Daughter of the Swan: Love and Knowledge in Eudora Welty's Fiction by Gail L. Mortimer (Hardback, 1994)
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- DescriptionReaders of Eudora Welty's stories often encounter a protective and domelike night-time sky, the moon and constellations beckoning a character to venture beyond the familiar, visible world. This striking metaphor for the human need to seek out the unkwn serves as an anchoring image in Daughter of the Swan , Gail L. Mortimer's study of Welty's lifelong inquiry into the nature and contexts of kwledge. Mortimer argues that Welty's views on epistemiology and the elusiveness of certainty lie at the heart of this writer's subtle and revelatory work. Employing the psychoanalytic object-relations theories of Nancy Chodorow and Carol Gilligan, she reveals how Welty uses assumptions about relationships to shape her character's consciousnesses. Mortimer also contrasts Welty's world with William Faulkner's; each elucidates the other's remarkably different ways of perceiving humanity, relationships and approaches to the unkwn. The author then turns to Welty's childhood to consider her evolving sense of what - and how - things can be kwn. Her childhood reading and, in particular, her relationships with adults created impressions of a benign, wondrous, orderly world. As Mortimer observes, Welty eventually replaced these impressions with the realisation that adults frequently distort and withhold the truth. Welty's own family's conception of love as a kind of shield, and her resistance to this protection, finds its way into much of her fiction. For many Welty characters, this protective love becomes an obstacle to fuller understanding. Mortimer invokes two of the writer's most beguiling images, the circle and the labyrinth, to demonstrate that the perceiver who is both an insider and an outsider is best able to recognise and assimilate new kwledge. In The Golden Apples Welty contemplates the difficulty and fascination implicit in this quest for kwledge, given the ambiguous nature of what we kw - and given our use of language's surfaces, and of masks, myths and falsities to create benevolent illusions. Ultimately, Mortimer concludes, Welty comes to see the concept of protective love as a limited one and, in The Optimist's Daughter , for instance, she advocates instead the courage to face even the harshest realities. Recognising the richness of Welty's artistry, Mortimer views her through the lens of various literary traditions, incuding that of Shelley and Yeats. The latter's poem Among School Children , from which the title of Mortimer's study is borrowed, summons the image of the swan to reflect the solitary human soul in search of kwledge. In that same spirit of wonder and curiosity, Eudora Welty's fiction illuminates the conditions of that search.
- Author BiographyGail L. Mortimer is a professor of English at the University of Texas at El Paso.
- Author(s)Gail L. Mortimer
- PublisherUniversity of Georgia Press
- Date of Publication30/09/1994
- LanguageEnglish & English
- SubjectLiterary Criticism
- Place of PublicationGeorgia
- Country of PublicationUnited States
- ImprintUniversity of Georgia Press
- Content NoteIllustrations
- Weight549 g
- Width152 mm
- Height229 mm
- Spine25 mm
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