Seer from Milledgeville

By Russello, Gerald J. | Commonweal, November 22, 2002 | Go to article overview

Seer from Milledgeville


Russello, Gerald J., Commonweal


O'Connor, Flannery A Life Jean Cash University of Tennessee Press, $30, 376 pp.

Return to Good and Evil Flannery O'Connor's Response to Nihilism Henry T. Edmondson III Lexington Books, $24.95, 224 pp.

The action of grace in territory held largely by the devil" was how Flannery O'Connor described her fiction. It is a strange form of grace, featuring murder, sexual assault, and physical violence and generally unmitigated by happy endings. Her efforts were often bewildering to sophisticated readers and to those she called the "hair-dryer set," who perhaps expected something different from a soft-spoken unmarried Catholic woman from the South. Even her likely intellectual allies were disquieted. T. S. Eliot, for example, although praising O'Connor's "uncanny talent," said his nerves were "not strong enough" to handle her writing.

Nevertheless, O'Connor has become one of the most influential American Catholic authors of the last century. Her unrelenting depiction of temptation and the darkness of the human soul was a sharp contrast to the usually didactic and comforting Catholic fiction of her time. Her spare style and striking imagery--ice instead of fire for the Holy Spirit, Christ symbolized by a tree-line--departed from the expected tropes of religious fiction, which she called the "usual junk." And her unique perspective that the mission of a Catholic writer was primarily to write for non-Christians changed the way Catholic authors practiced their art. While her fiction was not primarily an apologetic tool, O'Connor was adamant that fiction be infused with a moral vision that could open the reader to God.

She was born Mary Flannery O'Connor in 1925, to a Savannah family. Her success at the University of Iowa's famed graduate school in creative writing introduced her to cosmopolitan literary figures such as Caroline Gordon and Robert Lowell, and brought her briefly to New York. After being diagnosed with lupus, the degenerative disease that had killed her father when she was fifteen, O'Connor returned to her mother's home in Georgia in 1951. She lived in the town of Milledgeville, under the care of her mother, until she died at the age of thirty-nine. Her isolation was both a blessing and a curse, as Georgia allowed her to concentrate in a way that a more superficially active literary life in a place like New York might not have allowed. Because of her illness and short life, her literary output was small. We have only two novels (Wise Blood [1952] and The Violent Bear It Away [1960]), a clutch of highly polished short stories, a number of addresses and essays collected as Mystery and Manners, and The Habit of Being, a collection of letters.

Jean Cash sets the spare events of O'Connor's life into a richer context in this well-researched study, the first full-length O'Connor biography. There are important chapters on O'Connor's years at Iowa, which she attended from 1945 to 1948, and on the time O'Connor spent at the writers' colony at Yaddo and later with Sally and Robert Fitzgerald in rural Connecticut. These experiences resulted in lifelong friendships with Lowell, Gordon, Brainerd and Frances Cheney, and her publisher, Robert Giroux. They remained her intellectual links to the world outside Milledgeville. Equally valuable are Cash's discussions of O'Connor's education and her relationship with her mother. The O'Connor that emerges is remote but not isolated, brilliant, humorous, and, above all, driven to succeed despite physical and social obstacles, going so far as to drop her first name professionally to appear more distinctive. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Seer from Milledgeville
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.