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The Welty Prize

 

Eudora Welty PortraitEach year Mississippi University for Women and the University Press of Mississippi collaborate to award the Welty Prize for a book of scholarship on Women's Studies, Southern Studies, or Modern Letters—prize winning manuscripts have often combined all three of these areas.

Manuscripts must be accepted for publication by University Press of Mississippi through their regular submission process before being eligible for the prize. Those manuscripts deemed appropriate for the prize are sent to the university for final judging by a faculty panel, and the winner is published by the press and invited to speak at the Eudora Welty Writers' Symposium in October.

The first prize was awarded in 1990 and a prize has been awarded each year since, with the exception of two years when a fitting manuscript was not published. Mississippi University for Women is proud to honor the exceptional work of the University Press of Mississippi and to promote scholarship in the fields of Women's Studies, Southern Studies, and Literature through this prize in honor of its most famous alumna, Eudora Welty.

 


 

Welty Prize Winners

2013

To be announced at the 2013 Eudora Welty Writers' Symposium.

 

2012
One Writer's Garden: Eudora Welty's Home Place
Susan Haltom and Jane Roy Brown

By the time she reached her late twenties, Eudora Welty (1909-2001) was launching a distinguished literary career. She was also becoming a capable gardener under the tutelage of her mother, Chestina Welty, who designed their modest garden in Jackson, Mississippi. From the beginning, Eudora wove images of southern flora and gardens into her writing, yet few outside her personal circle knew that the images were drawn directly from her passionate connection to and abiding knowledge of her own garden.

 

2011
Larry Brown: A Writer's Life
Jean W. Cash

Drawing on excerpts from numerous letters and material from interviews with family members and friends, Larry Brown: A Writer's Life is the first biography of a landmark southern writer. Jean W. Cash explores the cultural milieu of Oxford, Mississippi, and the writers who influenced Brown, including William Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor, Harry Crews, and Cormac McCarthy. She covers Brown's history in Mississippi, the troubled family in which he grew up, and his boyhood in Tula and Yocona, Mississippi, and in Memphis, Tennessee.

 

2010
Under Surge, Under Siege: The Odyssey of Bay St. Louis and Katrina
Ellis Anderson

Hurricane Katrina tore into Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, raking away lives, buildings, and livelihoods in a place known for its picturesque, coastal views; its laid-back, artsy downtown; and its deep-dyed southern cordiality. The tragedy also revealed the inner workings of a community with an indomitable heart and profound neighborly bonds. Those connections often brought out the best in people under the worst of circumstances. In Under Surge, Under Siege, Ellis Anderson, who rode out the storm in her Bay St. Louis home and sheltered many neighbors afterwards, offers stories of generosity, heroism, and laughter in the midst of terror and desperate uncertainty.

 

2009
Eudora Welty as Photographer
Pearl McHaney, editor

Paramount in Eudora Welty as Photographer are the photographs themselves. Only nine have been published previously. The accompanying essays--by Welty scholar Pearl Amelia McHaney; by chief curator of photography at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Sandra S. Phillips; and by photographer and photography historian Deborah Willis--describe Welty's developing aesthetic and her representations of the world as illustrated by the photographs. Welty took photographs of people, animals, patterns, shadows, and structures--natural and man-made--in Mississippi, Louisiana, New York, and North Carolina. The photographs are paired to contrast and complement, to surprise and suggest, and to please and provoke.

 

2008
Confronting Modernity: Art and Society in Louisiana
Richard Megraw

Confronting Modernity examines how the conflicts and benefits of modernity's nationalizing influences were reflected and resisted by the state's artists in the first half of the twentieth century. In Louisiana, such change not only produced the turbulent politics of the Huey Long era but also provoked debate over new ideas on art and social roles for artists. Artist Ellsworth Woodward and writer Lyle Saxon battled to retain artistic control over what they considered the exceptional character of Louisiana. Woodward defended localized assumptions through art in the world-renowned pottery program he established in 1892 and directed for more than forty years at Sophie Newcomb College. Saxon, on the other hand, fought against modernity's encroachment from within, serving as director of the Federal Writers Project in Louisiana.

