Episode #5 of the course “Significant American writers of the 20th century”
Flannery O’Connor was a Catholic woman in the American south who wrote more than 30 short stories and two novels before her untimely death at age 39 from Lupus. During her life, she was recognized for her writing through her admission into the prestigious Iowa Writer’s Workshop, but her illness left her somewhat isolated. O’Connor’s writing included not only fiction, but over 100 book reviews for Catholic newspapers.
Born in 1925 in Savannah, Georgia, Flannery O’Connor lost her father at age 15 to his battle with Lupus. She attended Georgia State College for Women, where she made connections with figures in the literary world who became her admirers and later helped her publish her works.
After college, some time in Iowa, and some time in New York, O’Connor was diagnosed with Lupus at age 26 and returned home to Georgia. The following year, she produced her first novel, Wise Blood, which she had been working on for the previous half-decade. She followed it with a collection of short stories, A Good Man is Hard to Find, in 1955 and her second novel, The Violent Bear it Away, in 1960.
O’Connor’s style is often referred to as “southern gothic,” because she combines life in the American south with elements of romantic, gothic literature. O’Connor uses the grotesque to make points about beauty and ethics, and she creates tension surrounding issues of morality, religion, and racial relations. A prominent figure for studying the influences of Irish heritage, Catholic practices, and Jim Crow society, O’Connor’s writing is a unique example in the American literary landscape of these elements. She was awarded the National Book Award for Fiction after her death and is now commonly recognized as one of the most talented writers of the 20th century.
“The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.”
“She looked at nice young men as if she could smell their stupidity.”
“All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful.”
“If you don’t hunt it down and kill it, it will hunt you down and kill you.”
“What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross.”
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