Ethnic freaks, white ladies, and the dissolution of southern patriarchy: Eudora Welty's critical commentary on sideshow practices in "Keela, the Outcast Indian Maiden".
Scholarship on "Keela, the Outcast Indian Maiden" (1940) demonstrates the close interconnection between the shifting opinions on Welty's social conscience and redefinitions of what constitutes political action and space. The story is structured as a dialogue between Steve, a guilt-ridden, egoistic ex-barker for a sideshow, and Max, a cafe proprietor, who tries to help Steve expiate his guilt. He takes Steve to see Little Lee Roy, a clubfooted African American man, whom Steve believes to have been abducted from Cane Springs, Mississippi, and forced to masquerade as a Native American female by a carnival sideshow owner in Texas until being liberated by a white stranger. Given the story's theme of exploitation, it has been frequently grouped with such texts as "A Worn Path" and "Powerhouse" and examined to determine the author's position on racial issues. While early analyses display an interesting tension between the assertions of Welty's apoliticality and the suggestion that "Keela" criticizes the abuse and stereotypes of African Americans, more recent readings deliberately accentuate the text's political dimension. For instance, in his 1965 book-length study of Welty's fiction, Alfred Appel observes that Welty "is not writing about race prejudice and the 'Negro Problem' as such" (137), but that "Keela" is nevertheless "a parable of the South's collective guilt concerning slavery" (146). Similar contradictions are present in John Edward Hardy's 1966 study "Eudora Welty's Negroes." Opening his essay with the claim that "Eudora Welty is not notably concerned with problems of 'race relations,' if we take that phrase in the socioeconomic and political sense" (221), Hardy argues that Welty intensely challenges racial stereotypes by focusing on the individuality of her African American characters. Along these lines he reads "Keela" as "an allegory of emancipation" (224). Hardy's claims may seem confusing, especially because emancipation, clearly a socioeconomic and political issue, fits his definition of "problems of 'racial relations'" (221). Such discrepancies indicate that early Welty critics probably expected something close to open political propaganda to qualify as fiction that did reflect larger social issues. More recent "Keela" studies, however, use a broadened conception of the political and historical. For example, (2) Matthew R. Martin, in his discussion of the influence of Welty's travels across Mississippi as a publicity agent for the Works Progress Administration on her work, quotes Welty as stating in Conversations that she was writing "from the inside, not the outside ... [since] when it was stated from the outside it seemed to [her] so thin and artificial" (18). Accordingly, Martin argues that Welty has to be newly appreciated as a political writer; to him her characters challenge "commonly accepted perceptions of status and identity in the South in the 1930s" (18). In "Keela," he sees Welty's activism reflected in such elements as the broken-down boundaries between the spectators and the spectacle and Steve's own freakishness (22-23).
While the sociopolitical dimension of "Keela" has thus been explicitly recognized, scholars have paid insufficient attention to important elements of Roy-Keela's identity other than his African American origin. As Welty's much quoted explanation of the circumstances of the composition of "Keela" indicates, she altered the gender and ethnicity of the enfreaked man the story is based on, making him masquerade as an Indian maiden:
One day I was on an assignment at a fair and talked to a man who was building a booth at the fair grounds. He told me the story that I used in "Keela, the Outcast Indian Maiden"--about a little Negro man who was made to eat live chickens. That's the only actual story I've used. I guess if you read it you must have known that it was true and not made up--it was too horrible to make up. (Conversations 5)
Surprisingly, arguments regarding the feminine and Native American aspects of Little Lee Roy's travesty are very scarce and not well developed. Francois Pitavy discusses Little Lee Roy's forced disguise as the effort of the white patriarchal culture to erase the African American man's sexual and racial identity, in effect rendering him not just invisible but non-existent (59). Louise Westling takes the claims about identity-construction and erasure in "Keela" one step further by considering the ostracism of other social groups in the making of civilized normalcy. Focusing on the function of the freak show in the story, she argues that through the Geek Keela Welty "has made a complex statement about how the process [of ostracism] works, by identifying this scapegoat with marginal ethnic groups--blacks and red Indians--and with the feminine" (61). (3) Unfortunately, Westling does not give more details, apart from adding that it is "strange indeed" for a young woman to be treated so unfavorably in a society that professes to idolize the "lady" (61). This essay examines this curious strangeness behind the Native American maiden's harsh treatment. Developing the ideas about the use of the sideshow to construct otherness, I argue that Welty's story reveals and critiques a very specific function of sideshows like Keela's in the production of Southern social identities. Staged as a wild savage, Keela polices the category of the Southern white woman, herself an other, in the time of growing anxieties about the dissolution of traditional patriarchal and racial structures in the region.