 

2007
Bohemian New Orleans: The Story of the Outsider and Loujon Press
Jeff Weddle

In 1960, Jon Edgar and Louise "Gypsy Lou" Webb founded Loujon Press on Royal Street in New Orleans's French Quarter. The small publishing house quickly became a giant. Heralded by the Village Voice and the New York Times as one of the best of its day, the Outsider, the press's literary review, featured, among others, Charles Bukowski, Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Robert Creeley, Denise Levertov, and Walter Lowenfels. Drawing on correspondence from many who were published in the Outsider, back issues of the Outsider, contemporary reviews, promotional materials, and interviews, Jeff Weddle shows how the press's mandarin insistence on production quality and its eclectic editorial taste made its work nonpareil among peers in the underground. Throughout, Bohemian New Orleans reveals the messy, complex, and vagabond spirit of a lost literary age.

 

2006
Black Writers, White Publishers: Marketplace Politics in Twentieth-Century African American Literature
John K. Young

Black Writers, White Publishers is a thoughtful examination of rough drafts and marketing pressures that reveal conflicts and compromises between five great authors and their publishers. In chapters on Larsen's Passing, Ishmael Reed's Mumbo Jumbo, Gwendolyn Brooks's Children Coming Home, Morrison's "Oprah's Book Club" selections, and Ralph Ellison's Juneteenth, John K. Young presents the first book-length application of editorial theory to African American literature. Focusing on the manuscripts, drafts, book covers, colophons, and advertisements that trace book production, Young expands upon the concept of socialized authorship and demonstrates how the study of publishing history and practice and African American literary criticism enrich each other.

 

2005
Katherine Anne Porter: The Life of an Artist
Darlene Unrue

From the moment Katherine Anne Porter arrived on the American literary scene in 1922, the public was intrigued with her life. Yet she herself revealed only scant facts of her background and often gave conflicting accounts. She maintained, though, that a germ of her own experience lay at the core of everything she wrote. Unrue finds that Porter's deceptions were a screen for deep personal turmoil. With unprecedented access to archival and personal papers, Unrue brings much new information to light. Porter's maternal grandmother was institutionalized; Porter had more marriages than she acknowledged; she lost babies to miscarriage, abortion, and stillbirth, and she grieved over her failed motherhood. Ever present were her fears of exile and insanity.

 

2004
Voodoo Queen: The Spirited Lives of Marie Laveau
Martha Ward

Each year, thousands of pilgrims visit the celebrated New Orleans tomb where Marie Laveau is said to lie. They seek her favors or fear her lingering influence. Voodoo Queen: The Spirited Lives of Marie Laveau is the first study of the Laveaus, mother and daughter of the same name. Both were legendary leaders of religious and spiritual traditions many still label as evil. The Laveaus were free women of color and prominent French-speaking Catholic Creoles. From the 1820s until the 1880s when one died and the other disappeared, gossip, fear, and fierce affection swirled about them. From the heart of the French Quarter, in dance, drumming, song, and spirit possession, they ruled the imagination of New Orleans.

 

2003
Fortune's Favorite Child
Christopher Maurer

Walter Anderson (1903-1965) was a prolific, fiercely individual artist renowned for his matchless style, his lonely independence, and his astonishingly creative works of art. Devoted to the beauty of the natural world, Anderson emblazoned the events of his everyday life into art that expressed a unique and absorbing vision. This compelling biography, published in celebration of his centennial, draws on Anderson's voluminous journals and graphic works, the previously unpublished papers of family members and friends, and archival materials from several American museums. In his creative diversity he was both an artist and a naturalist who left the art world paintings, prints, murals, journals, wood carvings, ceramic works, poems, aphorisms, and pen-and-ink illustrations of literary works. Despite poverty and mental anguish, Anderson called himself "Fortune's favorite child."

