Document Type

Article

Publication Date

Spring 2003

Department

English

Language

English

Publication Title

The Mississippi Quarterly

Abstract

Legends about the South remain as powerful as the place itself. Whether or not a genteel Southern aristocracy has ever existed continues to be an issue for scholarly debate, yet the legend of such an antebellum South and of the South as a backward-looking region longing to rise up from the ashes of Sherman's pyrotechnics as an openly genteel, white supremacist nation looms powerfully in the minds of many readers and critics. These received images of the Old South, hanging around like a bad penny, present formidable obstacles for southern writers who take the South as their subject. The new legend of the "sunbelt South" may have begun to chip away at these hegemonic myths, but for much of the twentieth century, Southern writers were allowed two topics: the myth of the Old South--"ladies" stories detailing faded aristocracy, laced with extremely good manners--or the direct opposite of Southern gentility, manly stories about abject poverty and perverse depravation (see. William Faulkner). A writer working explicitly with neither topic, Eudora Welty finds her work more often than not caught awkwardly between these diametric subjects in critical discussions of her short fiction. In addition to its awkward relationship to historical myth, Welty also finds her work captive to a series of personal myths generated by her reticence about her private life, about a third of which she lived along in her parents' house in Jackson, Mississippi. These personal myths, along with generic historical myths about the South, position Welty's work in peculiar zones: a zone of misapprehension because her stories do not conform to conventional historical subjects; and a zone of under-reading, because of misconstrued ideas about the narrowness and prudishness of Welty's personal vision.

Comments

This published version is made available on Dickinson Scholar with the permission of the publisher. For more information on the published version, visit The Mississippi Quarterly's Website.

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