her admiration for "Where Is the Voice Coming From," commented on her experiences teaching the story, and read from the story. The evening's final story was "Moon Lake," read by Elizabeth Spencer with her delightfully appropriate Mississippi accent and her wonderful sense of comic timing. Richard Ford then returned to the stage to describe his own efforts to write for Miss Welty's signature a letter of appreciation to the 92nd Street Y and the October 8 audience. He read briefly from his witty and Welty-like letter, but then reported that Miss Welty had been loath to sign a letter she had not herself written. She had instead, Ford told the audience, simply asked that he convey her unwritten gratitude. With that, the evening came to a close. The speakers and readers had been outstanding, the overflow crowd had been delighted, and the variety and virtuosity of Welty's work had once again been demonstrated.

I feel fortunate to have been present and thank Michael Kreyling, Richard Ford,and the Library of America for making that possible. I also thank Michael and Richard for carefully editing the Library of America volumes and the Library of America for recognizing the genius of Eudora Welty and for making her the first living author in their series.