2002
Shelby Foote: A Writer's Life
C. Stuart Chapman

For a biographer Shelby Foote is a famously reluctant subject. In writing this biography, however, C. Stuart Chapman gained valuable access through interviews and shared correspondence, an advantage Foote rarely has granted to others. Born into Mississippi Delta gentry in 1916, Foote has engaged in a lifelong struggle with the realities behind his persona, the classic image of the southern gentleman. His polished civil graces mask a conflict deep within. Foote's beloved South is a changing region, and even progressive change, of which Foote approves, can be unsettling. In letters and interviews, and in his writings, he often waxes nostalgic as he grapples to recover the grace of an earlier time, particularly the era of the Civil War. Indeed, Chapman reveals that the whole of Foote's novels and historical narratives serves as a refuge from deeply ambiguous feelings.

 

2000
The Identity Question: Blacks and Jews in Europe and America
Robert Philipson

Despite the Enlightenment's promise of utopian belonging among all citizens, blacks and Jews were excluded from the life of their host countries. In their diasporic exile both groups were marginalized as slaves, aliens, unbelievers, and frequently not fully human. The Identity Question: Blacks and Jews in Europe and America explores the effects of diaspora upon black and Jewish consciousness, demonstrating similar histories of marginality and oppression. Central to this examination are four key autobiographies, two from the late 1700s and two from recent history. The autobiographies of Richard Wright and Alfred Kazin, taken as prime twentieth-century American expressions of racial and ethnic identity, reveal striking similarities to their Enlightenment counterparts in Europe, the black Olaude Equiano and the Jewish Salomon Maimon.

 

1999
Autobiography as Activism: Three Black Women of the Sixties
Margo V. Perkins

Angela Davis, Assata Shakur (a.k.a. JoAnne Chesimard), and Elaine Brown are the only women activists of the Black Power movement who have published book-length autobiographies. In bearing witness to that era, these militant newsmakers wrote in part to educate and to mobilize their anticipated readers. Margo V. Perkins's critical analysis of their books is less a history of the movement (or of women's involvement in it) than an exploration of the politics of storytelling for activists who choose to write their lives. Perkins examines how activists use autobiography to connect their lives to those of other activists across historical periods, to emphasize the link between the personal and the political, and to construct an alternative history that challenges dominant or conventional ways of knowing.

 

1998
Warring Fictions
Jim Neilson

Although the Vietnam conflict ended decades ago, a fierce cultural war over how its literature is to be perceived continues to be waged. Warring Fictions accuses American critics of twenty years of whitewash and reminds us that Vietnam was not just an American anguish and its fiction a rock-and-roll acid trip. From the blind patriotism of The Green Berets to the postmodern hip of Dispatches this book brings history and politics back to the Vietnam War novel. It is a brilliant case study of canon formation and of the role commercial and academic literary institutions have played in assessing Vietnam War fiction; it exposes their complicity in the writing of recent American history and rebukes academic literary culture that speciously purports a radical calling for itself. Beyond an aca-demic audience, this book will challenge all who are piqued by studies of the war and of Vietnam War fiction. And it raises important questions about the interlocking interests and ideologies of literary culture, the publishing industry, the mass media, and the academy.

 

1997
Inventing Southern Literature
Michael Kreyling

In Inventing Southern Literature, Kreyling casts a penetrating ray upon the traditional canon of southern literature and questions the modes by which it was created. He finds that it was, indeed, an invention rather than a creation. In the 1930s the foundations were laid by the Fugitive-Agrarian group, a band of poet-critics that wished not only to design but also to control the southern cultural entity in a conservative political context. From their heyday to the present, Kreyling investigates the historical conditions under which literary and cultural critics have invented "the South" and how they have chosen its representations. Through his study of these choices, Kreyling argues that interested groups have shaped meanings that preserve "a South" as "the South."

