Eudora Welty and Mystery
Hidden in Plain Sight
Intriguing essays on Welty's literary play with a beloved popular genre
Contributions by Jacob Agner, Sarah Gilbreath Ford, Katie Berry Frye, Michael Kreyling, Andrew B. Leiter, Rebecca Mark, Suzanne Marrs, Tom Nolan, Michael Pickard, Harriet Pollack, and Victoria Richard
Eudora Welty’s ingenious play with readers’ expectations made her a cunning writer, a paramount modernist, a short story artist of the first rank, and a remarkable literary innovator. In her signature puzzle-texts, she habitually engages with familiar genres and then delights readers with her transformations and nonfulfillment of conventions. Eudora Welty and Mystery: Hidden in Plain Sight reveals how often that play is with mystery, crime, and detective fiction genres, popular fiction forms often condescended to in literary studies, but unabashedly beloved by Welty throughout her lifetime.
Put another way, Welty often creates her stories’ secrets by both evoking and displacing crime fiction conventions. Instead of restoring order with a culminating reveal, her story-puzzles characteristically allow mystery to linger and thicken. The mystery pursued becomes mystery elsewhere. The essays in this collection shift attention from narratives, characters, and plots as they have previously been understood by unearthing enigmas hidden within those constructions.
Some of these new readings continue Welty’s investigation of hegemonic whiteness and southern narratives of race—outlining these in chalk as outright crime stories. Other essays show how Welty anticipated the regendering of the form now so characteristic of contemporary women mystery writers. Her tender and widely ranging personal correspondence with the hard-boiled American crime writer Ross Macdonald is also discussed. Together these essays make the case that across her career, Eudora Welty was arguably one of the genre’s greatest double agents, and, to apply the titles of Macdonald’s novels to her inventiveness with the form, she is its “underground woman,” its unexpected “sleeping beauty.”
"Eudora Welty and Mystery constitutes an unexpected, surprising, but productive approach to the works of a major American twentieth-century writer."- David McWhirter, professor of English at Texas A&M University
"Focusing on the influence exerted by the mystery/detective fiction genre on Welty's writing, Eudora Welty and Mystery unambiguously opens an overlooked and original avenue of inquiry. The essays powerfully evoke Welty, the late modernist caught in a postmodernist pose, and showcase some of her best critics patiently and cleverly teasing out various textual refractions and echoes."- Stephen M. Fuller, author of Eudora Welty and Surrealism
"The prose is accessible throughout. . . . Welty scholars will enjoy these well-argued pieces."- Publishers Weekly
"For mystery-crime enthusiasts, this is an enlightening guidebook to an intriguing journey. . . . A mystery woman in many respects, [Eudora Welty] was also—it turns out—an unapologetic fangirl."- Pat H. Broeske, Mystery Scene
"In this sparkling collection, editors Jacob Agner and Harriet Pollack set out to show, in their own words, “that Welty was both a pupil to the mystery genre and a practitioner too” (22). In this effort, they and their nine fellow contributors succeed abundantly. . . . Not the least of this volume’s rewards is that it makes Welty so fun."- Jay Watson, Eudora Welty Review