Evelyn Scott's Nonfiction Prose: A Supplemental Bibliography

By Jones, Paul Christian | The Mississippi Quarterly, Summer-Fall 2006 | Go to article overview

Evelyn Scott's Nonfiction Prose: A Supplemental Bibliography


Jones, Paul Christian, The Mississippi Quarterly


THE COLLECTION OF ESSAYS EVELYN SCOTT: RECOVERING A LOST MODERNIST (2001) included an annotated bibliography of Evelyn Scott's published nonfiction prose, compiled by Will Brantley and coveting forty-seven pieces written by Scott--primarily book reviews, letters to editors, and essays of a philosophical and political nature--between the 1920s and 1950s. The prose treated by Brantley included many significant pieces of literary criticism, including Scott's early appreciations of D. H. Lawrence, James Joyce, and William Faulkner. In her introduction to the collection, Dorothy Scura wrote that Brantley's bibliography "annotates all of Scott's nonfiction prose" (xxiii). At the time, this assertion appeared to be correct as Brantley had treated all of the known pieces, the material documented both by previous Scott bibliographer Peggy Bach and in the bibliography included in Mary Wheeling White's biography of Scott. However, since the time of the publication of Brantley's bibliography, a number of previously unknown Scott prose pieces have been discovered.

This bibliography includes eighteen newly discovered pieces of Scott's published nonfiction and is intended to provide a supplement to Brantley's bibliography. As such, these annotations follow the model set by Brantley, which drew "attention to some of the more striking passages in Scott's nonfiction" with the belief that Scott "is a surprisingly quotable writer" (202). Like those writings by Scott previously annotated, these pieces demonstrate the author's wide-ranging interests, from current events--the Sacco and Vanzetti executions and censorship legislation--to her reviews of some of her contemporaries, including Lola Ridge, Stark Young, Waldo Frank, Horace Gregory, and Shirley Jackson. Also included are Scott's meditation on the state of women in the United States, an essay on the Santa Fe Art Colony, and, perhaps most interesting to Scott scholars, her description of her own writing process. While these new pieces do contribute to our knowledge of Scott as a reviewer and essayist, it is still very likely that further examples of Scott's nonfiction prose writing remain to be discovered in newspapers, little magazines, and journals.

"On Reading the Sunday Newspapers: 1927." Nation 21 September 1927: 287.

In a letter to the editor, dated August 31st, Scott responds to the execution of anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti on August 23rd. The letter is almost a prose poem as she imagines the condemned before their execution: "Sacco's face, with its husk of nostrils, hollowed by a febrile wind of sorrow, is a thin mask of bitterness" and "Vanzetti's gaze has more substantial bulk, ... yet he, also, deep in that hardy aversion to despair, peering, wondering mildly, saw a little of that final thing." Scott's piece moves beyond this pair to the citizenry who out of fear have allowed this miscarriage of justice to happen ("Fear justifies all"). She depicts a scene of "Fathers, mothers, [and] children pray[ing] around the lamp on Sunday, praying no bomb ever will shatter this wall, and the new victrola, and Mabel's radio." Yet Scott suggests that because of their fear of the anarchists' bomb, American citizens have become distracted from the true danger, the more serious threats to their lives and security, a corrupt system that no longer can be considered just--here represented by Judge Webster Thayer, who "convicted two Italian laborers on evidence that many counted insufficient."

"On Writing 'The Wave'." Writer August 1929: 209-11.

In this interesting essay Scott describes her writing process. She reveals that she long ago rejected any obligation to plot, which "imposes something coffin-like on the living matter of emotion and intuition," but has also "fought off yielding to the fragmentary style of writing which is the symptom of the same rebellion in some of my contemporaries." She explains her development of an alternative process: "I discovered that . …

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