 

1996
Dangerous Freedom: Fusion and Fragmentation in Toni Morrison's Novels
Philip Page

The novels of Toni Morrison depict a disjointed culture striving to coalesce in a racialized society. No other contemporary writer conveys this "double consciousness" of African-American life so faithfully. As her characters struggle to negotiate meaningful roles and identities, and as they confront the inescapable issue of division, her novels are permeated with motifs of fragmentation. This divided entity is a theme repeated throughout Morrison's fiction. Operating on many levels, this plurality-in-unity affects narrators, chronologies, individuals, couples, families, neighborhoods, races. Philip Page's critical interpretation of Morrison's first six novels - Sula, Song of Solomon, The Bluest Eye, Beloved, Jazz, and Tar Baby - places her fiction in the forefront of American culture, African-American culture and contemporary thought.

 

1994
Ellen S. Woodward: New Deal advocate for women
Martha Swain

Ellen S. Woodward (1887-1971) was touted as Roosevelt's second most powerful woman appointee. Among American women only Eleanor Roosevelt and Labor Department Secretary Frances Perkins could claim more elevated roles in the circle of FDR's administration. This long overdue biography of such a remarkable leader traces Woodward's odyssey from the parlors of her Mississippi clubwomen associates to a position as director of women's work relief under three successive New Deal agencies from 1933 to 1938. Swain depicts Woodward in the vital roles she took in alleviating the working woman's plight. Particularly rich is Swain's account of Woodward's attempts to remain vital in policymaking during the Truman era, when Eleanor Roosevelt was no longer the central figure of the women's coterie.

 

1993
The dragon's blood: feminist intertextuality in Eudora Welty's The golden apples
Rebecca Mark

Rebecca Mark's study proposes feminist intertextuality as a reading strategy for a critical study of Welty. Here Mark directly attacks the problem of literary influence which for decades has intrigued critics of The Golden Apples. Many have focused on its mythical dimensions. Instead, Mark finds allusions that are far more pervasive. These she sees to be a direct challenge to the dominant cultural voices of literary tradition. She argues that Welty's text refutes the apocalypse and despair that are hallmarks formulated by Joyce and by Faulkner. She shows indeed that Welty's text confronts one of the mainstays of western literary tradition - the indomitable hero.

 

1992
Feminine sense in Southern memoir: Smith, Glasgow, Welty, Hellman, Porter, and Hurston
Will Brantley

In Feminine Sense in Southern Memoir dominant themes from Smith's autobiography, Killers of the Dream, are synthesized as other liberal feminine voices in the chorus of southern memoirs examine norms of gender, problems of race, and patriarchal power structures. Ellen Glasgow's The Woman Within (1954) and Eudora Welty's One Writer's Beginnings (1984) center on the woman writer's inner life and demonstrate the legitimacy of making this life the object of public attention. Lillian Hellman's Scoundrel Time (1976) and Katherine Anne Porter's The Never-Ending Wrong (1977) define the individual in conflict with reactionary forces in modern America. In Dust Tracks on a Road (1942, 1984) Zora Neale Hurston connects the problems of gender, region, nation, and race.

 

1991
The heart of the story: Eudora Welty's short fiction
Peter Schmidt

Discusses the short stories of Eudora Welty, including the portrayal of heroines and women artists, misogyny in the tragic stories, women's comedy, and the place of her work within American women's literature.

 

 

 

1990
Feminist alternatives: irony and fantasy in the contemporary novel by women
Nancy Walker

This analytical survey of contemporary fiction is a study of more than twenty-five novels written by women during a twenty-year period of rapid socio-cultural change resulting from the philosophy and goals of the contemporary women's movement. The author contends that the novels of the period 1969-1988 served as a dialogue among women authors and their readers as they attempted to deal with dramatic alterations in attitudes toward career, sexuality, and continued tension between personal autonomy and cultural sexism. In readings of novels by American, British, and Canadian authors, including Gail Godwin, Toni Morrison, Margaret Drabble, Doris Lessing, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Margaret Atwood, the author proposes that the narrative devices of irony and fantasy are used commonly in these novels to reflect women's increased detachment from cultural attempts to define women's nature and role, and their need to imagine alternative ways of ordering their own lives and the structure of society itself.

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