Eudora Welty and Surrealism

Eudora Welty and Surrealism

STEPHEN M. FULLER
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 240
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt24hx2d
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    Eudora Welty and Surrealism
    Book Description:

    Eudora Welty and Surrealismsurveys Welty's fiction during the most productive period of her long writing life. The study shows how the 1930s witnessed surrealism's arrival in the United States largely through the products of its visual artists. Welty, a frequent traveler to New York City where the surrealists exhibited and a keen reader of magazines and newspapers that disseminated their work, absorbed and unconsciously appropriated surrealism's perspective in her writing. In fact, Welty's first solo exhibition of her photographs in 1936 took place next door to New York's premier venue for surrealist art.

    In a series of readings that collectively examineA Curtain of Green and Other Stories, The Wide Net and Other Stories, Delta Wedding, The Golden Apples, andThe Bride of the Innisfallen and Other Stories, the book reveals how surrealism profoundly shaped Welty's striking figurative literature. Yet the influence of the surrealist movement extends beyond questions of style. The study's interpretations also foreground how her writing refracted surrealism as a historical phenomena.

    Scattered throughout her stories are allusions to personalities allied with the movement in the United States, including figures such as Salvador Dal', Elsa Schiaparelli, Caresse Crosby, Wallace Simpson, Cecil Beaton, Helena Rubinstein, Elizabeth Arden, Joseph Cornell, and Charles Henri Ford. Individuals such as these and others whom surrealism seduced often lead unorthodox and controversial lives that made them natural targets for moral opprobrium. Eschewing such parochialism, Welty borrowed the idiom of surrealism to develop modernized depictions of the South, a literary strategy that revealed not only cultural farsightedness but great artistic daring.

    eISBN: 978-1-62103-914-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. IX-2)
  4. 1 SURREALISM AND WELTY’S EARLY YEARS IN NEW YORK
    (pp. 3-45)

    Benjamin’s lavish recollection of surrealism’s founding moment foregrounds the energy, innocence, and plenitude of the epoch. As the driving force behind the movement’s dynamism and innovation, surrealism’s dream wave repeatedly steepened, broke, and withdrew, exposing through its coruscating imagery the seepage of the unconscious. This international movement produced legions of followers, whose artistic provocations forever cracked the edifice of the arts establishment, redefining the contours of twentieth-century culture and leaving an indelible mark on Eudora Welty, a sharp-eyed observer of the newest cultural trends. The following extract from her 1937 story, “A Memory,” plainly illuminates the flood of images that...

  5. 2 THE PERSISTENCE OF A MEMORY IN A CURTAIN OF GREEN AND OTHER STORIES (1941)
    (pp. 46-71)

    Whether surveying André Breton’s multiple codifications, Salvador Dalí’s renovation of Breton, or Julien Levy’s synthesis of both, surrealism—in any of its forms, European or American—never abandoned its commitment to the invention and promotion of new knowledge. The innovation of psychoanalysis acted as guarantor and as collateral securing surrealism’s project, which found expression in a diverse array of media. The movement’s attempt to rupture the purely rational and conscious hold that positivism exercised over philosophy produced new varieties of art that widened the epistemological gaze. While the surrealist project in France frequently risked fragmentation¹ under the pressure of competing...

  6. 3 DREAMING POURED CREAM CURTAINS IN THE WIDE NET, AND OTHER STORIES (1943)
    (pp. 72-119)

    Robert Penn Warren’s landmark 1944 defense, “The Love and the Separateness in Eudora Welty,” still occupies a central position in criticism devoted to the study of Welty. Bristling at Diana Trilling’s harsh assessment ofThe Wide Netin her 1943 review in theNation, Warren defuses the accusations leveled at Welty’s excessive style and obscurity. He does so by advancing his thesis that despite the fact thatA Curtain of GreenandThe Wide Netshowed a “good deal of the falsely poetic” (21) and some “hocus-pocus” (27), both works fundamentally conform to a pattern derived from a conscious method...

  7. 4 HYPNOTIZED LIKE SWAMP BUTTERFLIES IN DELTA WEDDING (1946)
    (pp. 120-145)

    Virginia Woolf’s spirit permeates almost every page ofDelta Wedding. Laboring to transform a long short story, “Delta Cousins,” into her first full-length novel,¹ Welty drew technical and thematic inspiration from Woolf—particularly fromTo the Lighthouse, a novel Welty claimed “opened the door” and so astonished her when she first read it that she “couldn’t sleep or eat” (Kuehl 75). Welty deeply venerated Woolf, a passion that John Crowe Ransom detected in his review ofDelta Wedding, where he claimed that Welty “resembles Virginia Woolf more than does any other novelist of my acquaintance” (504). This assessment was later...

  8. 5 VISIONS OF PEOPLE AS THEY WERE NOT IN THE GOLDEN APPLES (1949)
    (pp. 146-196)

    The 1949 publication ofThe Golden Applesestablished a new standard of literary excellence for Eudora Welty, althoughThe Wide NetandDelta Weddinghad already greatly enhanced her reputation, nationally and internationally.¹ A painter, photographer, journalist, critic, short story writer, and novelist, Welty leveraged the collective energies of these diverse talents, directing them toward creating a book like none of her others. Not a collection of short stories, a novella, or a novel,The Golden Applespresents an organic grouping of seven “inter-related, but not inter-dependent” (qtd. in KreylingAuthor136) stories that eludes easy classification—although one of...

  9. 6 THE WILDNESS OF THE WORLD BEHIND THE LADIES’ VIEW IN THE BRIDE OF THE INNISFALLEN AND OTHER STORIES (1955)
    (pp. 197-219)

    Long before her return from Europe to the United States in 1950, Welty had built a career out of confronting the wildness that roiled beyond what most women of her generation saw in the world. In fact, for the best part of her adult life—which then numbered forty-one years—her steady stream of fiction had made the dark recesses of human psychology its subject and its home. The 1955 publication ofThe Bride of the Innisfallenrepresented a continuation of this pattern. A student of the perverse, the cruel, and the brutal, and a champion of the heroic, the...

  10. 7 AMONG ARTISTIC LEADERS
    (pp. 220-227)

    This study began by situating itself in the context of oversight, particularly by American and British academics who studied modernism and modernist figures through interpretive structures, which minimized and/or excluded the achievements of many writers. Even so, Welty fared better than many women, not least because she came from a country with a respectable literary past that produced cosmopolitans par excellence, among them Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, and Gertrude Stein, and wrote in a way amenable to critics with formalist priorities. Then came “theory” that by the 1990s, according to Susan Stanford Friedman, left the study of modernism

    split...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 228-246)
  12. WORKS CITED
    (pp. 247-258)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 259-267)