Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

Hillbilly Thomist: Flannery O'connor, St. Thomas and the Limits of Art

Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

Hillbilly Thomist: Flannery O'connor, St. Thomas and the Limits of Art

Article excerpt

HILLBILLY THOMIST: FLANNERY O'CONNOR, ST. THOMAS AND THE LIMITS OF ART by MARION MONTGOMERY McFarland, 2 vols., 706 pages, $65

Flannery O'Connor understood faith as the uncomfortable and the painful cross, and she focused in all her works-even the "pain in her bones"-on living that cross. In HiIlbiuy Thomist, Marion Montgomery contrasts philosophical and literary figures from the "Age of Alienation" to the spiritual advisers of O'Connor, finding that such thinkers as Sartre and Emerson embody society's intellectual and spiritual dislocation, its separation of grace from nature. Because the modern intellectual believes that personal freedom is gained by sin (the ruthless search for personal self-fulfillment without regard to moral principles), while the Christian believes that personal freedom is destroyed by sin, O'Connor must "reveal unexpected spiritual action" through the "totally right and totally unexpected" actions of her characters. Modern man uncovers his own divinity through self-reliance independently of all other causes, by analyzing facts as events standing in their own vacuum, and O'Connor finds such self-sufficiency inadequate: "You do not write the best you can for the sake of art but for the sake of returning your talent increased to the invisible God to use or not use as he sees fit. …

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