The social role of sideshows, briefly considered in May's, Cooley's, Westling's, and Pitavy's criticism, is examined in depth in numerous recent sociological studies discussing the formation of American nationhood. Theorists have repeatedly demonstrated that the human freak, displayed on America's stages primarily between 1840 and 1940, served as a "not-me" figure embodying features considered undesirable or dangerous by the dominant order. Rosemarie Garland Thomson asserts that freak shows "framed and choreographed bodily differences that we now call 'race,' 'ethnicity,' and 'disability' [and, we could add, 'gender'] in a ritual that enacted the social process of making cultural otherness from the raw materials of human physical variation" (60). In this way, the publicly displayed "freakish" bodies helped construct a mainstream, normative identity by representing that which "collective America took itself not to be" (Garland Thomson 59; emphasis Garland Thomson). Accordingly, Linda Frost argues that freak presentations reaffirmed the spectators' "notions of who belonged to the civilized community of the United States by virtue of putting on stage those who did not" (5). Not only did the white elites benefit from these sideshows, but also (and often primarily) spectators from ethnic groups and classes situated close to the social periphery benefited psychologically from them. The freak's otherness testified to the normalcy of all those whose physical features did not allow them to fully match the American ideal, such as African Americans or certain immigrants (Garland Thomson 65, Adams 32). They, together with the more privileged members of the society, displaced their anxieties and uncertainties about their identity as well as their culturally unsanctioned fantasies on the exhibited Geek.
Welty's "Keela" illustrates that while all ethnic groups could use the enfreaked figure to reaffirm their sense of belonging just by the virtue of being the audience and not the exhibit, the sideshow made clear beyond any doubt that whiteness was the true American ideal. Keela embodies a specific "not-me" figure--the wild savage--who demonstrates the workings of domestic racism in the constructions of mainstream identity. Usually of a male gender, the wild savage was "a stock sideshow personality" (Adams 164), often caged and forced to engage in acts that highlighted the non-white subject's closeness to animals rather than humans. Historical examples include Ota Benga, displayed in the Monkey House at the Bronx Zoo as "The African Pygmy" together with an orangutan taught to ride a bicycle and eat at a table (Adams 32), P. T. Barnum's "Wild Man of Borneo," trained to roar and drink animal blood (Adams 166-67, Frost 66), and Sartje Baartman, billed as "The Hottentot Venus" and ordered to move around in her cage more like a bear than a woman (Garland Thomson 71-72). Welty's Keela is similarly produced as a wild beast. Ayman Hussein, reading the character too reductively as the Freudian id, nevertheless correctly observes that her act points to the satisfaction of three of the basic instincts identified by Freud: eating, sex, and aggression (529). Indeed, Keela is forced to eat to satiety although the only food available to her is live chickens. As Steve repeatedly tells, "They'd throw it [Keela] this chicken, and it would reach out an' grab it. Would sort of rub over the chicken's neck with its thumb an' press on it good, an' then it would bite its head off.... It skint back the feathers and stuff from the neck and sucked the blood. But ever'body said it was still alive" (49-50). Keela's extreme aggressiveness, reflected in her eating habits, is also manifested in her "growl[ing] somethin' awful" and "shak[ing] its iron rod" (49) whenever anybody comes near the cage. Steven indicates that the threat Keela represents can culminate in her cannibalism--"Do not try to touch Keela, the Outcast Indian Maiden," he shouts at the show, "she will only beat your brains out with her iron rod, and eat them alive!" (51). Her constant snarling also points to the absence of speech, another de-humanizing feature: in Steve's words, "it couldn't say nothin' to anybody ever, so it just kind of mumbled and growled, like a animal" (49). In addition, Keela wears a red dress, a color often coded in Western society as an emblem of sexual passion or even immorality, indicative of promiscuity on display. (4) All of these performative features amplify that Keela cannot be a member of a civilized human society.
