Degree Year

1994

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

English

Advisor(s)

Dewey Ganzel

Keywords

Katherine Anne Porter

Abstract

In 1932 Katherine Anne Porter wrote to her brother from Paris, where she was living happily, about walking along the Quay and buying old maps of the New World: "I have already a French map of America made in 1631, and a French map of Virginia dated 1640. They are beautiful and inaccurate and I mean to have a lot of them." (Letters of Katherine Anne Porter, 78) The image of the old, absolute map floated right off the page as I read; it seemed to serve as the perfect metaphor for something in Porter's fiction that I had not yet been able to describe metaphorically: the determined and inspired impulse to create order that mediates the fearful space between the reality of New Worlds and the perception of the individual. The role of the artist, as defined in Porter's fiction and nonfiction, is akin to that of the map maker who, working from her unique vantage point and from the vision of those preceding her, re-draws the boundaries, reshapes the landscape of individual consciousness. Each generation of artists, she believed, must not intentionally speak for a new age of understanding or the latest ultimate truths. Rather, the artist stands alone, necessarily a voice of dissent, creating a self-defined order in the context of communal pressure and the stream of time. Her writing articulates a steadfast sense of her mission as an artist and it is this mission I want to explain. Her letters and essays discuss it in straightforward terms, while the artistic ramifications of her credo are given the movement of narrative in the mythical initiations from innocence to experience which so often form the nexus of her stories.

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