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Communication Dans Un Congrès Année : 2014

“Moments of Truth”: Eudora Welty’s Humanism


The title of the conference for which this essay was originally written—“Everybody to their own visioning: Eudora Welty in the Twenty-First Century”—raises two questions that address the critical problem of the role and future of literature. Mrs. Katie Rainey’s comment, “everybody to their own visioning,” on the freedom and subjectivity of narrative imagination in a story that plays with visions, invention, distortions, anamorphosis, as well as with bits of facts, the better to mislead the reader as to the truth or reality of incidents that may have been “fabricated,” and all on Halloween, raises the question of the visible and the invisible, of the traces of an absence. The subtitle “Eudora Welty in the Twenty-first Century” asks implicitly: Will Welty’s fiction still be read in our new century? And if so, where and by whom? Why and how will her fiction bring pleasure, enchant new generations of readers in a changed world, and still instruct (not teach) through her awareness of what life is about? Will she rank as one of the major writers of world literature? In fact, the critical question is, what can literature do? What future for literature? (Mathé). I will attempt to give some elements of response, drawing on the concept of “moments of truth” as Roland Barthes defined it in his 1978 lecture at the College de France, whose title is the first sentence of Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past, “Longtemps je me suis couché de bonne heure” (“For a long time I used to go to bed early”). He takes as examples two death scenes from War and Peace and Remembrance of Things Past. Interestingly, Barthes’s critical reflection on Proust is valid for Eudora Welty herself. Barthes argues that Proust was led to write La Recherche du Temps Perdu—a fictionalization of his desire to write—by the death of his mother and, with a departure from his previous texts, to reach the splendid invention of a new form that solved his aesthetic indecision between the essay and the novel. [End Page 9] This is not unlike what Welty experienced herself emotionally and intellectually with a comparable creation of new modes of writing.


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Dates et versions

hal-01334654 , version 1 (21-06-2016)



Danièle Pitavy-Souques. “Moments of Truth”: Eudora Welty’s Humanism. Eudora Welty in the 21st Century, Eudora Welty Society, Apr 2013, Texas, United States. pp.9-26, ⟨10.1353/ewr.2014.0000⟩. ⟨hal-01334654⟩


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