Michael Kreyling talks about Eudora Welty and “The Matrix” in Honors College Lecture

The MTSU Honors College kicked off this semester’s series of lectures with a speech on Mississippi novelist Eudora Welty by Vanderbilt English professor Michael Kreyling.

Honors College Associate Dean Philip Phillips described the series’ theme by saying “consider the role of space and place in the creative imagination.”

A scholar of Southern literature from the antebellum period through the 20th century, Kreyling discussed Welty’s 1956 essay “Place in Fiction.”

“This interdisciplinary series will demonstrate Welty’s observation that ‘There surely must be as many ways to see a place as there are pairs of eyes to see it,'” said Phillips.

Kreyling’s talk began by focusing on a very different Southern author, however, mentioning cyberpunk novelist William Gibson’s Neuromancer and Pattern Recognition, as well as “The Matrix” film trilogy, as examples of what he sees as a contemporary “age of simulacra and simulation” and “spaces largely mediated by screen presence.”

“We are learning to accept places as reproducible locations,” said Kreyling. “The lobby of a Best Western in Georgia is more or less like the lobby of a Best Western in Utah. And we like it this way.”

Kreyling then pivoted to “Place in Fiction,” focusing on the historical context of when it was written in the “narrow window between [Brown v. Board of Education] and Civil Rights.”

He wondered why Welty neglected to examine that her “place” was affected by her race, class and gender.

Kreyling left students with the assertion that place is more strongly affected by cultural differences than geographic differences.

Kreyling has written numerous books on Welty, including Eudora Welty’s Achievement of Order and Author and Agent: Eudora Welty and Diarmuid Russell. 

Next in the series, Elyce Helford, a professor of English and director of the Jewish and Holocaust Studies minor at MTSU, will speak on “Placing the American Dream: The Founding of Hollywood.” The lecture is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 15.

For more information, contact Philip Phillips at philip.phillips@mtsu.edu

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