The specifics of Keela's performance as a wild beast suggest that she, like all "ethnographic freaks" (Adams 167) produced by white American culture, is staged to embody the abject. In Powers of Horror, Julia Kristeva repeatedly defines abjection as an operation of the psyche through which an individual and group identity are constituted by excluding anything that threatens the individual's or group's boundaries. In Kristeva's words, the abject is "what disturbs identity, system, order. What does not respect borders, positions, rules. The in-between, the ambiguous, the composite" (4). Accordingly, the abject confronts us not only with our attempts to separate ourselves from the maternal body but also "with those fragile states where man strays on the territories of animal" (12; emphasis Kristeva). Therefore, the psychoanalyst adds, primitive societies have marked out a precise territory of their culture to remove themselves from that which was imagined as representative of the threatening world of animals--sex and murder (12-13). Keela is a site of such dangerous liminality. While obviously a human being, she performs acts pointing to animalistic slaughter, enormous appetite, sexual transgression, and inability to enter the linguistic realm. Along these lines critics have indicated that Keela serves the audience's need to relieve their anxiety about the boundaries between the human and animal: the "civilized" observers project their fears about losing their human identity on to her as the Geek (Westling 61, Cooley 127-28).
The sideshow's practice of displaying non-white ethnic and gendered subjects like Keela as bestial monsters, psychoanalytically encoded as the abject, has to be considered in its specific historical context. Kristeva explains, "abjection, just like prohibition of incest, is a universal phenomenon; one encounters it as soon as the symbolic and/or social dimension of man is constituted, and this throughout the course of civilization. But abjection assumes specific shapes and different codings according to the various 'symbolic systems'" (68; emphasis Kristeva). The mutability of the abject according to time and space corresponds to the changing popularity of freak shows, sites featuring the liminal. As Adams poignantly observes, freakishness itself "is a historically variable quality" derived less from specific physical features than from the staging of the extraordinary body itself (5). Accordingly, research shows that freak shows flourished in the time of a major social transformation, when emancipation of the slaves and its aftermath, as well as great immigration waves, female suffrage, and imperial expansion threatened traditional physical signs of status, such as the male gender and white Western European features (Garland Thomson 65, Adams 164). In this way, the depiction of non-white races as Keela-like savages, cannibals, or, sometimes, as missing links (Adams 28) insured the spectators that the society would grant a full status solely to the white Western European population. As Frost adds, emphasis was placed on essentializing and eternalizing such constructed hierarchies--the sideshow aided in the creation of a "superior, white, middle-class identity that could claim national membership in a 'natural' or timeless way" (3).
Through the Native American identity of the enfreaked Keela, Welty's story comments on the white supremacist fears about the "rising tide of color" (Stoddard) and the corresponding attempts to restrict the racialized other from usurping a place in the nation's mainstream. In 1924 the Indian Citizenship Act was passed, putting a legislative end to the time when Indians were considered first as citizens of their respective tribes and then, following the Dawes Act of 1887, as citizens of the United States under the condition that they could prove their ability to "adopt the 'habits of civilized life'" (Michaels 30-31). The 1924 Act confirmed that Native Americans as an ethnic group succeeded in this endeavor, thus earning their citizenship through normalization (Michaels 31). However, as exhibits like Keela illustrate, the supremacist white America remained at best ambivalent about these Native American co-citizens, continuing to bestialize them at sites that still allowed for that. (5) The sideshow performances were constructed to prove the civilization of Native Americans just an illusion, insisting that what lies beneath is a beastly, primitive nature. In this way, Keela-the-Geek testifies to the audience that Native Americans are evolutionarily closer to animals than humans, remaining forever inferior to Western European Americans.
