Flannery O’Connor, Hermit Novelist

Richard Giannone Flannery O’Connor, Hermit Novelist With a New Preface by the Author. University of South Carolina Press; revised edition, 2010

flannery-oconnor-book

“”Lord, I’m glad I’m a hermit novelist,” Flannery O’Connor wrote to a friend in 1957. Sequestered by ill health, O’Connor spent the final thirteen years of her life on her isolated family farm in rural Georgia. During this productive time she developed a fascination with fourth-century Christians who retreated to the desert for spiritual replenishment and whose isolation, suffering, and faith mirrored her own. In Flannery O’Connor, Hermit Novelist, Richard Giannone explores O’Connor’s identification with these early Christian monastics and the ways in which she infused her fiction with their teachings. Surveying the influences of the desert fathers on O’Connor’s protagonists, Giannone shows how her characters are moved toward a radical simplicity of ascetic discipline as a means of confronting both internal and worldly evils while being drawn closer to God. Artfully bridging literary analysis, O’Connor’s biography, and monastic writings, Giannone’s study explores O’Connor’s advocacy of self-denial and self-scrutiny as vital spiritual weapons that might be brought to bear against the antagonistic forces she found rampant in modern American life.”

“A refreshing and well-written study of O’Connor’s fiction as illuminated by the teaching of the desert monastics, which Giannone has researched extensively. Giannone considers the sayings of both the ancient fathers, such as Anthony and Evagrius, and the modern Thomas Merton. Since many contemporary readers will have had little or no exposure to these works, Gianonne’s book proves that scholarship that takes as a starting point O’Connor’s radically countercultural spiritual vision can still provide important insights.” American Literature

An alternative, a critical, review of the book can be found on-line at Hermitary: http://www.hermitary.com/bookreviews/giannone.html

“Undoubtedly O’Connor was well versed in the Desert Fathers, but her fiction depends more on the doctrinal and ontological content of Catholicism, not on any particular tradition or favorite authors. The structure of her moral universe frames the experience of her characters, who nevertheless remain representative Southerners. Southern culture was (is) imbued with Biblical phraseology and paradigms. Its social relations reflect a grotesque and decadent primitivism, and an economically and culturally impoverished hierarchy of power and authority. O’Connor uses the full force of her faith and knowledge to expose this…

It is not enough for Giannone that O’Connor was a hermit novelist or that her fictional characters are abysmally solitary, but he must also claim that O’Connor derived and supported her themes and stories from the Desert Fathers, or at any rate that the Desert Fathers best illustrate her themes. There is plenty to admire in O’Connor and her work, and that she did not depend on the Desert Fathers only or primarily does not detract from her life or work at all.”

Flannery O’Connor, 1950s

“Mary Flannery O’Connor (March 25, 1925 – August 3, 1964) was an American writer and essayist. An important voice in American literature, she wrote two novels and thirty-two short stories, as well as a number of reviews and commentaries. She was a Southern writer who often wrote in a Southern Gothic style and relied heavily on regional settings and grotesque characters. Her writing also reflected her Roman Catholic faith and frequently examined questions of morality and ethics. Her posthumously compiled Complete Stories won the 1972 U.S. National Book Award for Fiction and has been the subject of enduring praise.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flannery_O’Connor

See also:

Flannery O’Connor Collected Works New York: Library of America; Viking, 1988.

Robert H. Brinkmeyer  The Art & Vision of Flannery O’Connor Baton Rouge, Louisiana State University Press, 1989

Paul Elie The Life You Save May be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003.

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