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Margaret Pless, a doctoral student at the University of Mississippi, has been named the 2020 Eudora Welty Fellow. Pless will use archival holdings at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) to research how Eudora Welty constructed her identity in her writing.

“I want to understand how craft, for Welty, intersected with actual memory,” said Pless. “I am especially interested in using the archives to explore Welty's relationship with her mother, a relationship characterized in One Writer's Beginnings by secrecy. I want to understand how such secrecy shapes an understanding of self, especially in a figure as public as a writer.”

Established by MDAH and the Eudora Welty Foundation, the fellowship seeks to encourage and support research of the Eudora Welty Collection by graduate students.

“We're grateful to the Foundation for their continuing support and excited that Margaret Pless will make extensive use of the Welty Collection this summer,” said David Pilcher, director of the MDAH Archives and Record Services Division.

After receiving her BA in English and history from Vanderbilt University, Pless completed her MA in English at the University of Mississippi where she is currently working towards her PhD. Pless will use the $2,000 fellowship to cover travel, housing, and other expenses incurred while doing primary research at the William F. Winter Archives and History Building in Jackson.

Beginning in 1957, and over the course of more than forty years, Welty donated materials to the department, primarily literary manuscripts and photographs. At her death her remaining papers were bequeathed to MDAH and included unpublished manuscripts and 14,000 items of correspondence with family, friends, scholars, young writers, and noted writers.

The Eudora Welty Collection is the world’s finest collection of materials related to Welty and one of the most varied literary collections in the United States. Selected series in the Eudora Welty Collection may be closed due to the digitization of materials. Contact Forrest Galey at fgaley@mdah.ms.gov or 601-576-6850 for information about availability of the collection. The digitization project is funded by a two-year National Endowment for the Humanities grant.

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