Welty's decision to make Keela a female Native American, even though the wild savage exhibit was more often associated with the male sex, suggests that in the Southern context the struggle to curb female suffrage was given importance similar to that given the fight to preserve the white hegemony. As Donaldson points out, the tendency of Welty and other "modern Southern writers" to use the grotesque and gothic in their fiction represents a response to regional anxieties about the emerging "New Woman in the South" (568). These anxieties have had stronger presence in the Southern region than in any other geographic area undergoing the same change at that time. Anne Goodwyn Jones asserts that while traditional definitions of Southern womanhood resemble those of the British construct of a Victorian lady and the American construct of true womanhood, only in the South has the lady been "at the core of a region's self-definition" (4); the South is more dependent on the preservation of its traditional image of a lady than any other region (4). Therefore, the Southern patriarchy has been very adamant in its fight to safeguard conventional gender scripts. Welty dramatizes these identity struggles by casting Keela as the conceptual opposite of the traditional white Southern female. Historically, the ideal Southern woman was constructed as submissive, delicate, charming, sophisticated, nurturing (as reflected in her role of mother), and repressive of anything physical. In contrast, Keela is forced to be aggressive, destructive, and cruel, to mercilessly bite her little victims' heads off and eat them "real fast" while "the heart would still be jumpin'" (50)--a sign of her gluttony. The red color of her attire, as mentioned above, is to suggest that she seeks satiety also in sexual terms. (6) She severely violates the Southern woman's dress code also by wearing "stockin's" but "hav[ing] on no shoes" (50), appearing disheveled, a detail aimed at amplifying the limitations of an ethnic woman's efforts to adopt the complex network of codes of "proper" social behavior typical for the sophisticated Southern white lady. The sharp contrast between Keela and her white female counterpart is confirmed also by the appositive "the Outcast Indian Maiden," which signals that her own ethnic group, symbolic of "uncivilized" humanity to the Western mind even after passing of the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924, considers her behavior to be unacceptably transgressive. In this way, her staging highlights how ethnic female subjects like Keela embody all that the Old South has traditionally wanted the true woman to reject. Therefore, if the Southern white woman is figuratively put on the pedestal to be idolized, the woman of color is literally put on the sideshow stage to be enfreaked to warn against both biological and cultural female aberrations.
In fact, Keela as a Native American wild savage maiden is used by the Southern culture to provide a cautionary tale of what would happen should the white female's nature not be rigorously managed by the Southern patriarchy. Women, irrespective of their cultural or ethnic backgrounds, have been conventionally viewed as the inferior gendered other, as indicated by Aristotle's equation of them with deviant males in Generation of Animals (401). Correspondingly, Garland Thomson explains that many parallels exist between freaks and women. Both "are owned, managed, silenced, and mediated by men; both are socially defined as deviations from the ideal masculine body; both are marginalized in the realm of economic production; both are appropriated for display as spectacles; both are seen as subjugated by the body" (Garland Thomson 70-71). If the display of the "evolutionary inferior" ethnic subjects like Keela provides the white Southern woman with the opportunity to project her feelings of social inferiority on another, making her feel empowered, it also simultaneously warns her that should she discard the traditional role scripts prepared for her by the Southern patriarchy, she would be likely to resort to her natural, culturally unrestricted vices. Garland Thomson cites in this context the example of Tono Maria, exhibited in London in 1822 as "the Venus of South America" (55). The woman, having almost one hundred scars on her body, each signifying an act of adultery, was displayed to testify "to an inherent female sexual deviance, indolence, carnality, and appetite tempered only by Western civilization" (Garland Thomson 55-56). From this and similar examples, we can infer that Keela, as the physical satisfaction-seeking, immoral, violent Native American woman, cautions the sideshow audience of the potential bestializing transformative effect of women's suffrage on the refined and cultivated Southern white lady.
However, Welty, with her tendency to rebel against patriarchal imperatives for women's situations and consciousness, does not allow her readers to imitate the sideshow audience by projecting their anxieties about the region's changing gender and racial relations on the Geek. She reveals that Keela, the Outcast Indian Maiden, is just a carnival hoax--a powerful narrative construct--and thus challenges all related gendered and ethnic stereotypes. The text makes clear that Keela is in reality Little Lee Roy, an African American male forced (often by beating) to perform as the Native American maiden. In Steve's words, when "they undressed it [at the police station they] found out it wasn't no outcast Indian woman a-tall.... Washed its face, and it was paint all over it made it look red. It all come off. And it could talk--as good as me or you. But they'd tole it not to, so it never did.... You could see where they'd whup it. They had to whup it some to make it eat all the chickens" (53). Along the same lines, the narrative stresses that Little Lee Roy is a relatively simple and complaisant man, more capable of humor and psychological recovery than of aggression. Choosing to remember the traumatic experience of the freak show only as "de ole times when [he] use to be wid de circus" (56), he actually finds pleasure in Steve's talking about his exploitation. When Steve describes Keela's gig to Max, Little Lee Roy is "excited almost beyond respectful silence" and "a look of amazement and sudden life [comes] into his eyes" (49). He also responds to Steve's narrative by a series of giggles. (7) Such a sharp contrast between the freak's act and the individual who stages it was a common sideshow practice. Most of the previously discussed examples of actual ethnographic freaks were all hoaxes: Ota Benga, advertised as "The African Pygmy," was in reality a Central African Batwa (Adams 31-32); Sartje Baartman, displayed as "The Hottentot Venus," a woman from a San tribe (Garland Thomson 71); and P. T. Barnum's "Wild Man of Borneo" a type often embodied by an amiable African American boy (Adams 166). By including an example of such a forced travesty in her story, Welty de-essentializes the ethnic identities impersonated by Keela as well as their normate, white American conceptual opposites.
