restricted access A Collision of Visions: Montage and the Concept of Collision in Eudora Welty’s “June Recital”
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A Collision of Visions:
Montage and the Concept of Collision in Eudora Welty’s “June Recital”

Eudora Welty once remarked, “people have tried to get complexity in their writing by the wrong method sometimes—by fussy embroidering and obscurities. It’s not in fancy appliqué but in design itself, in new line and form, that the new things come that open our eyes” (qtd. in Marrs 147–48). Written to John Robinson in 1946, Welty’s complaint sheds light on her formation of The Golden Apples, her story cycle about dreamers and wanderers trapped in the town of Morgana, Mississippi. By assembling seven interconnected stories that swim in and out of an early-twentieth-century timeline, Welty develops “new line and form” through an aggregate of narrative juxtapositions and point-of-view focalizations, creating a prismatic oral history of the town. As Welty’s garrulous master of ceremonies Katie Rainey warns in the opening story, in Morgana it is “everybody to their own visioning,” an assertion that prepares readers for the parade of perspectives to follow (GA 326). Along with the story cycle’s unfolding of various interrelated themes and characters, as well as its rich allusions to mythology and the poetry of Yeats, The Golden Apples also deserves much of its highest praise for its sophisticated arrangement—its “design itself”—of multiple points of view.

To navigate the abrupt transitions that partition each story’s perspective from the next, readers of The Golden Apples move from narrative to narrative in a similar way to viewing scenes in a film. Among the many film theories that she uses to reveal the “cinematic modernism” of The Golden Apples, Dina Smith describes Welty’s interlocking design as “constructing a montage of associations through narrative juxtaposition,” wherein “Welty asks us to enter into a series of fictional frames that render Morgana’s history cinematically by using spatial and temporal elisions to create the text” (83). Smith’s association of Welty’s story cycle with the art of film editing is an astute comparison: the arrangement of independent stories to form an interrelated cycle performs similar techniques of assembly and juxtaposition [End Page 55] required in the combination of shots in a larger film sequence.1 In the fragmentary structure of montage and its temporal unfolding of successive shots, Smith provides a suggestive strategy for approaching Welty’s elliptical Morgana history, a strategy that high modernists—James Joyce, William Faulkner, and John Dos Passos, for instance—have also been associated with.2 Though Welty does not yet hold a similar reputation in the modernist ranks, we would do well to follow Danièle Pitavy-Souques’s advice and pay attention to the ways in which Welty “explores the contemporary world by experimenting along the aesthetic lines of her time,” whether along the lines of photography (her most common association), painting, ballet, jazz, or film (“Inspired Child” 70). To cinema alone, as Pitavy-Souques further explains, Welty is indebted “for the way she structures her texts: the sequential organization of the narrative in scenes, the absence of transitions, an abundance of ellipses, and the use of shadows and dark zones that leave much unsaid” (73).

To further Pitavy-Souques’s and Smith’s connections between Welty and film, I suggest we look at the “abundance of ellipses” and “absence of transitions” in “June Recital,” a story that shifts back and forth amid two characters’ perspectives in a similar way to the sudden shifts in and between the arranged stories of The Golden Apples—creating what Smith describes as its own “complicated spatial and temporal montage”—and might function therefore as a synecdoche for how we approach the story cycle (97). At its most basic, the story is about the interpretation of an event by two different imaginations. Composed of four numbered sections, parts one and three of “June Recital” reveal Loch Morrison’s naïve but adventurously curious point of view, while sections two and four disclose his older sister Cassie’s sensitive but cautious imagination, and readers who leap between “the abrupt transitions that move [them] from one consciousness to another” gain the “knowledge of wholly different mental universes existing only a...