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Eudora Welty and Surrealism

Stephen M. Fuller

Publication Year: 2012

Eudora Welty and Surrealism surveys 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 examine A Curtain of Green and Other Stories, The Wide Net and Other Stories, Delta Wedding, The Golden Apples, and The 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.

Published by: University Press of Mississippi

Front Matter

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pp. ix-x

Many people have contributed to the making of this book, first among them Eudora Welty’s heirs, Elizabeth Welty Thompson and Mary Alice Welty White, to whom I am most thankful. At the Mississippi Department of Archives and History in Jackson, Forrest Galey and her staff supplied all the assistance...

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1. Surrealism and Welty’s Early Years in New York

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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...

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2. The Persistence of a Memory in A Curtain of Green and Other Stories (1941)

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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...

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3. Dreaming Poured Cream Curtains in The Wide Net, and Other Stories (1943)

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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 of The Wide Net in her 1943 review in the Nation, Warren defuses the accusations leveled...

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4. Hypnotized like Swamp Butterflies in Delta Wedding (1946)

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pp. 120-145

Virginia Woolf ’s spirit permeates almost every page of Delta 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 from To the Lighthouse, a novel Welty claimed “opened the door” and...

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5. Visions of People as They Were Not in The Golden Apples (1949)

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pp. 146-196

The 1949 publication of The Golden Apples established a new standard of literary excellence for Eudora Welty, although The Wide Net and Delta Wedding had already greatly enhanced her reputation, nationally and internationally.1 A painter, photographer, journalist, critic, short story writer, and novelist...

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6. The Wildness of the World behind the Ladies’ View in The Bride of the Innisfallen and Other Stories (1955)

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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...

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7. Among Artistic Leaders

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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...


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pp. 228-246

Works Cited

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pp. 247-258


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pp. 259-267

E-ISBN-13: 9781621039143
E-ISBN-10: 1617036730
Print-ISBN-13: 9781617036736

Page Count: 240
Illustrations: 15 b&w
Publication Year: 2012