In addition, Welty's story demonstrates the function textuality plays in such social practices of identity creation. The freak show does not rely on Keela's performance alone but situates it within a narrative that helps the audience interpret what it sees. Steve, the ex-barker for the show, claims that he was given "a piece of paper with the thing wrote off [that he] had to say" (48). His task was to attract the audience's attention to those aspects of Keela's appearance that racialized her as a perilous savage. The script was rendered through a linguistic medium supposedly inaccessible to the exhibit. More specifically, Steve informed the audience that live meat is all Keela eats and warned them not to approach the cage for the Geek is extremely undomesticated and aggressive: "I remember how the drums was goin' and I was yellin', 'Ladies and gents! Do not try to touch Keela, the Outcast Indian Maiden ... Do not go near her, ladies and gents! I'm warnin' you!"(51). As this passage suggests, the script simultaneously highlighted the danger the ethnographic freak represented and demonstrated the sideshow's control over this threat--the freak was caged, and the spectators were to believe that as long as they "Do not go near her" (51), i.e., as long as they respect this physical boundary, they were safe. Of course, their physical distance from the exhibit is in reality necessary for them to buy into the hoax, as the case of the white stranger who saved Keela after holding her hand and making her cry "like a baby" (53) illustrates. By showing how such rhetorical framing of Keela's performance is designed to shape the audience's experience of the markers of her physical and cultural difference, the story points to hegemonic uses of narratives to construct social selves of marginalized subjects.
The author's keen sense of the role of texts in cultural identity production has received previous recognition by critics. For instance, Harrison, offering a rereading of "The Demonstrators" in the context of the civil rights movement, argues that Welty's story is "about the power of stories to shape our interaction with the world, about the stories we construct to define national, cultural, and racial identities" ("Racial Content Espied" 94). Marta Caminero-Santangelo arrives at a similar conclusion while discussing the representation of gender in Welty's "June Recital." She claims that the story, as well as the larger collection, The Golden Apples, reveals the scripted character of female roles, especially the post-WWII paradigm of a spinster as a threat to the moral and mental stability of the community. In Caminero-Santangelo's words, "In The Golden Apples, it is stories that make people what they are; we might even say that Welty seems to offer through her writing a model of the social construction of the subject" (130; emphasis Caminero-Santangelo). The critic adds that, according to Welty's stories, it is through art that one can work against these social identities by exposing the function of myths in their making (Caminero-Santangelo 143). In "Keela," Welty engages in such an artistic revisionary activity, revealing the participation of an enfreaking narrative in the fabrication of "not-me" figures to fortify the white supremacist center of the American society.
Welty's text also highlights the anxiety associated with the de-essentializion of social identities. Steve is pained by the contrast between himself and the white stranger who liberates Keela after recognizing she is "a fake" (52): "Seemed like that man just studied it out an' knowed it was somethin' wrong.... But I didn't know. I can't look at nothin' an' be sure what it is. Then afterwards I know. Then I see how it was" (54). As his position of standing there "almost pleadingly in the sun, facing Max" (54) suggests, Steve hopes that his listener will announce that he would have made the same epistemological mistake. However, Max refuses to confirm: "Bet I could tell a man from a woman and an Indian from a nigger though," he asserts (55). As Steve's violent reaction to the statement--he "reach[es] out and without any warning hit[s] Max in the jaw with his fist," causing him to fall "off the steps" (55)--suggests, Max speaks directly to the core of Steve's problem. The notion that performativity can take precedence over the material of one's physical body, determining its meaning, truly haunts him, because his failure to read correctly such basic identity categories as gender and race caused him to participate in Keela's exploitation. Accordingly, Donaldson argues that it is "the mystery of multiple views" that really baffles Steve (581). Unable to cope with such fluidity, the sideshow's ex-barker is oblivious to Little Lee Roy's actual presence and chooses to refer stubbornly to his Keela impersonation as "it" (48, 49, 50, 52, 53, 54) even after knowing Keela was a hoax. In the closing paragraphs, Steve plans to "catch a ride some place" after he "cools off" at Max's place (56), probably in an attempt to make sense of the lost essential identity markers by finding another audience for his story.
