The Eudora Welty Writers’ Symposium was begun in 1989 by a group of humanities professors to honor and inaugurate Dr. Clyda Rent, the school’s first female president, and to honor Eudora Welty.
The symposium is named after one of MUW’s most famous students, Eudora Welty. Dr. Kendall Dunkelberg, a professor of English and the director of Eudora Welty Writers’ Symposium, explains why the symposium was named after her.
“Eudora Welty was a student at MUW during her freshman and sophomore years, and she is our most well-known alumna who was a writer,” Dunkelberg said. “Miss Welty read at the initial symposium and came to several of the early ones. It is fitting to honor her with a tribute to Southern literature.”
The symposium consists of many different writers who travel to campus and talk about their literary works. The purpose of the symposium is not only for MUW, but for the public as well.
“The purpose of the symposium is to bring great Southern literature to our community and to promote reading and writing,” Dunkelberg said. “I think people would read more if they were exposed to interesting books, but we are often overwhelmed with information and entertainment options, so we don’t stop to pick up a good book. The symposium is a time when you can stop by and listen to an author read from his or her work.”
People have been influenced by the symposium, including Dr. Kim Whitehead, assistant professor of English and religion and a faculty volunteer for this symposium. She participated in the symposium as a guest speaker in 1996.
“That is how I was introduced to the W,” Whitehead said. “Then, after I became part of the faculty, I was of course interested in helping with the event. I've introduced speakers, sold books, driven authors to and from the airport . You name it. But mostly I just love hearing the authors read from their works and talk about the writing process.”
The Eudora Welty Writers’ Symposium is a great opportunity for the campus. The origination of this event is very important to everyone who participates.
Dunkelberg said that the opportunity is a unique one because it exposes people to new writers and their works.
“Nothing makes a book come alive like hearing the author read,” he said.
Whitehead explains how it reveals writing to the people in a different way.
“It opens up the world of writing to them in ways that our reading and discussion in the classroom can't, and they learn much more about the work that writers must do to produce literary works of lasting value,” she said.
The symposium is held every October to introduce the Southern writers and scholars who present their work. This fall semester, there will be several new authors: Tim Parrish, author of “Fear and What Follows” and “The Jumper;” Carol Rut Silver, author of “Freedom of Rider Diary;” John Bensko, author of “Visitations;” Matthew Guinn, author of “Resurrectionist;” Shayla Lawson, author of “A Speed Education in Human Being;” Deborah Johnson, author of “The Secret of Magic;” Derrick Harriell, author of “Cotton and Ropes;” Katy Simpson Smith, author of “The Story of Land and Sea;” Amy Fleury, author of “Sympathetic Magic;” Mary Miller, author of Last Days of California;” Richard Boada, author of “The Error of Nostalgia” and David Armand, author of “Harlow.”