The Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities recently hosted “Eudora Welty and the Art of Diagnosis,” a lecture by Dr. Suzanne Marrs, the nationally recognized Welty Scholar-in-Residence and Professor at Millsaps College. The talk took place March 18, 2013, on the UMMC campus.
Dr. Marrs discussed Welty’s skillful observation in “The Demonstrators,” “The Well-Worn Path,” and “ Where Is The Voice Coming From?” The program, sponsored by the CBMH, Millsaps College and the Mississippi Humanities Council, further explored what a story has to offer to our understanding of patients, their illnesses, the contexts of illness and the potential for intervention and advocacy.
Dr. Marrs, an expert recognized locally, nationally and internationally for her work on the writings of Eudora Welty, was also recognized for her literary acumen and integrity by the late Ms. Welty via permission to access the Welty papers, an exceedingly rare bestowal. From this scholarship and the long Marrs-Welty friendship, many contemporary readers of the Welty opus met Dr. Marrs in 2005. That year, her biographical study, “Eudora Welty,” presented well-researched challenges to a Norton Anthology assertion that Ms. Welty’s life was “uneventful.” As New York Times reviewer Francine Prose commented, “…I’d always imagined Eudora Welty as…one of those stay-at-home prodigies who somehow acquire an intimate knowledge of human experience without venturing far beyond the garden gate…So I’m one of those for whom Suzanne Marr’s “Eudora Welty” is most useful for its corrective portrait of a woman who … led a romantic life as unconventional and mysterious as those of the quietly desperate men and women in her fiction.” In addition to numerous awards and distinctions, Dr. Marrs’ scholarship has earned the respect of colleagues and students at Millsaps College, where she models and mentors intellectual rigor, as well as kindness and collegiality in academic work. Marrs’ hallmark with students whom she mentors lies in presenting academic investigations as exciting, rather than overwhelming, challenges – and in insisting that they meet them.
Along with scholarship on Welty, Dr. Marrs teaches courses that examine writers from the South and their literary context, as well as other English department classes. She has also been active in course collaborations that allow students to gain an interdisciplinary understanding of the historical, sociopolitical and socioeconomic contexts within which writers respond, such as slavery in the American South, a course developed in conjunction with anthropologist Caroline Compretta of the UMMC Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities.
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