Steve's bewilderment at the mutability of social identities is likely to resemble that of the story's readers who were living through a time of a continuous rapid decline of the patriarchal structures in the South. Welty, with her tendency to engage in a politicized discourse, makes her historical as well as contemporary readership further question the validity of the hierarchies that constitute the core of the South's self-definition by using "Keela" to reveal the complex processes of social production of otherness at such sites as the freak show. Targeting the region's determination to associate true femininity solely with the white race, her story demonstrates that the Southern power structure assigns meanings to bodies on the basis of its interests and anxieties rather than on some "inherent" significance, using ritual spectacle and narrative to (re)interpret certain features as deviant and dangerous to preserve the center for itself. In the process, her story shows that the construction of the female ethnographic freak assists the Southern patriarchy in soliciting cooperation in preserving the status quo from their white female other, even though it means the women's participation in their own oppression. Keela-like exhibits allowed white Southern women to compensate for their gendered otherness by feeling superior to women of other ethnic groups, but only under the condition that they themselves follow the disempowering patriarchal scripts for ideal femininity. By amplifying the false allure of such supremacist operations in "Keela," Welty produced a cautiously coded protest against the patriarchal culture, encouraging her readers to embrace multivocality as an alternative model of the Southern community.
Adams, Rachel. Sideshow U.S.A.: Freaks and the American Cultural Imagination. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2001.
Appel, Alfred, Jr. A Season of Dreams: The Fiction of Eudora Welty. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1965.
Aristotle. Generation of Animals. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1943.
Caminero-Santangelo, Marta. "The Madwoman Can't Speak: Postwar Culture, Feminist Criticism, and Welty's 'June Recital.' Tulsa Studies in Women "s Literature 15.1 (1996): 123-46.
Cooley, John R. Savages and Naturals: Black Portraits by White Writers in Modern American Literature. Newark: U of Delaware P, 1982.
Costello, Brannon. "Playing Lady and Imitating Aristocrats: Race, Class, and Money in Delta Wedding and The Ponder Heart." Southern Quarterly 42.3 (2004): 21-54.
Coulthard, A. R. "'Keela, the Outcast Indian Maiden': A Dissenting View." Studies in Short Fiction 23.1 (1986): 35-41.
Donaldson, Susan V. "Making a Spectacle: Welty, Faulkner, and Southern Gothic." Mississippi Quarterly 50.4 (1997): 567-84.
Ferber, Michael. A Dictionary of Literary Symbols. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1999.
Fischer, John I. "'Keela, the Outcast Indian Maiden': Studying It Out." Studies in Short Fiction 15 (1978): 165-71.
Frost, Linda. Never One Nation: Freaks, Savages, and Whiteness in U.S. Popular Culture, 1850-1877. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2005.
Garland Thomson, Rosemarie. Extraordinary Bodies." Figuring Physical Disability in American Culture and Literature. New York: Columbia UP, 1997.
Grosz, Elizabeth. Jacques Lacan: A Feminist Introduction. New York: Routledge, 1990.
Hardy, John E. "Eudora Welty's Negroes." Images of the Negro in American Literature. Ed. Seymour L. Gross and John E. Hardy. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1966. 221-32.
Harrison, Suzan. "'It's Still a Free Country': Constructing Race, Identity, and History in Eudora Welty's 'Where Is the Voice Coming From?'" Mississippi Quarterly 50.4 (1997): 631-46.
--. "'Racial Content Espied': Modernist Politics, Textuality, and Race in Eudora Welty's 'The Demonstrators'." Eudora Welty and Politics." Did the Writer Crusade? Ed. Harriet Pollack and Suzanne Marrs. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 2001. 89-108.
Hussein, Ayman. "A Freudian Reading of Eudora Welty's 'Keela, the Outcast Indian Maiden'." Midwest Quarterly 31.4 (1990): 523-36.
Johnston, Carol A. "Sex and the Southern Girl: Eudora Welty's Critical Legacy." Mississippi Quarterly 56.2 (2003): 269-87.
Jones, Anne Goodwyn. Tomorrow Is Another Day: The Woman Writer in the South, 1859-1936 Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1981.
Kristeva, Julia. Powers of Horror." An Essay on Abjection. Trans. Leon S. Roudiez. New York: Columbia UP, 1982.
