- Eudora Welty Research Fellowship Report
As the 2016 recipient of the Eudora Welty Research Fellowship, I conducted research at the William F. Winter Archives and History Building from July 14 to July 28, 2016. During my stay in Jackson, Mississippi, I was given opportunities to access the Eudora Welty Collection housed at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History; to visit the Eudora Welty House and Garden; and to meet people connected to Eudora Welty, such as her close friend and renowned Welty scholar Suzanne Marrs. The following is a brief summary of my original objectives and my findings.
My project aims to join in the relatively recent scholarly conversation on Welty as photographer and the relationship between her photographs and her fiction. The topic of my research is the politics of the gaze operating between the observer/photographer/author and the spectacle/subject/ character represented in Welty's photography and her fiction. As evidenced in her autobiographical essays and interviews,1 Welty actively embraced the language of visual technology, and, as several critics have investigated, her literary experiments in point of view, perspective, and space attest to this. My argument is that her short stories, such as "A Memory," "June Recital," and "Music from Spain," that involve main characters' acts of looking and their mediated, framed, limited, and subjective perceptual experiences not only bear witness to her embrace of the language of visual technology that she practiced as a photographer, but also demonstrate her unique authorial position to blur the lines between spectator and spectacle, between self and other, and between inclusion and exclusion. To conduct a case study to support my argument, during my fellowship, I planned to investigate the collection of her photographs to better understand Welty's firsthand experience of observation and her own practice of looking. Since the three short stories deal with each main character's self-conscious, mediated visual experience in great detail, the photographs involving (shop) windows, frames, and the subjects' acts of looking were my special focus. In addition, in an attempt to discover the relationship between her photographic techniques and her methods of composition and revision, I planned to peruse the manuscripts of A Curtain of Green, in which "A Memory" is included; The Golden Apples, in which "June Recital" and "Music from Spain" are included; and her autobiographical writing One Writer's Beginnings. [End Page 137]
For the two weeks of my stay in Jackson, I examined the collection of her photographs, her manuscripts that reveal her unique revision process, and her correspondence that evidences various factors that shaped her life and oeuvre. In the Eudora Welty Collection, I scrutinized Series 2: A Curtain of Green, Series 5: The Golden Apples and Related Works, Series 17: One Writer's Beginnings (1984), Series 26: Photographs, and Series 29: Correspondence (especially correspondence with her agent Diarmuid Russell).
With respect to my primary purpose for this research trip, which was to examine the entire collection of her photographs housed at the archives, my expectations were supported by my findings in a satisfactory way. "Series 26: Photographs," which contains 1,059 contact prints (eight of them are missing their negatives) in total, was organized around three different cameras Welty owned—an Eastman Kodak Camera, a Recomar Camera, and a Rolleiflex Camera—and each box allowed me to examine different patterns and styles resulting from her experiments with each camera. Photographs such as no. 973 ("In the bag"), no. 990 ("Window shopping"), and no. 41 (Untitled. Gathering in front of the soda parlor) in "Volume I. Photographs taken prior to 1935," which contains the photos she took with her first camera, an Eastman Kodak camera with bellows, are all taken at small cities in Mississippi, such as Canton, Grenada, and Utica, and show African-American townspeople against the backdrop of downtown shop windows or store fronts. Photographs in "Volume II. 1935–36, Recomar Camera" show subjects and compositions similar to those in Volume I, yet the locations are not limited to the South but include other places, such as New York City and North Carolina. Among twenty-six photos she took in New York City, no. 1003 (Untitled. Men gazing in windows...