I'm currently reading Eudora Welty & Walker Percy: The Concept of Home in Their Lives. First, I'm amazed at how heady Montgomery can be about the simplicity of sensuality. But that's for another time.
The line "...our signs reflect the emptiness of the self trying to give itself to itself" reminded me of Toni Morrison's observance that the path of whiteness moves toward emptiness. The reviewer of Welty here is a white man. But he comes at this concept of emptiness from a philosophical/intellectual place. Published in 2004 I'm remembering how my young twenties self believed that honing my intellect would save me. I'd be a better professional, socialite, and even partner. When in history did white folk begin hiding our empty selfishness behind the concept of intellect? Was it at the advent of Capitalism or Colonization? Can you be that smart if you don't know when to stop overthinking and call a duck a duck?
As Montgomery waxes poetic at how Eudora Welty doesn't get entangled in the Existentialism of the time, he spends little time postulating what gender might have to do with this. Again the privilege of power is never having to look at one's self. Instead of wondering what being a woman has to do with Welty's ability to maintain meaning in simple interactions and objects, I would have loved to hear him wonder what his being a man has to do with overintellectualizing beauty and connection.
Maybe my reaction to this shows we've moved some in the last 17 years. God, I hope so. As POC, womxn, and LGBTQ+ folx get some footing in literature and science spaces I hope we can have meaning, purpose, and feeling restored without having it tainted with too much "intellect."