In any age, humans wrestle with apparently inexorable forces. Today, we face the threat of global terrorism. In the aftermath of September 11, few could miss sensing that a great evil was at work in the world. In Flannery O’Connor’s time, the threats came from different sources—World War II, the Cold War, and the Korean conflict—but they were just as real. She, too, lived though a “time of terror.” The first major critical volume on Flannery O’Connor’s work in more than a decade, Flannery O’Connor in the Age of Terrorism explores issues of violence, evil, and terror—themes that were never far from O’Connor’s reach and that seem particularly relevant to our present-day setting.
The fifteen essays collected here offer a wide range of perspectives that explore our changing views of violence in a post-9/11 world and inform our understanding of a writer whose fiction abounds in violence. Written by both established and emerging scholars, the pieces that editors Avis Hewitt and Robert Donahoo have selected offer a compelling and varied picture of this iconic author and her work. Included are comparisons of O’Connor to 1950s writers of noir literature and to the contemporary American novelist Cormac McCarthy; cultural studies that draw on horror comics of the Cold War and on Fordism and the American mythos of the automobile; and pieces that shed new light on O’Connor’s complex religious sensibility and its role in her work.
While continuing to speak fresh truths about her own time, O’Connor’s fiction also resonates deeply with the postmodern sensibilities of audiences increasingly distant from her era—readers absorbed in their own terrors and sense of looming, ineffable threats. This provocative new collection presents O’Connor’s work as a touchstone for understanding where our culture has been and where we are now. With its diverse approaches, Flannery O’Connor in the Age of Terrorism will prove useful not only to scholars and students of literature but to anyone interested in history, popular culture, theology, and reflective writing.
With his mastery of modernist technique and his depictions of characters obsessed with the past, Nobel laureate William Faulkner raised the bar for southern fiction writers. But the work of two later authors shows that the aesthetic of memory is not enough: Confederate thunder fades as they turn to an explicitly religious source of meaning.
According to John Sykes, the fiction of Flannery O’Connor and Walker Percy provides occasions for divine revelation. He traces their work from its common roots in midcentury southern and Catholic intellectual life to show how the two adopted different theological emphases and rhetorical strategies—O’Connor building to climactic images, Percy striving for dialogue with the reader—as a means of uncovering the sacramental foundation of the created order.
Sykes sets O’Connor and Percy against the background of the Southern Renaissance from which they emerged, showing not only how they shared a distinctly Christian notion of art that led them to see fiction as revelatory but also how their methods of revelation took them in different directions. Yet, despite their differences in strategy and emphasis, he argues that the two are united in their conception of the artist as “God’s sharp-eyed witness,” and he connects them with the philosophers and critics, both Christian and non-Christian, who had a meaningful influence on their work.
Through sustained readings of key texts—particularly such O’Connor stories as “The Artificial Nigger” and “The Geranium” and Percy’s novels Love in the Ruins and The Second Coming—Sykes focuses on the intertwined themes of revelation, sacrament, and community. He views their work in relation to the theological difficulties that they were not able to overcome concerning community. For both writers, the question of community is further complicated by the changing nature of the South as the Lost Cause and segregation lose their holds and a new form of prosperity arises.
By disclosing how O’Connor and Percy made aesthetic choices based on their Catholicism and their belief that fiction by its very nature is revelatory, Sykes demonstrates that their work cannot be seen as merely a continuation of the historical aesthetic that dominated southern literature for so long. Flannery O’Connor, Walker Percy, and the Aesthetic of Revelation is theoretically sophisticated without being esoteric and is accessible to any reader with a serious interest in these writers, brimming with fresh insights about both that clarify their approaches to art and enrich our understanding of their work.
"A Good Man Is Hard to Find" is Flannery O'Connor's most famous and most discussed story. O'Connor herself singled it out by making it the title piece of her first collection and the story she most often chose for readings or talks to students. It is an unforgettable tale, both riveting and comic, of the confrontation of a family with violence and sudden death. More than anything else O'Connor ever wrote, this story mixes the comedy, violence, and religious concerns that characterize her fiction.
This casebook for the story includes an introduction by the editor, a chronology of the author's life, the authoritative text of the story itself, comments and letters by O'Connor about the story, critical essays, and a bibliography. The critical essays span more than twenty years of commentary and suggest several approaches to the story--formalistic, thematic, deconstructionist-- all within the grasp of the undergraduate, while the introduction also points interested students toward still other resources. Useful for both beginning and advanced students, this casebook provides an in-depth introduction to one of America's most gifted modern writers.
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