In her essay "Must the Novelist Crusade?" Eudora Welty distinguishes between the editorial writer and the writer of fiction, contending that the editorial writer must deal in generalities whereas generalities in works of fiction "make too much noise for us to hear what people might be trying to say." And she adds, "there is everything in great fiction but a clear answer." Nevertheless, she asserts that fiction can "show us how to face our feelings and face our actions and to have new inklings about what they mean." She offers E. M. Forster's depiction of race prejudice in A Passage to India as a case in point, writing that "The points are good forty years after their day because of the splendor of the novel. What a lesser novelist's harangues would have buried by now, his imagination still reveals." In short, Welty contends that fiction must not crusade, but that it is inherently and powerfully political.
In our spring 2013 Great Topics course, we will read about the political beliefs and acts that typified Eudora Welty's life, and we'll investigate the political import of her fiction. We'll examine stories from A Curtain of Green and ask what they tell us about the Great Depression. We'll discuss A Robber Bridegroom and Delta Wedding and ask whether these novels confront or seek to escape the moral issues raised by World War II. We'll look closely at "Where Is the Voice Coming From?" and "The Demonstrators," two stories written during the Civil Rights Movement. And we'll conclude the course by reading Losing Battles, a novel published in 1970, but offering a retrospective view of the forces of tradition and modernism that characterized the 1930s. Throughout the course, we'll ask ourselves what Welty's fiction reveals about the crucial political issues of the twentieth century.
Established in 1988 and made possible in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Leadership Seminars in the Humanities bring together Millsaps professors in the humanities with corporate, volunteer and professional leaders in the community. To better reflect the current philosophy of these seminars, the name has been changed to Millsaps Great Topics Seminars: Studies in the Humanities and Sciences. These seminars offer an opportunity for serious engagement with intellectual issues affecting society and the individual.
For more information on the Great Topics Seminars, contact the Millsaps College Office of Continuing Education at 601-974-1130.