Margaret Pless, a Ph. D. candidate at the University of Mississippi with special interest in American literature from 1920-2020, has been selected to receive the 2020 Eudora Welty Research Fellowship sponsored by the Eudora Welty Foundation and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH). Contemporary Southern memoir and literary criticism that incorporates the personal is the focus of Pless’s dissertation for which her Welty research will be an important part.
Support from the fellowship stipend will permit Pless to spend two weeks in Jackson this summer doing research in the Welty Collection at MDAH. She will explore how Welty crafted her identity as revealed in her memoir, One Writer’s Beginnings, and how that identity in writing aligns with and diverges from her life. She will put a special emphasis on Welty’s relationship with her mother, Chestina, reviewing their correspondence. She will also study Welty’s correspondence with others as well as additional primary sources and materials in the Welty Collection.
With her research, Pless expects to prepare an article for publication linking One Writer’s Beginnings with the memoirs of other contemporary Mississippi writers, a subject she has been exploring. In May 2019 she represented a paper to the Eudora Welty Society entitled “Shelter for Secrets: Reconsidering Eudora Welty’s One Writer’s Beginnings in Light of Kiese Laymon’s Heavy.” At the conclusion of her fellowship experience this summer, she will also offer an oral presentation on her work.
Pless is currently a tutor in the Writing Center at Ole Miss and has been a teaching assistant for English survey courses and a writing instructor there. She received a B. A. degree from Vanderbilt University in History and English, with honors, and an M. A. in English from Ole Miss. She also taught literature and humanities courses at Westminster School at Oak Mountain in Birmingham. She received the Harold J. Kendis Ph. D. Fellowship in 2018 and a Eudora Welty Graduate Student Travel Award from the American Library Association in 2019.