Ladd, Barbara. "'Too Positive a Shape Not to Be Hurt': GoDown, Moses, History, and the Woman Artist in Eudora Welty's The Golden Apples." Having Our Way." Women Rewriting Tradition in Twentieth-Century America. Ed. Harriet Pollack. London: Associated UP, 1995. 79-103.
Martin, Matthew R. "Vision and Revelation in Eudora Welty's Early Fiction and Photography." Southern Quarterly 38.4 (2000): 17-26.
May, Charles E. "Le Roi Mehaigne in Welty's 'Keela, the Outcast Indian Maiden'." Modern Fiction Studies 18 (1972-1973): 559-66.
Michaels, Walter B. Our America: Nativism, Modernism, and Pluralism. Durham: Duke UP, 1995.
Pitavy, Francois. "From Middle Passage to Holocaust: The Black Body as a Site of Memory." Sites of Memory in American Literatures and Cultures. Ed. Udo J. Hebel. Heidelberg: C. Winter, 2003. 51-63.
Prenshaw, Peggy Whitman. "The Political Thought of Eudora Welty." Mississippi Quarterly 50.4 (1997): 617-30.
Stoddard, Lothrop. The Rising Tide of Color against White World-Supremacy. New York: Scribner, 1920.
Welty, Eudora. "Keela, the Outcast Indian Maiden." Stories, Essays, & Memoir. New York: Library of America, 1998. 48-56.
--. "Must the Novelist Crusade?" The Eye of the Story." Selected Essays and Reviews. New York: Random House, 1977. 146-58.
--. Conversations with Eudora Welty. Ed. Peggy Whitman Prenshaw. Jackson: UP of Mississippi, 1984.
Westling, Louise. Eudora Welty. Women Writers. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Macmillan, 1989.
Northern Illinois University
(1) For a historical overview of the shifts in critical evaluations of Welty as (a)political, see for example Harrison and Prenshaw. Studies illustrating the political aspect of Welty's fiction in specific textual examples are too numerous to list; apart from the above mentioned essays, notable recent examples include Ladd, Johnston, and Costello.
(2) Other good examples include Donaldson and Pitavy.
(3) prior to Westling, several critics provided important insights into the function of freak shows in constructing normalcy but did not ponder the gendered and ethnic aspects of the "abnormality" Keela embodies. For example, Charles E. May asserts that the freak as a scapegoat allows the spectator to become "more comfortable in his own normality" (563). John R. Cooley, comparing the sideshow's display of Geeks to that of "wild" animals in zoos, observes that Welty shows how "white society creates its savages (from the most unsavagelike materials) to fit its needs" (127). As for Lee Roy's disguise, however, Cooley only points out that it "compound[s] the absurdity" of the process (128).
(4) See, for example, Ferber 169 and 177-78.
(5) In this context, Rachel Adams discusses the case of Ishi, the only surviving member of a Native American tribe Yahi, who lived for the four years before his death at the University of California Hearst Museum of Anthropology, enfreaked as the "real-life 'wild Indian'" (44-45). According to Adams, the scientists desired to preserve him as a true primitive "man of nature by sealing him away in a museum" (47), and displayed dissatisfaction with any indication of the "wild" man's capability to adopt new resources for producing traditional Yahi artifacts (53).
(6) Given her forced staging as a sexually gluttonous female, Keela's performance can be linked to paranoid masculine fears of the castrating vagina dentata that depletes the male partner of his sexual resources during intercourse. See, for example, Grosz 135.
(7) Welty's critics disagree about the meaning of such cheerfulness. Coulthard (40) and Fischer (170) see it as a positive resilience. However, Pitavy interprets Little Lee Roy's good mood rather as a sign of a forced conversion to "white modes of thinking" (59), and Hardy points out that it is indeed ironic that Little Lee Roy held more importance as a freak than as a freed man (224-25). This essay does not aim to resolve these disagreements; I am interested rather in the contrast between Keela's aggression and Little Lee Roy's friendly joyfulness and innocence--differences that demonstrate the role staging plays in the constructions of the racialized other.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Publication:||The Mississippi Quarterly|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2007|
|Previous Article:||Southern fairy tales: Katherine Anne Porter's "The Princess" and Carson McCullers's The Ballad of the Sad Cafe.|
|Next Article:||"What men dream about doing": a conversation with Ernest J. Gaines.|